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A Willing Mentor, A Winning Mentor

Stacey Dusing on stage receiving her mentorship award

Stacey Dusing earns Mentorship Award from the American Academy of Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine.


AUGUST 10, 2022 PROVED TO BE A MEMORABLE DAY for Stacey Dusing, Sykes family chair in pediatric physical therapy, pediatric health and development and associate professor.

Not only did Dusing send her oldest son off to college, but the veteran researcher learned she had received the Mentorship Award from the American Academy of Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine (AACPDM). The Mentorship Award honors an active AACPDM member with a demonstrated record of mentoring trainees and colleagues in childhood-onset disabilities to advance care and research.

“I’m grateful to the current and past students who put so much work into this nomination and for recognizing that mentorship matters,” said Dusing, who received the award at the AACPDM’s 76th annual meeting on September 24.

Eleven different women representing five different institutions nominated Dusing for the Mentorship Award, lauding her selfless commitment to others’ professional development as well as her enterprising research, collaboration and earptnest push to support women in science.

Dusing’s victory came as little surprise to those who have been mentored by her over her 16-year run in higher education.

After five years away from research for clinical training and employment, Kari Kretch began working as a postdoc in Dusing’s USC-based Motor Development Lab, in mid-2020. Kretch credits Dusing’s attentive and involved mentorship, which included guidance on grant writing, networking and juggling research and motherhood, with helping her navigate the transition from part-time clinician to full-time postdoc to, now, junior faculty member at USC.

“Many mentors, especially in academia, attempt to turn their mentees into younger versions of themselves — not Stacey,” said Kretch, who was appointed assistant professor of research in the USC Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy late last year. “She does not push her own agenda, but thoughtfully and without judgment supports each mentee to develop the skills they need to reach their own goals.”

Indeed, Dusing seeks to balance her mentees’ passion with their competencies. She invites mentees in her lab to complete an individual development plan reflecting on their strengths, areas for growth and career objectives before helping them define a plan to progress toward those goals. And though mentees help drive Dusing’s own research, she nevertheless encourages them to add something of their own to each project.

“This is the next generation pushing the science forward, so I want to play an active role in helping them develop in their careers,” said Dusing, adding that the diverse mentorship styles she encountered as a trainee and continues to get through colleagues inform her own mentoring efforts.

At the AACPDM meeting, Dusing was also recognized as part of the START-Play research team honored with the association’s most prestigious research award — the Gayle Arnold Award. The START-Play research program funded through the Department of Education (2014-2022) captured the Gayle Arnold Award in 2019 for its primary outcome paper examining the efficacy of physical therapy interventions to improve motor and cognitive skills in young children with motor delays. It earned the 2022 honor for its evaluation of the impact of reaching on cognitive assessment in young children with motor difficulties.

Dusing’s team also presented 7 posters and 6 platforms at the meeting, and Associate Professor of Clinical Physical Therapy Barbara Sargent hosted a symposium.