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Physical therapist pressing down on a patient's spine


Low back and neck pain are common causes of disability world-wide. Spine pain is often poorly recognized and managed, leading to the development of chronic pain as well as overutilization of imaging, medication, surgery and specialist office visits. Since most spine pain can be managed conservatively, there is a need for primary care healthcare professionals who possess skills in early recognition and appropriate management of spine pain to provide improved patient outcomes and decrease healthcare costs.

The mission of our Spine Physical Therapy Fellowship is to graduate advanced practitioners of spine physical therapy specialty practice who will express their education through excellence and leadership in the practice and teaching of clinical skills, expand the body of knowledge by participating in and/or conducting and disseminating clinically relevant research, and make a lasting contribution to society through service to their community and profession.



The Spine Physical Therapy Fellowship Program is a 12-month clinical program (begins August) designed to accelerate the development of the clinician’s understanding and expertise in the comprehensive management of spinal disorders. The program is only one of four spine physical therapy fellowship programs nationwide to be accredited by the American Board of Physical Therapy Residency and Fellowship Education. It is the only program to include a comprehensive curriculum taught by world-class experts in the fields of physical therapy, medicine, surgery, dentistry, psychology, pharmacology and research. The program includes:

  • Didactic: Weekly coursework in topics such as advanced clinical reasoning, primary care/medical screening and management, spine imaging, pharmacology, psychotherapy, spine surgery, interventional management (injections/blocks/spinal cord stimulators/PRP/stem cells/EMG) , pre-op and post-op surgical management, spondyloarthropathies, pediatric spine, scoliosis, temporomandibular disorder (TMD), headache, concussion, vestibular rehabilitation, pelvic health, evidence based medicine, biostatistics, exercise rehabilitation and spinal manual therapy
  • Clinic: 32 hours/week patient care (opportunities in inpatient and outpatient) with 4 hours of 1:1 mentorship from ABPTS certified (or equivalent experience) physical therapists in examination and management of spine patients
  • Research: Weekly clinical or laboratory research with spine surgery and/or physical therapy researchers with mentorship and goal to publish manuscript and present at physical therapy or spine conference
  • Teaching:  Weekly teaching of spine exam and treatment to both physical therapy and medical students in the USC DPT Program and Keck School of Medicine Program. Opportunities to mentor DPT students and Orthopedic PT residents will be available.
  • Multi-disciplinary clinic: Weekly clinic with radiology, spine surgery, physiatry and/or family medicine clinic involving triage, examination, and case management of patients with physicians

A Spine Physical Therapy Fellow’s typical week includes:

  • 32 hours of direct patient care in physical therapy clinic
  • 4 hours of monitored clinical practice for spine disorders
  • 4 hours of MD clinic, teaching or research
  • 2 hours of didactic coursework, including lecture and lab



Prospective Fellows must submit the following:

  • Fellowship application
  • Current curriculum vitae
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Career statement
  • Valid California PT license
  • Proof of ABPTS specialist certification or completion of an ABPTRFE-accredited residency in Orthopedics, Sports, Geriatrics or Neurology

Qualified applicants will be selected for formal interview. Non-U.S. citizens will require the appropriate visa and evidence of English language proficiency in addition to the licensure requirements.

Desirable qualities in an applicant include strong desire to advance clinical knowledge, skills, abilities, demonstrate clinical aptitude and/or potential, interest in teaching, clinical research and/or mentoring, strong written and verbal communication skills and evidence of initiative and self-responsibility.



$3,000 which includes:

  • At least 150 hours of didactic course instruction
  • At least 150 hours of PT 1:1 clinic mentored time
  • At least 150 hours of multi-disciplinary clinic with physicians

The Fellow is paid for hours of clinical work. Salary is approximately 90 percent of full-time entry level paid position plus benefits including health insurance and paid time-off.

ABPTRFE Financial Fact Sheet



Application deadline is March 31. Interviews will be held in April. Applicants should apply at the RF-PTCAS Portal. Make sure to indicate you are applying for the USC Spine Physical Therapy Fellowship. Please contact the program director for official application if the portal is unavailable at any time.



All application materials and further inquiries or requests for additional information should be directed to Program Director, Dr. Justin Lantz.



The Spine Physical Therapy Fellowship has 2 graduates as of 2023, with a 100 percent graduation rate.



Joseph Derian
2023 APTA Outstanding Physical Therapist Fellow of the Year Award

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