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The Division of Physical Therapy recognized its class of 2020 graduates, including six residents, 30 Doctor of Physical Therapy students (DPT), and three transitional DPT students in a ceremony held on Saturday, August 1.

The 61st annual commencement ceremony, held online in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, drew nearly 200 participants. Faculty have credited the class of 2020, who completed their final clinical rotation during June and July, with resilience and grit in response to COVID-19.

Stephen Hooper, associate dean of medicine and chair of the Department of Allied Health Sciences, said this year’s class will play a role in ushering in innovation with regard to telehealth and physical therapy as health care systems continue to change and adapt.

“You’re ready; you have been prepared by a world-class faculty,” Hooper said. “What will your story be? How will you inspire others?”

Hooper also encouraged graduates to be kind to others, including understanding matters of social justice and social determinants of health.

“All of these factors carry over into your care of patients,” Hooper said. “In this critical time of need, how will you care for others and for yourselves?”

Deborah Givens, the Division of Physical Therapy‘s director, highlighted the division’s longstanding legacy in North Carolina, including that of Lynda Woodruff, who was the first African American to join the division’s faculty in 1974. Woodruff was one of two African American students to desegregate E.C. Glass High School in Lynchburg, Virginia, and was instrumental in establishing American Physical Therapy Association’s Office of Minority Affairs and the Minority Scholarships.

“We are inspired by Dr. Woodruff’s legacy and angry that structural racism continues to plague our country and to negatively impact the health of our people. The division is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion because it is essential for our success as a profession to provide the physical therapy that our patients deserve,” Givens said.

She noted that members of the class of 2020 are also trailblazers and role models.

“The faculty and I look forward to seeing you continue to grow in those roles as you start your physical therapy careers and further your contributions to your professions and communities.”

Helen Buchanan ’10 (’20 DPT) and Conor McClure (’20 DPT) provided a welcome and student reflection.

“No one could have imagined what 2020 would look like,” Buchanan said. “Though today might not have looked like what we hoped, it is a special day […] Today, we become graduates of a top program, and we become part of a legacy.” Buchanan received the 2020 Judy Capps Beswick Award, presented to the student who best exemplifies superior clinical abilities.

McClure said the class of 2020 appreciated its close relationship with faculty who encouraged them in traditional and non-traditional academic settings.

“When it’s all said and done, you want to do it all over again,” McClure said. “And that’s where I am right now.”

The faculty of the division recognized Hannah Ryan (’20 DPT) with the Margaret L. Moore Student Recognition Award, named in honor of the founder of the division, and given for exceptional performance and character. Sara Galante (’20 DPT) received the Darlene K. Sekerak & Ben F. Massey Jr. Service Award for exceptional service. Corrine Bohling ’07 (’08 M. Ed. ’16 DPT), a physical therapist at the UNC Center for Rehabilitation Care, received the Mabel Parker Award for outstanding clinical teaching.

The class of 2020 recognized Michael Gross with its annual outstanding faculty award.

Graduates recited the divison’s Carolina Commitment, revised in 2020 to affirm its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Stephen Hooper, PhD, has led the Department of Allied Health Sciences, in which the division is housed, since 2013. Deborah Givens, PT, DPT, PhD, is also a professor in the division. Lynda Woodruff, PT, PhD, FAAPT, died in 2018. Mike Gross ’83 (’86 PhD), PT, FAPTA, was named a Catherine Worthingham Fellow of the APTA in 2007.