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Neurology Section Awards 2014

Service to the Section

Purpose: To acknowledge and honor a member of the Neurology Section whose contributions to the Section have been of exceptional value.

Recipient: Susan Balko Perry, PT, DPT, NCS

Annually, the APTA Neurology Section Service Award is bestowed to an individual whose service to the section is exceptional and beyond measure. This award recognizes the loyalty and dedication of outstanding members to the section. This year’s recipient of the Service Award goes to a special individual who has tirelessly served the section in different and multiple capacities, Dr. Susan Perry. The list of her service contributions is astounding. To name a few, Sue has served for 17 years, as a member of the Board of Directors, Neurologic Specialty Council, Neurology Section Task Force and Neurology Section Committee. She has served as Vice President in the Board of Directors for six years, from 2006 to 2012. She served as a member of the Nominating Committee from 1996 to 1999 and chaired the same committee from 1998 to 1999. She is a reviewer for the Journal of Neurologic Physical Therapy and a contributor to the Compendium of Neurologic Physical Therapist Education.

One colleague and nominator stated that in 2013 alone, she is serving in four positions that all pertain to neurologic physical therapy: as an Associate Editor of PT Now, as a task force member to develop a Neurologic Residency Curriculum for the APTA Neurology Section, as a member of the ABPTS Neurologic Specialty Council Revalidation Task Force and as a member of the IV Step Conference Planning Committee. The same colleague declared “Sue is able to serve in so many capacities at the same time and do it so well with such vision. The amount of energy and dedication she exhibits is astounding. She has served as a role model in virtually every aspect of physical therapy, from researcher, clinician, and academician. The way she serves should be noted. It is with quiet conviction and love of this profession and association.”

Another colleague and nominator stated “Sue’s service to the section has provided tremendous support and direction to advance neurologic specialty practice at post-professional level. She is the embodiment of a servant-leader who has served the section in a humble manner, putting the needs of this organization above her own personal gain and accolades.”

It is with great pride and honor that we acknowledge Dr. Perry with the Service to the Section Award.

This remarkable candidate’s contribution to our Section and to the field of neurological physical therapy and evidence-based intervention for people with traumatic brain injury, is monumental. This year’s recipient, Dr Susan Balko Perry, PT, DPT, NCS, is most deserving of the APTA, Neurology Section Service to the Section Award.

For a list of past award recipients, please click here.

Clinical Excellence

Purpose: The Award for Clinical Excellence in Neurology recognizes an individual who has demonstrated clinical expertise in neurologic physical therapy, contributed to the overall development of physical therapy as a caring and scientific profession and shared their clinical expertise by mentoring others.

Recipient: Janene Holmberg, PT, DPT, NCS

It is with great pride and honor that we acknowledge this year’s recipient of the Clinical Excellence, Dr. Janene Holmberg. Upon graduating from the University of Utah PT program in 1987, Dr. Holmberg very quickly gravitated to treatment of persons with balance disorders and in particular vestibular disorders.  Within 2 years of graduation, she had earned a certificate in Vestibular Rehabilitation and went on to earn her NCS in 1996 followed by a post-professional DPT degree in 2009. 

As is illustrated by her early interest in vestibular disorders, Dr. Holmberg is truly a clinical pioneer. In the early 1990’s, she possessed a clear vision of physical therapy’s role in treating vestibular disorders. Janene introduced vestibular rehabilitation to her PT colleagues in the intermountain west and has been a driving force in clinical care and PT education on this topic for the past 20 years.

Dr. Holmberg is described as curious, bright, creative, effective, current with regards to staying on top of the literature, and accessible. Janene’s colleagues have often described her as a “sponge”, always trying to learn to enhance her practice.  Each day in the clinic, she works tirelessly to improve the function and the quality of life of her patients. One of her the many clinicians that she has mentored noted, “Observing Janene’s intelligence, skill, and passion when she is working with patients is truly an amazing sight to behold-she embodies the term ‘clinical expert’ ”

Dr. Holmberg is intensely engaged in improving the care of persons with vestibular, balance and facial nerve disorders.  In addition to pouring her heart into patient care, Janene works just as hard mentoring future and practicing PT’s regarding Vestibular Rehabilitation.  Her co-presenters and students describe her as humble, articulate, engaging, and kind—stating that she is an excellent speaker, has the gift of making difficult material understandable, and has instructed hundreds of physical therapists in vestibular rehabilitation.

