Celebrating 50 years of Quinnipiac physical therapy excellence

Throughout 2024, members of the Quinnipiac physical therapy community — past and present — are celebrating 50 years of excellence and growth of this unique program and its well-deserved reputation as a leader in physical therapy education.

Celebrating 50 years of Quinnipiac physical therapy excellence

Throughout 2024, members of the Quinnipiac physical therapy community — past and present — are celebrating 50 years of excellence and growth of this unique program and its well-deserved reputation as a leader in physical therapy education.

Steeped in a philosophy of compassionate care, Quinnipiac’s physical therapy program offers exceptional and innovative educational and clinical experiences.

“The program has just excelled at their ability to really focus on areas that provide the highest academic quality that can be delivered,” said School of Health Sciences Dean Janelle Chiasera. “The work that we do, and the excellence that we do it with, has come from 50 years of people who have put their heart and soul into this very program. I’m honored and humbled to see what it has become, and I look forward to all it will continue to be moving forward.”

Established in 1972, Quinnipiac physical therapy formed its inaugural Class of 1974 on the Mount Carmel Campus. Located today on the North Haven Campus at the School of Health Sciences, Quinnipiac physical therapy provides an innovative, student-oriented environment that blends education with hands-on opportunities to provide compassionate care.

Embodying both the university’s and American Physical Therapy Association’s core values, physical therapy students provide person-centered care using evidence-informed practice to optimize movement and positively transform society. The program is also dedicated to developing lifelong learners who will enhance the profession through a commitment to reflective practice, interprofessional collaboration, leadership and socially aware action.

Department of Physical Therapy Chair Ken Kosior said the multifaceted Quinnipiac physical therapy experience prepares students who can meet the evolving health needs of society as caring professionals.

“I think it’s always been that unique combination of always meeting the professional needs, but also having a quality competent clinical component — with compassion as the hallmark,” said Kosior.

In its 50th year, Quinnipiac physical therapy is experiencing a record number of applications, at a time when other programs across the country are struggling to get students into their physical therapy programs. Chiasera said that speaks volumes about what she feels is a “signature” program at Quinnipiac.

“I call it a signature program, in the sense that there are a lot of students who want this program because there’s a hardiness to the curriculum and experiential learning that they do,” said Chiasera. “And then, on the back end, there’s a work force that’s in desperate need of highly qualified individuals, particularly students that come from our program.”

Opportunities for study abroad and academic participation in local community engagement including clinics and partnerships all deepen student experiences and skill sets.

“It just creates an amazing academic experience for students that puts a real-world touch into that bookwork that they do within their classrooms,” said Chiasera.

Quinnipiac’s innovative approach to physical therapy education is evident in the student-operated, faculty and alumni-led EQUIP Rehabilitation clinic. The clinic offers physical therapy and occupational therapy services accessible to the entire community including exercise classes, health and wellness education, health screenings, health fairs, involvement in adaptive sports, and customization of products for children with physical and cognitive impairments through the Go Baby Go Program. Over the past decade, Quinnipiac’s physical therapy students have cared for more than 400 EQUIP patients.

Additionally, Quinnipiac physical therapy’s dedicated faculty inspires students with their commitment to excellence as educators, clinicians, and community volunteers.

“They’re deeply committed not only to their students but to their profession, and they are committed to giving back to their communities,” said Chiasera. “The way that they educate their students – that strong connection between academics, hands-on skills, and that community-based approach - really creates the student who is better prepared.”

Jerry-Thomas Monaco, MPT '06, said Quinnipiac physical therapy faculty is not only influential in students’ lives, but in their careers.

By continuing to be in contact with faculty well after graduation, Monaco said their guidance helped him pursue his PhD in human and sport performance. This led to his university faculty position with a physical therapy department.

“Because I felt very comfortable with my faculty, I wanted to be better. Because of that relationship, that made me a good lifelong learner. That really influenced my clinical career. Not only did they influence my career life, they were excellent role models where I saw myself in their positions as an academic leader,” said Monaco.

As the department’s sixth chairman, Kosior is honored to be aligned with extraordinary leadership guiding the program’s growth during the past 50 years. The program’s inaugural chair, the late Harold Potts, established Quinnipiac physical therapy in 1972. Potts also gathered the inaugural Class of 1974 and was responsible for the program’s accreditation in 1974, among many other contributions. He chaired the department until 1987.

As part of the 50th anniversary celebration, with the assistance of many years of alumni contributions, Quinnipiac physical therapy recently endowed the Harold Potts-Edward Tantorski Endowed Professorship. A department first, this faculty leadership position also honors the legacies of two exceptional individuals whose combined leadership spans 32 of the program’s first 50 years. Edward Tantorski joined Quinnipiac’s physical therapy faculty in 1973 and continued the growth of the program as its department chair from 1987 through 2004. He retired in 2019.

“All of our chairs were always visionary in how we’re meeting the profession,” said Kosior. “That really is a hallmark in not only the compassion we have for the community, but the excellence in our program.”

On February 15, Tantorski was an esteemed guest among a gathering of more than 130 alumni, together with faculty, at a special reception celebrating 50 years of Quinnipiac physical therapy during the APTA CSM 2024 conference in Boston.

“I am so proud to have taught all of you,” Tantorski said. “I thank you for being part of my life, a big part of my life, a meaningful part of my life, and I wouldn’t change it for anything.”

Also during the reception, Kate Duffy, DPT '25, shared with alumni the recognition Quinnipiac physical therapy students are receiving as they undertake clinical experiences.

“When patients, family members and fellow healthcare providers would ask what program I came from, I was always amazed with their excitement when I shared that I was a QU student,” Duffy said. “To call myself a physical therapy student is something I am proud of, but to call myself a Quinnipiac physical therapy student is a distinction that I am so grateful to be able to make. So, thank you all for setting a standard, one that myself and my peers work hard to maintain. "

The reception was planned with assistance from some key members of the newly formed Quinnipiac physical therapy alumni chapter, initiated last year. Currently, the alumni chapter has about 200 registered members.

“Our alumni chapter is active, it’s growing, and they have a passion to give back,” said Kosior, who hopes this 50th anniversary year will be one of growth for the chapter.

“Having 3,300 alumni in a close-knit community, if we can bring them together, it will really help to strengthen our program,” he said.

Current Quinnipiac physical therapy students eagerly engage with alumni and are proud to be among the next generation of compassionate clinicians prepared by the exceptional faculty and unique opportunities in Quinnipiac’s program. Speaking with members of the 50th Class of 2024, Kosior said they feel it’s been a unique experience to look back at the history of physical therapy at Quinnipiac, and to know that it’s been such a long-standing program.

“But I think, most importantly, what’s really excited them is knowing they are among a group of excellent clinicians who might be future employers, colleagues, mentors, or just part of a meaningful network in the physical therapy profession,” said Kosior.

Anthony Marsala, MPT ’07, counts this important distinction among his educational and career experience.

“Quinnipiac physical therapy gave me the confidence to believe in myself; that I could do anything I put my mind to,” Marsala said. “When I meet a new potential employee and I see they went to Quinnipiac, I know they went through a rigorous education and have the toolkits to succeed in this ever-changing world.”

Koisor said current Quinnipiac physical therapy students certainly recognize and appreciate the value of their educational journey.

“They know that physical therapy at Quinnipiac is one of the top programs in the Northeast. That value of education is what drove them to come to Quinnipiac. As students, they’re seeing it’s the reality of who we are,” said Koisor.

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