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The Physical Therapy Learning Institute was founded by Dr. Geneva R. Johnson PT, PhD, FAPTA and Dr. Lynda Woodruff PT, PhD, FAPTA, in 1991, following a meeting organized by Dr. Woodruff about problem-based learning curricula. They chose Peach Blossom Learning Institute as the initial name because Lynda was based in Georgia and the initials PBL also represented problem-based learning. There were 2 distinct purposes for founding the Institute:

  1. To provide a forum for generating new ideas related to the evolution of the profession, development of new practice environments, enhancement of existing practice environments, and curriculum design.

  2. To provide a forum for discussion of the future of physical therapy, planning and creating those futures open to physical therapy, and developing strategies for achieving those futures.


While PBL was the focus of the first workshops put on by the Institute, the scope of the workshops soon broadened to include promotion of the doctor of physical therapy (DPT) as the entry degree and primary care in physical therapy.


In 2000, the name of the organization was changed by its Board of Directors to the Physical Therapy Learning Institute. The purpose remained the same. The vision for the future remained unchanged as well, that is, to continue supporting the development of the DPT and to advocate for the role of the physical therapist as a primary care practitioner.


The Board of Directors of the Institute led ten workshops between 1992 and 2004.

A “Policy Paper on the Doctoral Degree as Professional Entry for Physical Therapy” was produced in 1997 to facilitate the discussion about the issues and concerns surrounding the move to DPT education.  The Institute and Dr. Johnson as its president, had a strong influence on the move to the doctorate, countering the concerns posed by some inside as well as outside the profession. In addition, several Board members served as educational consultants for curriculum design during the transition of curriculum from MS to DPT in the 1990s and throughout the early 2000’s with several still consulting and playing key roles in guiding various aspects of curriculum design, assessment and professional socialization of the doctorally prepared physical therapist. In addition, Dr. Johnson, led the effort to publish, “The Taxonomy of Physical Therapist Behaviors,” in 2003 a curriculum guidebook that included a streamlined system of creating and laddering educational objectives specific to physical therapy education that were meaningful, achievable and measurable across of our education continuum. Several Board members adopted and encouraged other peers to adopt this model of objective writing as an alternative to the more generic Blooms Taxonomy that less clearly describes the level of complexity of thought and application within a health profession. This taxonomy continues to be recognized as an optional organizing framework for curriculum design by The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).


In 1995, a workshop was held at Spellman College in Atlanta that focused on developing a model for preparation of the physical therapist as a primary care practitioner. Again, in 2003-4, this issue was addressed in three more workshops. These workshops were summarized in the publication “Educating Physical Therapists as Primary Care Practitioners” published in 2004 (See website library). Two workshops were held with this text being distributed with registration.


From 1993 to 2005, the following workshops and events were hosted by the PTLI:

  • Curriculum Development Utilizing Problem Based Learning, May 1992 – Dahlonega, Georgia

  • Problem Based Learning: A Curriculum Model for Physical Therapy Education, October 1992 – Atlanta, Georgia

  • CSM Conference Presenters, February 1993 – San Antonio, Texas

  • DPT as the First Professional Degree, December 1993 – Atlanta, GA

  • McMaster University Conference Presenters, June 1994 – Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

  • The Entry Level Doctorate: “Is This Change for You?”, April 28-30, 1995 – Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA

  • The Doctorate in Physical Therapy: Developing an Educational Model for Preparation of the Primary Care Practitioner,December 8-10, 1995 – Spelman College, Atlanta, GA

  • Issues Forum for Problem Based Learning,February 1996 – Atlanta, Georgia

  • Survival Strategies for Physical Therapy Programs in Small Liberal Arts Institutions, July 1997 – Wheeling, West Virginia

  • Doctor of Physical Therapy: Planning and Organizing for Initial Professional Preparation, June 2000 – Indianapolis, Indiana

  • The Role of the Physical Therapist in Primary Care, August 7-9, 2003 – Atlanta, GA

  • The Physical Therapist as Primary Care Practitioner, November 2003 – Atlanta, GA

  • Preparing Faculty to Teach in Curricula for Primary Care Practitioners, March 2004 – Atlanta, GA

  • Summit on Primary Care Physical Therapy Development, January 13-16, 2005, Miami, Florida


The Board of Directors met in Birmingham, Alabama in 2007 and developed the bylaws and other documents required to incorporate as a not for profit organization. This was accomplished through the assistance of the then treasurer of PTLI, Dr. Rose Myers, PT, PhD, in 2008, when articles of incorporation were filed in Virginia, approval was received from the US Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3 organization, and bylaws were adopted.