To conclude, 2 quotes from the letters that accompanied her nomination embody her contributions:  1) I believe that Janene is what every neurologic physical therapist should aspire to be- a caring, bright, curious problem solver who does the very best that she can for her patients very day.  2) There is no other practicing, neurologic physical therapist that is any more deserving of this award than Dr. Janene Holmberg.

For a list of past award recipients, please click here.

Clinical Excellence in Education

Purpose: To acknowledge and honor a member of the Neurology Section whose clinical and/or academic neurologic educational contributions have been of exceptional value.

Recipient: Martha Freeman Somers, PT, MSPT, DPT

Dr. Martha Somers, who is an Assistant Professor in Duquesne University’s Department of Physical Therapy, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is this year’s award winner.  The impact and value of Dr. Somers’ contributions was clearly evident from the spectrum of recommendations for her from academic colleagues, clinical colleagues, and her department chair, as well as both past and present students and mentees.  One student stated: “as a student walking into Martha’s class, you are greeted by a warm, energetic woman [who] seems to almost bounce around the room with excitement as she… enchant[s] the class with her knowledge on wheelchairs, functional bed mobility, or the secondary effects of spinal cord injury.”

In addition to teaching students in the classroom, Dr. Somers is a primary mentor in the APTA-accredited Neurologic PT Residency Program at UPMC Mercy Rehabilitation Institute.  However, at UPMC, her teaching and leadership goes beyond mentoring just the neuro-residents, as she also provides weekly guidance to staff through lectures and co-treating of patients.  Her mentees describe how Dr. Somers’ lessons continue to guide them throughout their careers, stating “although I do not talk to Martha as often anymore, I feel as though I continue to interact with her on a daily basis.  Martha’s teachings strongly influence me… [during] every session.”

One of her colleagues explains that Dr. Somers “has devoted her career to educating physical therapy students, practicing physical therapists, and other health care professionals to improve functional outcomes and the quality of life of persons with spinal cord injury.”  This is evident through her teaching at a multitude of national and international conferences, including the Academy of Spinal Cord Injury Professionals, the International Conference on Spinal Cord Medicine and Rehabilitation, and the APTA’s Combined Sections Meeting.  However, her devotion to education focused on improving functional outcomes for individuals with spinal cord injury is probably best exemplified by a textbook which most of us probably have on our bookshelves. The 3rd edition of her textbook Spinal Cord Injury: Functional Rehabilitation was published in 2010, and is now one of the most widely utilized textbooks on spinal cord injury both nationally and internationally.

To conclude, Dr. Somers’ department chair states it best, saying “as a result of her work in the classroom, at professional meetings, her esteemed textbook, as well as through her clinical practice, Dr. Martha Somers has shaped the practice of spinal cord injury rehabilitation as we recognize it today.”

For a list of past award recipients, please click here.

Excellence in Research

Purpose: To acknowledge and honor a member of the Neurology Section who has demonstrated continuing excellence in research related to neurologic physical therapy science, theory, practice, or education.

Recipient: John P. Scholz, PT, PhD, FAPTA

This year’s recipient of the Excellence in Research Award is Dr. John Scholz.  Unfortunately, John is not here with us to accept this award.  In October of 2013, the Neurologic Physical Therapy Community lost one of its most intelligent and thoughtful contributors. John Scholz passed away after a 10-year battle with cancer, but not before he exerted tremendous influence on the science and practice of Neurologic Physical Therapy.  John’s contributions are of significant foundational importance for how we think about and treat clinical disorders affecting functional movement performance.

Dr. Scholz focused on the major issues and questions in human motor control and worked constantly to apply his knowledge to rehabilitation. John recognized the challenge and the importance of applying theory to practical ideas in physical therapy and rehabilitation. He translated his early research in Dynamic Systems Theory into one of the best examples of theoretical support for rehabilitation that is in the literature (1990, Scholz & Kelso “Dynamic Pattern Theory - Some Implications for Therapeutics” PTJ). This paper used cerebral palsy as a clinical example, but John applied his theoretical work to the stroke population as well. Some of his most recent research demonstrates his commitment to the application of theoretical motor control to the rehabilitation of people with brain injury. This work brought together various disciplines including engineering, math, and physical therapy. Such projects demonstrated his understanding that the major questions in motor control and in rehabilitation require contributions from people of various backgrounds working on the same questions over a sustained period of time.

Dr. Scholz committed his entire career to bridging complex ideas and theories underlying the physics, biology, and neuropsychology of dynamical movement systems to physical therapy.  As a result, John was at the top of our academic discipline. John’s work involved tackling highly complex scientific concepts, but his goal was always simple – to better understand human movement control and to use that understanding to advance neurologic rehabilitation. John worked diligently to translate the information learned through his research to student and clinician audiences, as well as to the research community. Given the complexity of many of his ideas, this was not always easy, but he was passionate and persistent in his efforts to translate; often reworking presentations and lectures repeatedly to “get it just right”. The impact of his work will continue to endure by helping to shape the future of examination and intervention for people with not only neurological deficits but for any problem that results in movement dysfunction.

