Year in Review 2023

As 2023 starts to wind down I think I can safely say that here in the Department of Physical Therapy, we are all looking forward to a well-deserved holiday. We have many reasons to celebrate, and every excuse to relax for a couple of weeks.

I’m incredibly proud to be part of a department that is educating outstanding graduates of our clinical and academic paths, working to improve physical therapy capacity in BC, and gaining recognition as a leading physical therapy program worldwide.

Reflecting on the end of this first year as the Head of an amazing department, I’m more aware than ever of the energy and collaborative spirit across the department, from staff to faculty to students to partners. I trust everyone will take the opportunity to recharge for what looks to be a very busy year ahead!

In addition to the highlights below, you may also wish to peruse all of last year’s news stories: View all of our news from 2023

I wish you all a warm and happy holiday. Feel free to drop me an email with your thoughts and reflections about the past year, or the year to come.

Alex Scott
Professor, Faculty of Medicine

Head, Department of Physical Therapy

We would like to acknowledge the promotions that happened in 2023:

  • Alison Greig – Professor of Teaching
  • Jordan Guenette – Professor
  • Maria Yap – HR Manager
  • Emma Gallagher – PTRC Manager
  • Andrea Hardaker – Director of Administration

We would like to welcome all of the new faculty and staff members who joined us in 2023:

  • Clare Ardern – Assistant Professor
  • Carlos Cano Herrera – Postdoctoral Research Fellow Eng Lab
  • Stanley Hung – Postdoctoral Research Fellow Eng Lab
  • Jordyn Rice – Postdoctoral Research Fellow Liu-Ambrose Lab
  • Kelcey Bland – Postdoctoral Research Fellow Campbell Lab
  • Codie Primeau – Postdoctoral Research Fellow Li Lab
  • Emma Doyle – Classroom Coordinator MPT-FV
  • Myo Dinh – MPT Sr. Program Assistant
  • Josh Eade – Classroom Support MPT-V
  • Dorothee Leesing – Education Technology Manager
  • Carrie Chan – HR and Finance Processing Specialist
  • Achille Gardellini – MPT/MOT- FV Site Manager
  • Bruna Felippetti Abondanza Mendrone – Classroom Coordinator MPT-V
  • Sarah Schwartz – Clinical Education Manager
  • Gavin Tonkin – PTRC Physical Therapist
  • Charlie Chua – PTRC Physical Therapist
  • Gursevak Powar – PTRC Physical Therapist
  • Ashley Jestin – PTRC Physical Therapist
  • Deidre Pratt – MPT-N Classroom Support
  • Abby Lodge – Indigenous Coordinator

A look back in 2023:

MPT Program

The MPT Program started off the year strong with over 400 applicants for the 120 seats in the 2023-2025 cohort.

In March, the top candidates of these hopeful future physical therapists were interviewed virtually during the Multiple Mini Interviews (MMI). Thank you to our amazing staff and community for your help in putting this together and getting it done!

Together with the Faculty of Medicine and the physical therapy community, we welcomed 120 new students to the UBC Master of Physical Therapy Program.

Students began a new year of remote and on-site classes with video-connected lab sessions between the UBC and UNBC campuses. The Fraser Valley cohort will begin their first classes in the Surrey location in January.

In November, we congratulated the MPT class of 2023 as they graduated. Beginning in 2024 we hope to have the induction of the first MPT-Victoria cohort, located in Victoria at the University of Victoria site, the Vancouver Island Tech Park.

Clinical Education

A collaborative 4:1 practice model was piloted on acute care wards at Vancouver General Hospital and Lion’s Gate Hospital in August 2023 creating sixteen clinical placements that met the learning needs of our graduating students and demonstrated an average service increase of 60% while the students were on the wards. The 4:1 acute care learning model was further refined and continues in Vancouver Coastal Health and at an additional site in Fraser Health, with plans to expand to Providence Health Care in 2024.

A student-enhanced rehabilitation service was designed for patients in a medical ward at Abbotsford Regional Hospital to receive enhanced rehabilitation services while they await ongoing rehabilitation services. Students, under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist, can provide enhanced rehabilitation services to patients on the ward who meet the inclusion criteria for the duration of their clinical placement. 

A student-enhanced rehabilitation service in early intervention pediatric care aimed at bridging service gaps and reducing wait times for pediatric clients and their families was created in partnership with the BC Centre for Ability (BCCFA). A new pediatric treatment site was established on the UBC Point Grey campus and used in conjunction with the main site in East Vancouver to provide services to thirty-three families during our first five-week clinical placement.

We have a new clinical education partnership with the Stó:lo Nation, where students complete their clinical learning two days per week in the Stó:lo community, and the remainder of their required hours at the Chilliwack General Hospital.

