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School of Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences

School of Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences

History & Awards

School History

The University of South Florida was authorized to implement a Master of Science degree in Physical Therapy (MSPT) by the Florida Board of Regents in 1998. The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) awarded candidate status in May 1999; the charter class of students enrolled in August 1999. CAPTE awarded full accreditation status in 2001. Over 100 students received MSPT degrees through the School. Due to the rapidly changing U.S. healthcare system, Physical Therapists now assume leadership roles in rehabilitation services, prevention and health care maintenance programs, and community organizations. To reflect these changes in scope of practice, USF chose to convert to the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. On October 21, 2004, the Florida Board of Governors (successor to the Board of Regents) granted implementation authority to the University of South Florida Health MCOM to offer the DPT degree. The charter DPT class graduated in May 2008; to date over 300 students have completed the DPT degree program.

Following completion of a self-study related to the re-accreditation process and a site visit by a CAPTE-appointed review team, the School received a 10-year renewal of accreditation (with commendation). The subsequent self-study and site visit in 2016 yielded another 10-year renewal of accreditation, which will end in 2026.

USF Health Leadership authorized transferring the Professional and Post-Professional Athletic Training programs into the School on January 1, 2021, which increased opportunities for interprofessional collaboration.


  • 1998 - Florida Board of Regents approves School of Physical Therapy at USF to offer Master of Science degree in Physical Therapy (MSPT).
  • 2001 – The School is accredited by CAPTE and the first MSPT cohort graduates.
  • 2004 - Florida Board of Governors approves the Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT), making USF first state program to offer the DPT.
  • 2005 – The first DPT cohort starts their journey at USF School of Physical Therapy.
  • 2007 – School name becomes USF School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences.
  • 2008 – The inaugural DPT cohort graduates. DPT program receives accreditation with commendation by CAPTE for 10 years. US News & World Report ranks the DPT program as #71 of over 200 US accredited PT education programs. USF Physical Therapy Clinic moves from MDT to the newly-constructed Carol & Frank Morsani Center for Advanced Healthcare.2011 – Post-Professional or Transitional DPT program starts.
  • 2013 – USF DPT program is ranked by US News & World Report as #63 (top third).
  • 2014 - UWF Educational Partnership begins (ends in 2016). PhD program and Orthopaedic Residency program starts. (Residency Accredited 2015)
  • 2016 – DPT program re-accredited by CAPTE for another 10 years.
  • 2018 –School celebrates 20th Anniversary with the first alumni event.
  • 2020 – DPT programs becomes a Top 50 ranked program with US News & World Report. USF Health Leadership authorizes moving the Professional and Post-Professional Athletic Training programs into the School.


Dr. Gregory Nicolosi Professionalism Award

This award is named in honor of Dr. Gregory Nicolosi, Emeritus Professor of Physiology, and former Executive Vice President of USF Health at the time of the founding of the School. It allows second‐year DPT students to select a second‐year classmate who has consistently demonstrated the Core Values of Professionalism in their course of study to date, including: Accountability, Altruism, Compassion/Caring, Excellence, Integrity, Professional Duty, & Social Responsibility.


  • 2011: Crystal Whisenant
  • 2012: Rachel Forbes
  • 2013: Jillian Donohue
  • 2014: Brittany Davis
  • 2015: Arlene Shi
  • 2019: Skye Haddock
  • 2020: Kristine Johnson
  • 2021: Giovanna Hoyos
  • 2022: Logan Brown
  • 2023: Hayden Euper

Spirit of Interprofessionalism Award Recipients

This award is typically awarded to non-SPT&RS faculty members who have promoted the role of physical therapists in the collaborative healthcare team within the academic and/or clinical programs of USF Health. Propriety dictates that good candidates for the award would include those who have contributed to the education of our students without financial incentive.


  • 2008: Chris Phelps
  • 2009: John Curran
  • 2010: Joanne Valeriano
  • 2011: Bryan Bognar
  • 2012: Justin Alexander & Paul Wallach
  • 2013: Sen. Dennis Jones
  • 2014: Steven Specter
  • 2015: David Ecker
  • 2016: Lucy Guerra
  • 2017: Teresa Gore
  • 2019: Dawn Schocken
  • 2020: Olga Skalkos
  • 2021: Joseph Puccio
  • 2022: Constance Visovsky
  • 2023: Javier Cuevas

Laura Lee “Dolly” Swisher Ethical and Professional Leadership Award

This award is presented annually at our graduation reception to recognize a USF SPT&SR Doctor of Physical Therapy student for academic and clinical excellence, exceptional professional behavior, and classroom and community leadership.
It is presented upon the recommendation of faculty & staff.


  • 2001: Melissa Marie Parks
  • 2002: Tracy Diane Runyan
  • 2003: Karen Lynn Stedham
  • 2004: Marsha Sue File
  • 2005: William Evan Piper
  • 2006: Sarah Sacks
  • 2007: Randall Jakab
  • 2008: Melissa Stelmacki
  • 2009: Jamie Fox
  • 2010: Elizabeth Morgan
  • 2011: Amanda Young
  • 2012: Aly Dhanani
  • 2013: Deborah Stroupe
  • 2014: Rachel Forbes
  • 2015: David Cunningham
  • 2016: Ashley Singleton
  • 2017: Arlene Shi
  • 2018: Sarah Norris
  • 2019: Sierra Bahr
  • 2020: Skye Haddock
  • 2021: Hana Abdallah
  • 2022: Gabriela Gonzalez-Markowitz
  • 2023: Erin Esposito

Catherine Page Clinical Excellence Award

This award is presented annually at our graduation reception to recognize recognizes a USF SPT&RS Doctor of Physical Therapy degree program graduate with exceptional clinical skills.

The selection is guided by the following criteria:

  • APTA CPI quantitative ratings.
  • Narrative evaluation comments.
  • Recommendations from Clinical Instructors/Center Coordinators of Clinical Education.


  • 2010: Rhodayln Merene
  • 2011: Sarah Wylie-Long
  • 2012: Amanda Colucci
  • 2013: Tania Ackley
  • 2014: Michael Goynatsky
  • 2015: Jillian Anchors
  • 2016: Claire Millman
  • 2017: Valerie Dickson
  • 2018: Kaylee Venters
  • 2019: Jordan Lindblom
  • 2020: Garrett Dietz
  • 2021: Thania Liberato
  • 2022: Keschel Hernandez
  • 2023: Bryce Braswell

American Council of Academic Physical Therapy National Student Honor Society

This national honor society recognize current Doctor of Physical Therapist students who demonstrate excellence, integrity, and professionalism in areas of: academic achievement (top 25% of class), leadership, service or research, and demonstrate strong moral character, ethics and the core values of the PT profession.


  • 2020: Skye Haddock & Emily Jaffe
  • 2021: Rachel Verscharen & Justin Tyler
  • 2022: Joseph Schneider, Giovanna Hoyos, Xavier Prado, Keschel Hernandez
  • 2023: Erin Esposito

Un-Bull-ieveable Partner Awards

The Un-BULL-ieveable partner award was created to recognize clinical and community partners who have gone above and beyond to help our program out. They routinely stepped up to help out program out by taking on additional students for clinical education, created unique opportunities, and overall have become strong supporters of the USF Doctor of Physical Therapy Program. 


  • 2022 - PT Solutions, Lakeland Regional Health, St. Joseph's Hospital, Select Physical Therapy, James A. Haley VA, and Tampa General Hospital.
  • 2023 - Orlando Health, Baycare Morton Plant North Bay Hospital, Unisen Senior Living.