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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.

In Memoriam


Dr. Geneva R. Johnson, PT, PhD, FAPTA

June 22, 1922-October 12, 2021


Her passing leaves us with sad hearts yet big smiles as we remember how she influenced each of our lives

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Dr. Geneva R Johnson

Geneva Richard Johnson, PT, PhD, Fellow of the American Physical Therapy Association was Born June 22, 1922, in Eunice, Louisiana and Died October12, 2021, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.


It is difficult to describe the magnitude of the impact Geneva R. Johnson had during her long and fruitful life, but we can list some of her many accomplishments that helped to prepare her to become the force for love and change that she embodied during her 99 years.


Dr. Johnson earned a Bachelor of Science degree from University of Southwestern Louisiana in health and physical education in 1942, followed by a certificate in physical therapy from the United States Army Lawson General Hospital in 1946. She later earned a Master of Arts in educational administration from the University of South Carolina in 1959 and a PhD in Higher Education Administration from the University of Pittsburgh in 1971.

Dr. Johnson began her career as a physical education teacher in 1942, followed by time as a medical assistant and a recreation worker. Having completed her physical therapy certificate program, she served from 1946 -1948 as a lieutenant in the US Army at Beaumont Army Hospital, El Paso TX. She then worked for the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis at hospitals in Iowa in response to local polio outbreaks. In 1951, she was recalled to service as a lieutenant and worked at Fitzsimons Army Hospital, Denver CO, and was promoted to captain when serving at Brooke Army Hospital, San Antonio, TX from 1953-1954. She assumed management responsibilities for physical therapy services 1954-1957 at Baylor University, where she also served as an assistant professor, and at Talmadge Memorial Hospital, Augusta GA, 1957-1959. She always saw her service in the US Army as a major contribution to her profession and her country and was equally proud of the service she provided during the devasting polio epidemics of the 1940s and 1950s.


In 1959, Dr. Johnson started a new chapter in her service to physical therapy when she joined the faculty at what was then Western Reserve University, in Cleveland OH, to found the Graduate Physical Therapy Curriculum, which provide the first master of science degree in physical therapy, and served as the role model for the move of physical therapist education to the graduate level. She remained at Case Western Reserve University until 1974, serving as assistant dean in the Frances Payne School of Nursing after the closure of the physical therapy program in 1971.


In 1974, Dr. Johnson assumed the position of associate professor and director at The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research (TIRR) at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX, remaining there until 1984. During her tenure TIRR became a model for physical therapist practice based on sound research, offering the first research-oriented fellowship in physical therapy.


From 1984-1994 Dr. Johnson shared her vast knowledge of physical therapy education as an educational consultant at multiple institutions in the United States, and across the world in Canada and Jordan. She worked in Egypt over multiple visits under the aegis of Project Hope.


In 1991, Dr. Johnson and her dear friend Dr. Lynda Woodruff set out to change the world of physical therapy. They founded what was initially named, The Peach Blossom Institute, to serve as a think-thank of invited thoughtful leaders, who collectively came together to generate new ideas related to the evolution of the physical therapy profession and our educational practices. The Institute was known to provide a forum for discussion of the future of physical therapy, planning and creating those futures and developing strategies to achieve a shared aspired vision for physical therapy as a profession. The Board of Directors renamed the organization, The Physical Therapy Learning Institute (PTLI) in 2000. The organization has evolved throughout the years, yet continues to stay true to its original intention. It continues to grow and flourish as the Board offers Leadership that Challenges the Status Quo and Ignites Collaborative Change to influence physical therapy education, research and practice.  


In 1994 Dr. Johnson returned to the academy and became the founding Dean of the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at the University of Mobile, in Mobile, AL. Upon the closure of that program, she again returned to her consulting role and continued from 2000 - 2014 in advising related to the development of Doctor of Physical Therapy programs around the country.


While Dr. Johnson was employed in and excelling at all these demanding positions, she also was very active professionally. She was active in leadership wherever she worked, serving in over 20 different positions for the Iowa, Texas, Georgia, and Ohio Chapters of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). These positions included the President of the Ohio Chapter, Secretary of the Iowa Chapter and Delegate from the Texas Chapter. She also served the APTA on various committees, and sections of the APTA, including Section on Administration and Section on Education. Her leadership on the Council of Physical Therapy School Directors was pivotal in moving that group forward in its own organization and in support of graduate education in physical therapy. When Dr. Johnson saw an unmet professional need, she stepped in and created groups to address the issue. She was a founding member of the Society of Behavioral Kinesiology, the Physical Therapy Directors’ Forum, Greater Houston Area, and the Physical Therapy Learning Institute, which continues today to enact her vision for physical therapy.


Dr. Johnson provided countless continuing education opportunities for her colleagues and published regularly, with over 25 articles and chapters. Many of these works were focused on improving physical therapy education and strengthening the role of physical therapy in primary care.


Dr. Johnson rightly received recognition for her leadership. She was inducted as a Catherine Worthingham Fellow of the APTA in 1983, just one year after Dr. Worthingham herself was inducted. In 1985, she presented the APTA Mary McMillan Lecture, Great Expectations: A Force in Growth and Change. These are the two highest honors given to physical therapists. She also received the APTA Lucy Blair Service Award (1983), the Army Physical Therapy Program Outstanding Alumni Award (1994) and the APTA Pauline Cerasoli Education Award (2008). Most recently her legacy was recognized by the establishment in 2014 of the Geneva R. Johnson Annual Forum on Innovation in Education, held annually at the Educational Leadership Conference.