We had 42 applications for Clinical Faculty Appointments and promoted 2 Clinical Faculty members to higher ranks. 3 retiring Clinical Faculty were put forth for Emeritae appointments.


Congratulations to all of the MSc/PhD students who graduated in 2023:

  • Ryan Stein – MSC – Supervised by Dr Teresa Liu-Ambrose
  • Smruthi Ramachandran – MSC – Supervised by Dr Linda Li
  • Morgan Flynn – MSC – Supervised by Dr Jordan Guenette
  • Julia Much – MSC – Supervised by Dr Linda Li
  • Lyndal Solomons – PhD – Supervised by Dr Alex Scott
  • Nafeez Syed – PhD – Supervised by Dr Jordan Guenette
  • Linda Truong – PhD – Supervised by Dr Jackie Whittaker

Faculty members of the Department received almost $3.6 million in research funding, over $680K in scholar awards, and generated 169 peer-reviewed publications over the last year.  Students of the Rehabilitation Science Program and Postdoctoral Fellows supervised by PT department members received over $1 million to support their training in 2022/23.

Dr. Pat Camp, in partnership with the VCH Legacy for Airway Health, was awarded a $2 million CIHR THINC Team Grant for SPIRO: SPirometry for Improved Indigenous and Rural Respiratory Outcomes. The THINC (Transforming Health with Integrated Care) grant initiative aims to address health inequities and gaps in care by funding teams of clinicians, researchers, health authority leaders, and patient partners to tackle complex healthcare problems. The SPIRO team is working with Carrier Sekani Family Services, Northern Health, and Vancouver Coastal Health to address access concerns to spirometry and integrated care, especially for individuals with chronic lung disease living in remote, rural and First Nations communities.

Dr. Lara Boyd has been recognized as a 2023 Distinguished University Scholar for her work in motor learning and developing novel therapeutic approaches that stimulate recovery after a stroke. Her efforts continue to support the health of individuals by shaping practice and advancing knowledge related to the neurobiology of stroke recovery and novel noninvasive brain stimulation therapies.

Dr. Linda Li was appointed the new Scientific Director of the BC SUPPORT Unit. Linda will play a vital role in Health Research BC. Her portfolio will include the BC SUPPORT Unit’s learning health systems program and advancing patient-oriented research, as well as supporting Health Research BC’s science program.

Dr. Janice Eng received an honorary doctorate from McMaster University in this fall convocation. In addition, she is also the receiving the 2023 Helen Saarinen Lectureship (in honour of the late co-founder of the McMaster University School of Rehabilitation Science).

Dr. Linda Li was awarded the Killam Faculty Research Prize in the Science/Applied Science category. The Killam Faculty Research Prize is awarded annually to individuals who demonstrate outstanding research and scholarly contributions and have national and/or international research leadership in all fields.

Dr. Alex Scott was awarded the Killam Faculty Teaching Prize. The Killam Teaching Prize is awarded annually to faculty nominated by students, colleagues and alumni in recognition of excellence in teaching. 

Dr. Teresa Liu-Ambrose oversaw and led our department’s offerings during the Vancouver Summer Program courses. The VSP coordinators, Drs Paul Mackie, Narlon Cassio Boa Sorte Silva, and Guilherme Moraes Balbim, oversaw all aspects of course delivery, including scheduling, course content, recruitment of instructors, VSP advertisement to increase enrolment and instruction.

UBC Physical Therapy & Research Clinic

The Physical Therapy & Research Clinic (PTRC) has had its busiest year yet! The clinic has supported 27 MPT students on clinical placement in 2023. In addition, the clinic has employed 4 UBC MPT alumni to serve the clinic as full-time physiotherapists who have conducted over 3,500 appointments this year. Our group classes are increasing in popularity, with 240 group exercise classes conducted.

Fame training has continued to be organized and conducted by Sally and the PTRC. Two training sessions have been completed in 2023 which has increased community implementation from 2 sites offering FAME to 14 sites. The PTRC continues to run 2 classes weekly, with both our MPT Students and Kinesiology students working collaboratively to ensure our patients are receiving the highest quality care.

We are proud to report that our PTRC team conducted nearly 230 assessments with the BC Brain Wellness Program allowing residents of British Columbia to access a wide range of exercise classes and mindful activities, all free of charge. In total, we have conducted more than 950 assessments since the program launched. This contribution to the BCBWP demonstrates our commitment to supporting the well-being of the wider community, while still providing students with invaluable learning experiences.

