Pioneering Women’s and Men’s Health Research through the Foundation for Physical Therapy

Research & Knowledge,

By Barbara Connolly, PT, DPT, Ed.D, FAPTA

Just six years ago, Section on Women’s Health leaders and members committed $100,000 to be pioneers and establish the SOWH Endowment for Research Excellence through the Foundation for Physical Therapy.

While other sections have developed funds previously, yours stood apart in its enthusiasm to continuously raise money to increase the size of the SOWH fund to support new investigators and facilitate research and evaluation of physical therapist interventions in women’s and men’s health.

The SOWH should be commended that in a very short time, your fund balance is nearly $150,000. SOWH members have on numerous occasions proven their commitment to the profession:

  • You have a member who has put the foundation in a will, directing contributions to the SOWH Fund.
  • You have members who make monthly contributions, and others who make tribute gifts in honor or memory of someone special.
  • At conferences you answer the call to support physical therapy research by making small and large gifts to support your fund.
  • Not only do section members support your own fund, but you also agreed to help when we asked you to support health services research. Thank you for helping to make the Center on Health Services Research (CoHSTAR) a reality.

In our 37-year history and through the generous support of donors, we have provided more than $17 million in scholarships, fellowships, and grants—enough to jumpstart the careers of 500-plus leading physical therapists. Of those, 17 SOWH members who are researchers have received 10 scholarships and seven grants totaling $148,464.

Our researchers have gone on to receive $755 million in follow-on funding from the National Institutes of Health and other funders. In addition, they have published more than 9,000 scholarly journal articles.

SOWH grant and scholarship recipients are successfully working to improve physical functioning and health in the lives of countless men and women. To name a few, Drs. Meryl Alappattu and Lori Tuttle are striving to improve the level and quality of care in the lives of those affected by pelvic pain, pelvic floor dysfunction, and urinary incontinence.

Dr. Alappattu, PT, DPT, Ph.D., is SOWH director of research and research assistant professor at University of Florida’s Department of Physical Therapy. She received four foundation scholarships to assist her efforts to understand the neurobiological and psychological influences on female pelvic pain and the effects of inter­ventions and rehabilitation.

Today, she is working to help patients struggling with vulvodynia, chronic pain affecting the vulvar area with no identifiable cause.

Dr. Tuttle, PT, Ph.D., is director of Pelvic Health and Rehabilitation Laboratory and assistant professor at San Diego State University School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences. She focuses on the aging process and women’s health, and is working to understand the role of muscle and other support structures on pelvic floor dysfunction, as well as the role of rehabilitation on the area. Dr. Tuttle also is a four-time foundation scholarship recipient.

Of all of our accomplishments, 2015 and 2016 have been the most fiscally groundbreaking. Not only have we budgeted to award more than $1 million in 2016 for the first time in foundation history, but last year we also awarded our largest grant ever–$2.5 million–to Linda Resnik, Ph.D., of Brown University to establish CoHSTAR, a multi-institutional center dedicated to advancing health services and health policy research in physical therapy.

Through the support and commitment of donors and APTA sections and chapters, the foundation has assembled a cadre of high-quality researchers to forward the important research needed in the physical therapy profession. Together, we will continue to fund and publicize physical therapy research in the hopes of changing the face of healthcare.

Author: Barbara Connolly, PT, DPT, Ed.D, FAPTA, is president of the Foundation for Physical Therapy. She also is professor emeritus at the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center, where she chaired the Physical Therapy Department for 24 years. To learn more about the foundation, visit