It was clear that the Institute could not continue to rely on support of the educational institutions where its members taught. Rather, the Institute needed to be able to have a firm self-sustaining base with a more permanent home. Discussions were held with the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and with the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW), San Antonio. UAB was unable to provide resources at that time, however, Dr. Caroline Goulet at UIW agreed to create The Geneva R. Johnson Library and to house Dr. Johnson’s personal library there.  


Upon reflection, it was determined that since PTLI’s main function was as a think-tank type organization, with an evolving group of thoughtful leaders, a physical permanent home was not necessary. Many of the issues important to PTLI were also being adopted as priorities within the  American Physical Therapy Association and its components, partly based on the role of the many influential professional leaders who were part of PTLI. The Board recognized that PTLI did not need to carry full responsibility to conduct workshops or publish books to influence change, but could use the spheres of influence of its Board members as a primary mode to effect innovative change in ways that other professional groups within academic circles and the APTA were unable to accomplish in timely manner.


Two examples how PTLI influenced needed change was the identification of improved formalized leadership development for academic administrators and faculty, and the need for an organized forum for academic administrators. Dr. Johnson was always a strong proponent for leadership development and having a formal council for academic administrators. She never failed to have those two items on the list of needs for change. In her early career, she was involved in a council that existed outside of APTA when she first became the academic chair for Western Reserve University in 1959. She stated this council was invaluable to her for personal leadership development. This group eventually dissolved, was replaced with informal mentoring of administrators and then morphed into the Academic Administrators Special Interest Group formed within the APTA Education Section. In 2013, Dr. Johnson’s vision of a council with academic institutions as it members was formed within the APTA by the Department of Education in collaboration with the Section for Education, and was named the American Council of Academic Physical Therapy (ACAPT).


Dr. Johnson had planned to be the President of PTLI until she was no longer on this earth and then she promised to “come back and keep an eye on us.” In 2012, at the age of 90, Dr. Johnson lost her husband suddenly and she began to rethink this idea. She posed the question to the Board whether the PTLI should continue and if so for what purpose. The group agreed it was important to have a group external to APTA who looked for what was missing and who could influence change. PTLI had served that function for several years and all agreed that it should continue, if possible. However, there was a need to identify younger emerging leaders that could be mentored and brought into the organization. Also, we wanted to create a legacy for Dr. Johnson. This began the deliberation of Board members on how to honor Dr. Johnson and maintain her focus of promoting impactful changes for the future of physical therapy. In 2013, Dr. Barbara Tschoepe, a PTLI Board member, who also was on the Board of the newly formed ACAPT influenced the group to collaborate with PTLI to create the “Geneva R Johnson Forum for Innovation in Education” as the keynote each year at the Education Leadership Conference beginning in 2014. For more information about the Geneva R Johnson (GRJ) Forums titles and speakers please go to the GRJ Forum tab on the website.


During a meeting of PTLI in early 2017 at APTA’s Combined Section Meeting in San Antonio. Dr. Johnson shared with us that it was time for her to step down as president and for someone new to step up and lead the organization. We were not expecting this nor were we prepared, but we understood. Dr. Johnson was our leader and will always be our inspirational leader and mentor, yet we needed to accept the responsibility to move PTLI forward into the future to continue to influence positive changes in our academic and professional environments, while staying true to our mission, organizing principles and values. As Vice President, Dr. Carol Davis accepted the responsibility to help us with this transition that came in 2017 at the Educational Leadership Conference (ELC) in Columbus, Ohio. We then elected Dr. Barbara Tschoepe as President, Dr. Rose Myers, Vice President, Dr. Caroline Goulet, Secretary and Dr. Laurie Hack, Treasurer at our annual PTLI meeting in October of 2017. Little did we know this would be our last meeting with Dr. Lynda Woodruff. She had been very engaged during the meeting as we developed a new vision, mission and strategic plan for the future which she enthusiastically supported. We began the process of inviting new Board members and they were introduced in our annual meeting at ELC 2018, in Jacksonville, Florida. Dr. Johnson was unable to attend, but a video from ELC 2016 was shared with the new members.