In a new initiative, the PTRC (together with the BC Brain Wellness Program) partnered with UBC Dietetics twice since January 2023 to provide resources and support around nutrition. This collaboration not only benefited patients but also provided essential placement experiences for students.

Indigenous Initiatives

Throughout 2023, the MPT Admissions and Recruitment Manager, Louis-Alex Douesnard, along with the Indigenous Initiatives Manager, Shannon Field, attended a number of Indigenous-centered events to offer information about the Indigenous Admissions pathway. The events included the UBC Indigenous Experience Career & Education Fair (February 2023), Gathering Our Voices (March 2023), Nuu-Chah-Nulth Career Fair (April 2023), and UBC Summer Science (July 2023). The admissions team also hosted their own events offering an Indigenous Pathway virtual session in October, and an in-person session at the University of Victoria First Peoples House (November 2023). Through these events, they encourage Indigenous peoples to apply to the MPT program and demonstrate the department’s aspirations to be an inclusive program that contributes to the growing number of much-needed Indigenous healthcare service providers.

On a similar note, this was an exciting time for the Indigenous Admissions Subcommittee, which consists mainly of Indigenous peoples and one aspiring ally. 2023 was their first time participating in the MPT Admissions cycle. The Subcommittee practices cultural safety while reviewing application files from Indigenous students and during the multiple-mini interviews where Subcommittee members act as interviewers. This year’s Indigenous candidates were outstanding, and they continued on to become the largest cohort of Indigenous students to date in the MPT program.

Further, the department understands that admitting more Indigenous students is only one element in progressing to a more diverse and culturally safe physical therapy profession. We are endeavouring to integrate Indigenous cultural safety in a meaningful way across the program. The department received over $76,000 from the Indigenous Strategic Initiative Funding to launch the Indigenizing and Decolonizing the MPT Curriculum Project. The work commenced in the fall and is being led by the Indigenous Stream Coordinator with the newly formed Indigenous Curriculum Subcommittee. The committee is made up of MPT Curriculum Stream Coordinators and educators, clinicians, leadership, and Indigenous representatives from the department and faculty of medicine, as well as Indigenous students, and Elders. They will continue to meet regularly to review the MPT curriculum and seek ways to include more Indigenous-focused content and pedagogies.

In order to prepare educators to deliver this new curriculum, and for the general encouragement of uptaking education and practice of Indigenous cultural safety, the department has also been offering a number of opportunities to learn about Indigenous cultural safety and equity and inclusion. In April and again in September, the Department hired a facilitator from Len Pierre Consulting to host their workshop: “Introduction to Indigenous Cultural Safety” which was offered three separate times to Faculty and Staff and anyone with a current or previous relationship with the Department (e.g., preceptors). The purpose of this workshop was to facilitate active discussion on the purpose and significance of Indigenous Cultural Safety as a structural initiative to mitigate harm, to assemble pragmatic strategies to embed Indigenous Cultural Safety into professional practice and to examine the relationship between colonialism and state violence against Indigenous peoples and its implications for Indigenous cultural safety today.

Another workshop on Orange Shirt Day was offered this September giving participants from the Department an opportunity to hear the story as written Phyllis Webstad, of the day and discuss its meaning. Educators in the Indigenous Curriculum subcommittee also piloted a workshop on “Understanding your role in teaching Indigenous Health and Cultural Safety education”. The Indigenous Initiative Manager will update the workshop and offer it to the broader physical therapy education community in 2024.

JEDI Initiatives

In the early months of 2023, the Justice Equity Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) Coordinator, in collaboration with the Indigenous Initiatives Manager, developed and offered the “JEDI Foundations Workshop” which were held on January 17, January 26, and February 17, 2023. These workshops offered staff and faculty a chance to strengthen their understanding of JEDI concepts, including the impact of systemic power and privilege within the context of physical therapy education and practice.

Sadly, we saw the departure of the JEDI Coordinator in the early spring, however, the JEDI Working Group is set out to help implement the goals and actions as described in the needs assessment that was conducted in 2022. Members of the Department are also involved in the Faculty of Medicine’s Equity Diversity and Inclusion Joint Interest group where resources and ideas are shared, and projects are discussed with the intention of co-learning and receiving feedback.

Also, in joint with other programs across the Faculty of Medicine and beyond, the 2nd annual Diversifying Health and Human Service Professions Education (D’HoPE) program ran another successful week in August at the UBC Point Grey campus. The Program is designed to help equity-deserving high school and undergraduate students develop a sustained interest in a health profession education program of their choice. Participants enjoyed interactive introductions to seven health professions including physical therapy, occupational therapy, medicine, nursing, dentistry, pharmaceutical sciences, and social work. They learned about admissions processes, funding and scholarships, and explored identity through theatre and creativity.