Dr. Johnson, at the age of 95, stepped down as the President of The Physical Therapy Learning Institute (PTLI) in 2017, however, stayed active as a Board member until her death.  She never lost her zest to lead, yet decided it was time for others to step in to lead the organization. The Board continues with its mission to Challenge the Status Quo while Igniting Collaborative Change in physical therapy education, research and practice.


These details capture the basic elements of Dr. Johnson’s professional life, but they don't fully reflect Geanie as the person her family, friends, and colleagues knew. She brought passion and commitment, a belief in physical therapy as a vital health service, and a confidence that when physical therapists acted with courage and determination anything was possible to everything she did. As she herself said, “We hold the power within our heads, hands, and hearts to be whatever we dream. The horizons have no limits for us as physical therapists.”

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Dr. Lynda Woodruff

In Memoriam

Dr. Lynda Woodruff, PT, PhD

September 29, 1947-March 20, 2018


Born Lynda Darnell Woodruff, September 29, 1947 to the former Georgia Etta Richardson Woodruff and Lloyd Alton Woodruff in Amherst County, Virginia.  She spent her preschool and early elementary years in Amherst.  She attended Lynchburg Public Schools where she became one of the first 2 African-American students to integrate by landmark court order the then segregated public schools in 1962.  She graduated from EC Glass High School in 1965.  She received her undergraduate degree at Case Western Reserve University (1969) and graduate degree in physical therapy (1971).  She was awarded her PhD at Georgia State University (1984).

Dr. Woodruff’s professional career as an academic physical therapist of both national and international renown had its humble beginnings at the Memorial Hospital in Danville, Virginia where she began working as a staff physical therapist (1971) acutely recognizing the devastating impact of health disparities on minority patients.  This experience inspired her to envision a broader horizon as an investigator, educator, mentor and advocate.  She later joined the faculty of the Physical Therapy Department, Division of Physical Therapy (PT) School of Medicine, University of North Carolina (1976) as an Assistant Professor.  She was then recruited to Georgia State University as an Assistant Professor where she founded and directed the awarded winning Minority Faculty Recruitment and Retention Program.  She was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure (1983).  During this time, she also continued to maintain a clinical practice as a senior physical therapist at Dekalb Physical Therapists (CEO Robert McNeil).

Dr. Woodruff was appointed Full Professor with tenure and Founding Chairman Department of Physical Therapy North Georgia College in Dahlonega, Georgia (1991), where she developed the first Post-Baccalaureate Physical Therapy program in the State of Georgia.  She served as Chair (1991-96) and then continued as Full Professor until 2005.  During her tenure she authored 10 grants of greater than $1 million to sustain operations and to initiate creative outreach community projects.  She received gubernatorial appointment to the Georgia State Board of Physical Therapy serving for more than a decade.  As Chairman of this Board she worked to get controversial legislation introduced to prevent unlicensed practitioners from providing direct patient care.  A vocal advocate for the evolution of greater autonomy of PT’s in patient care, Lynda helped design and gain accreditation for the doctoral educational curriculum that is now the standard in this field.  She served as a Site Visitor and later as Commissioner for the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (1998-201).   Building on these aggregate experiences as a Chairman and Commissioner she would later help build 8 programs in PT around the country.   Additionally, as an academician, Dr. Woodruff authored more than thirty professional publications in scientific journals, numerous national and international presentations in the areas of clinical electrophysiology, laser therapy, health disparities, rural health and problem-based learning pedagogy to name a few. 

At the national and international level, her leadership roles blossomed in the realms of education, humanism and advocacy.  She is a founding member: American Academy of Physical Therapy, North American Association of Laser Therapy, American Congress on Electroneuromyography and several other prestigious professional organizations in her field of endeavor.  Dr. Woodruff worked fervently for nearly 40 years to build strong collaborations between Brazilian and U.S. physical therapy institutions by developing an exchange program for faculty and students.  She also served as a medical educator in Brazil.  Lynda was passionate about equity and the elimination of disparities in health.  She was pivotal in establishing the original Advisory Council on Minority Affairs, Office of Minority Affairs and several Minority Scholarships at the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) all designed to develop and maintain the pipeline of minority PT’s.   These programs have led to recruitment, retention and advancements of many minorities in the field of PT over 4 decades and will surely greatly extend her professional legacy for many years to come.   On a personal level she mentored and housed many students.  These protégés affectionately identify themselves as “Woody Babies.” 


Dr. Lynda Woodruff is the recipient of numerous professional awards and recognitions. Prominent among these were the APTA’s Lucy Blair Service Award, the Kellogg Fellowship for International Leadership and the Distinguished Service Award for the (then) Section on Clinical Electrophysiology to name only a few.   This phenomenal career has been well documented through the APTA Oral History Project in which she is one of only 100 physical therapists recorded in the Association’s Archives.  In a Statement by APTA President Sharon Dunn President of the APTA (March 28, 2018) described Lynda as one “of our profession’s most remarkable and widely respected leaders…  [her] spirit was big and her presence powerful.”  She further characterized Lynda as an “important voice…a stalwart advocate for our conscience for diversity and inclusion” in her letter to the membership of the field’s most prestigious society.   Dr. Dunn in her final words stated that “she was an icon and will be missed.”


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