A special acknowledgement and tribute is due to Beth Whitehead for her unconditional support, and travel companion to Dr. Johnson over the past many years. If it were not for Beth, Dr. Johnson would not have been able to travel to our multiple national and international conferences for so long. Barbara Tschoepe, Laurie Hack and Beth Whitehead visited Dr. Johnson in Baton Rouge, on two different occasions in the summer of 2019. At the age of 97, still passionate, persistent and patient while looking pretty and sophisticated, Dr. Johnson continues to look forward, asking questions about future activities of PTLI. Traveling is difficult for her now, but we assured her that PTLI was moving forward honoring our past and celebrating new opportunities to influence in our future.  She was thrilled to hear of the energy of our Board Members and the future of PTLI. She reminded us she still wanted to see physical therapists and nurse practitioners collaborating to provide access to health care within a primary care model, not simply medical care but to have a greater focus on population health, especially in areas with limited access to health services.


Dr. Johnson still talks about a home for PTLI. It is exciting that one of our priorities of 2019 has been to create a virtual home for PTLI through this web site. Thanks to our branding committee, they have also created a beautiful logo that is evocative of both PTLI’s past and future. We know that Dr. Johnson is and Dr. Woodruff would be pleased to see how the organization they created in 1991 has and will continue to grow and flourish to offer LEADERSHIP that CHALLENGES the status quo and IGNITES collaborative change to INFLUENCE physical therapy education, research and practice.  


Special thanks to the contributors of the 2019 History of PTLI:

Laurie Hack PT PhD FAPTA

Rose Sgarlet Myer PT PhD

Beth Whitehead PT MPT MBA

Barbara Tschoepe PT DPT PhD FAPTA



Historical and current List of Board of Directors 1991-Current:


Laurel Daniels Abbruzzese, PT, EdD, FNAP

Karen Abrahams, PT, PhD

Peter Altenburger, PT, PhD

Mary Blackinton, PT, DPT, EdD

William Boissonnault, PT, DPT, DHSc, FAAOMPT, FAPTA

Nancy N. Byl, PT, MPH, PhD, FAPTA

Carol Davis, PT, PhD, FAPTA

Susan S. Deusinger, PT, PhD, FAPTA

Sharon Dunn, PT, PhD

Caroline Goulet, PT, PhD, FAPTA

Jennifer Green-Wilson, PT, PhD, MBA

Laurie Hack, PT, PhD, FAPTA

Greg Hartley, PT, DPT, GCS

Gail Jensen, PT, PhD, FAPTA, FNAP

Geneva R Johnson, PT, PhD, FAPTA (Distinguished Founding Board Member)*

V. Kai Kennedy, PT, DPT

Merrill Landers, PT, DPT, PhD

Didi Matthews, PT, DPT

Marilyn Moffat, PT, DPT, PhD, FAPTA

David Morris, PT, PhD

Terry Nordstrom, PT, EdD, FAPTA

Rupal Patel, PT, PhD

Steven Tepper, PT, PhD, FAPTA

Barbara A. Tschoepe PT, DPT, PhD, FAPTA

Lisa VanHoose, PT, PhD, MPH, FAAPTA, FAPTA

Kimberly Varnado, PT, DPT, DHSc, FAAOMPT



Mary McKinney Edmonds, PT, PhD, FAPTA*

Sam Feitelberg, PT, MA, DSc(hon), FAPTA

Elizabeth H. Littell, PT, PhD

Mary Moffroid, PT, PhD

Rose Sgarlat-Myer, PT, PhD

Darcy Umphred, PT, PhD, FAPTA

Beth Whitehead, PT, MPH

Lynda Woodruff, PT, PhD, FAAPTA*

(* deceased)


John Barr, PT, PhD, FAPTA

Janet Crosier, PT, DPT

Jack Echternacht, PT, PhD*

Donna El Din, PT, PhD*

Marilyn Gossman, PT, PhD*

Sherrill Hayes, PT, PhD

Elizabeth Rogers, PT, PhD

Mary D. Slavin, PT, PhD

Mary-Jo Wisniewski, PT, EdD

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