In closing, John’s memory will be forever strong in all whose lives he has touched- as a gentleman, scholar, friend, colleague, parent and husband, and as a timeless teacher and scientist for the profession of neurologic physical therapy.

For a list of past award recipients, please click here.

Barnes-Leahy PODS I & II Scholarships

Purpose: An award for post-professional studies in neurology given in memory of Neurology Section members and accomplished physical therapists Marylou Barnes, PT, FAPTA and Patricia Leahy, PT. Members of the Neurology Section provided generous support for this award through the Foundation's Neurology Endowment Fund.

PODS I: Hyosub Kim, PT, DPT, University of Illinois at Chicago

PODS I Scholarships provides up to $7,500 per year in support of the coursework phase of post-professional doctoral studies prior to candidacy. This award is given in memory of APTA Section on Neurology member, accomplished physical therapist, and Foundation Doctoral Training Research Grant recipient, Patricia Leahy, PT, MS, NCS. Leahy was a professor at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia and
was one of the first physical therapists ever to receive the Neurologic Certified Specialist (NCS) certification.

*Funded by the Neurology Section's endowment

PODS II: Laura Miller, PT, DPT, Northwestern University

PODS II  scholarships provide up to $15,000 in support of the post-candidacy phase of post-professional doctoral studies. This award is given in memory of APTA Section on Neurology member and accomplished physical therapist Mary Lou Barnes, PT, FAPTA. Barnes was the founding director of the West Virginia University physical therapy program and served as chair of Georgia State University's program. During her terms, both programs achieved national recognition. Members of the Neurology Section provided generous support for this award through the Foundation's Neurology Endowment Fund.


The following sections members also received PODS funding from the Foundation for Physical Therapy.

  • Kristan Leech, PT, DPT, Northwestern University (PODS II was funded by the Neurology Section)
  • Eric Anson, PT, MPT, University of Maryland (PODS II)
  • Jessica Cassidy, PT, DPT, University of Minnesota (PODS II)
  • Beth Cloud, PT, DPT, Mayo Graduate School (PODS II)

Post-Professional Level Research Award

Purpose: An award for post-professional studies in neurology given in memory of Neurology Section members and accomplished physical therapists Marylou Barnes, PT, FAPTA and Patricia Leahy, PT. Members of the Neurology Section provided generous support for this award through the Foundation's Neurology Endowment Fund.

Recipient: Jason Rucker, PT, PhD for “Is Multi-tasking Impaired in Older Adults with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus”

Dr. Rucker has practiced physical therapy in the Kansas City metropolitan area since 2002, with clinical experience ranging from acute and intensive care to skilled nursing and inpatient rehabilitation. He currently provides outpatient physical therapy services at the KU Health Partners Silver City Health Center and the multi-disciplinary Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Clinic at KU Medical Center. A graduate of Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kan., in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in kinesiology, Rucker obtained a master's in physical therapy from KU in 2002.  He received his doctorate in rehabilitation science from KU in 2014.

A member of the Georgia Holland Health Exercise and Aging Laboratory, Rucker’s research is focused on the impact of diabetes on cognitive and physical functioning. In particular, he is interested in examining higher level cognitive processes, such as the ability to multi-task, and aims to discover how these processes may influence walking, functional ability, fall risk, and disability in those with diabetes and other chronic diseases. He has also contributed to several projects investigating exercise in individuals with diabetic neuropathy and the use of a neuromuscular stimulation device to improve gait in people with stroke.

PT Professional Student Research Award

Recipients: Rosalie Avlia, SPT and Amandeep Gill, SPT - Fresno State University

They received the award for the project entitled, “Clinical Versus Accelerometer-based Tests of Fall Risk in Community Dwelling Older Adults.”

Golden Synapse Award

Purpose: The award recognizes the most outstanding article published in JNPT each year.

The decision is made by the JNPT Reviewers and Associate Editors and is based on the article’s conceptualization, execution, presentation and contribution to physical therapy practice.

Aerobic Exercise in Subacute Stroke Improves Cardiovascular Health and Physical Performance. Sandra Billinger, Anna Mattlage, Abigail Ashenden, Angela Lentz, Gabe Harter, and Michael Rippee.

For a list of past award recipients, please click here.