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2023 Disruptive Innovation in Physical Therapist Education Virtual Summit:

“Curricular Bloat and Unwarranted Variability: Now is the Time for Curricular Reform"

on April 14-15, 2023


Summit Description:
Over the past 50 years, the degree awarded in entry-level physical therapist education has evolved from post-baccalaureate certificates in physical therapy to baccalaureate and master’s degrees, and ultimately to the clinical doctorate. Throughout this continued development of the profession, there has been an emphasis on adding curricular content based on emerging physical therapy research and clinical practice trends, as well as from advancing specialization and the publication of minimal entry-level core competencies in each clinical specialty area. This additive approach fosters curricular bloat, a swelling of “what else” needs to be covered in the curriculum without taking learning and learners into consideration. We are often driven by more is more - not less is more. Equal attention is needed not only to what could be removed, but what learner outcomes for physical therapists are needed that align with societal health and health care needs. This begs the question, “What is entry-level DPT education?” Graduate feedback suggests DPT students leave their programs feeling full (bloated) rather than ‘hungry’, ready to continue as adaptive learners curious for ongoing learning that is critical to our practice, profession, and society. As the scope of practice and the clinical degree required to practice has evolved, the curricular content focus has increased and contributed to the propensity for unwarranted variation in DPT education. Unwarranted variability in curricular and assessment practices contributes to fragmentation for learners and ultimately fosters negative outcomes in PT practice. While we consider moving towards competency-based physical therapy education and defining entrustable professional activities for the profession, we must also consider clarifying warranted variability from unwarranted variability in our curricula and assessment practices. The 2023 PTLI Disruptive Innovation Summit focused on considering the steps required to reduce both curricular bloat and unwarranted variation in DPT education.

Summit Format:
This virtual, online summit occurred on April 14-15, 2023 (see detailed agenda below). Attendance was limited to 125 invited attendees representing a wide variety of physical therapist education programs from across the country. Over the course of the summit, there was a keynote address and two moderated panels of facilitated conversation around the overarching themes of the summit (i.e., curricular bloat, unwarranted variation in education, expectations for entry-level education and practice). One panel centered on the academic perspective and consisted of program directors, academic faculty, and accreditation experts. The second panel centered on the clinical perspective and consisted of practicing clinicians, new graduates, and practice managers/owners. Within each topic, invited panelists discussed moderated questions highlighting major points, past experiences, current thinking, and future directions. This was followed by a facilitated group discussion for each topic. Participants are encouraged to submit a reactive platform presentation based on the summit, learn more at
Reactive Platform Submission Information & Invitation.


Summit Agenda:

Friday, April 14, 2023 (all times were Eastern Time Zone):


Welcome from PTLI President, Barbara Tschoepe; Summit Overview & Ground Rules (Greg Hartley); Introduction of Keynote Speaker (Greg Hartley)



Open Forum/Q&A with Keynote Speaker


Preview of Saturday’s Agenda/Format (Summit Planning Committee)

Saturday, April 15, 2023 (all times were Eastern Time Zone):

To learn more about the panel moderators and panelists, click on their name below:


Panel 1: Academic Perspective - DPT Program Directors/Faculty/Accreditors



  • Ellen Wruble Hakim, PT, DScPT (Director, Doctor of Physical Therapy Program, University of Delaware)

  • Robert Frampton, PT, DHCE, MPT (Program Director, Physical Therapy, Concordia University Ann Arbor)

  • Kim Nixon-Cave, PT, PhD (Program Director, Hybrid DPT, University of Pittsburgh)

  • Peggy Gleeson, PT, PhD (Associate Director of the School of Physical Therapy, Texas Woman's University; Chair, Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education)

  • Jean Timmerberg, PT, PhD, MHS (Associate Director, Programs in Physical Therapy at Columbia University Irving Medical Center)

Panel 1 Recording:


Q&A with Panelist


Open Discussion around Panel 1




Panel 2: Clinicians/Employers/Students/Early Professionals



  • Bob Rowe, PT, DPT, DMT, MHS, FAAOMPT (Program Coordinator for the Brooks/UNF Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapy Fellowship)

  • Robert Tillman, PT, FAAOMPT (President, Ortho Rehab and Specialty Centers, Little Rock Arkansas)

  • Brian Goodwin, PT, DPT (Inova Sports Medicine Physical Therapy, DPT Graduate '22)

  • Christin Lynch (4th Year DPT Student at Nova Southeastern University-Tampa)

  • Tracy Spitznagle, PT, DPT (Professor of Physical Therapy and Obstetrics and Gynecology, Washington University in Saint Louis)

  • Karen Bock, PT, MPT, CWS, CLT (Clinical Instructor in the Department Physical Therapy, Rehabilitation Science, and Athletic Training at the University of Kansas Medical Center)

  • Chase Kuhn, PT, DPT (Immediate Past-President, APTA Student Board, Current Orthopaedic Resident, The Ohio State University)

Panel 2 Recording:


Q&A with Panelist


Open Discussion around Panel 2




Reflection & Large Group Discussion

Moderator: Mary Blackinton, PT, EdD


Recommended Summit Reading

Participants were encouraged to read or review the following articles prior to the Summit.  The articles below can be reviewed in this Google Folder.

  1. Frenk J, Chen LC, Chandran L, Groff EOH, King R, Meleis A, Fineberg HV.Challenges and opportunities for educating health professionals after the COVID-19 pandemic. Vol 400 October 29, 2022. 1539-1556.

  2. Holmboe ES.  Competency-Based Medical Education and the Ghost of Kuhn: Reflections on the Messy and Meaningful Work of Transformation.  Academic Medicine, Vol. 93, No. 3 / March 2018.

  3. Holmboe ES, Kogan JR.Will Any Road Get You There? Examining Warranted and Unwarranted Variation in Medical Education.  Academic Medicine, Vol. 97, No. 8 / August 2022. 1128-36.

  4. Jensen GM, Jette DU, Timmerberg JF, Chesbro SB, Dole RL, Kapasi Z, Lotshaw A.  Competency-Based Education in Physical Therapy: Developing a Framework for Education Research.  Journal of Physical Therapy Education Vol 36, No 4, 2022.  334-40.

  5. Khanna P, Roberts C, Lane AS.  Designing health professional education curricula using systems thinking perspectives. BMC Medical Education (2021) 21:20

  6. Sklar DP.  What Would Excellence in Health Professions Education Mean If It Addressed Our Most Pressing Health Problems? Academic Medicine, Vol. 94, No. 1 / January 2019. 1-3.

  7. Thibault GE.  The future of health professions education: Emerging trends in the United States.  FASEB BioAdvances. 2020;2:685–694.

  8. Timmerberg JF, Chesbro SB, Jensen GM, Dole RL, Jette DU. Competency-Based Education and Practice in Physical Therapy: It’s Time to Act! PTJ: Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Journal | Physical Therapy, 2022;102:1–9.

  9. van Schaik SM, Reeves SA, Headrick LA.  Exemplary Learning Environments for the Health Professions: A Vision.  Academic Medicine, Vol. 94, No. 7 / July 2019. 975-982.

Reactive Platform Submission Information & Invitation: CLOSED

Participants of the 2023 Disruptive Innovation Summit and those who have reviewed all recorded content (both the keynote and panel discussions) are invited to submit a reactive platform in response to the experience. A reactive platform provides an opportunity to react to the concepts discussed during the summit and share concrete ideas for implementation and collaboration based on the summit presentations and discussions. In this vein, we encourage innovative ideas, concepts, and frameworks that have the potential to positively transform Physical Therapist education and practice by decreasing unwarranted variability and / or curricular bloat. Please clearly describe your proposed approach and methods, and if applicable, ideas for collaborative educational research in this area. Download a copy of this information here.



Presenters will share their ideas using a 3-6 minute zoom recording. The platform should relate to ideas presented and discussed at the summit and include the following elements:

  • Presenter name and affiliation(s)

  • Key Concept Addressing

  • Specific Idea(s) for Implementation or Research

  • Opportunities and Challenges

  • Summary and References

Submission Logistics:

  • Submit the MP4 file by July 15, 2023 via this Google Form

  • The Physical Therapy Learning Institute (PTLI) board members will select submissions for Education Innovator and Education Influencer Awards. Awardees will be sent certificates and have their names and presentations highlighted on the PTLI website.

Reactive Platform

Please contact Summit Organizers Karen Abraham at or Greg Hartley at

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