Spotlight on the Department of Physical Therapy

By News Staff

With half of our graduations occurring during Covid restrictions, we almost can’t remember “normal.” The fact that both cohorts graduated on time without any missing coursework or clinical placements is truly remarkable. It has been the result of long hours of extra work by the faculty and staff, in particular Dr. Angel Holland and Dr. Ruth Ross, our directors of clinical education, and the support of many colleagues at the college and university level, who bent protocols, extended deadlines and purchased software on a moment’s notice to allow us to change the delivery of a complicated lockstep curriculum. It is also a testament to the dedication and perseverance of our students, now our fellow physical therapists, who completed a very difficult program amidst very difficult times.

On July 1, Dr. Holland stepped down from her role as our inaugural Director of Clinical Education (DCE), while Dr. Ross stepped up from her role as Assistant DCE to become our new DCE. The Assistant DCE position has been filled by Dr. Heather Vaughn, who has been an onsite clinician and adjunct faculty member for several years..

John Jefferson

John Jefferson

We started our program with four full-time faculty in 2015 and now have eight full-time faculty teaching 72 students on the UAMS Northwest campus. Our newest faculty member, Dr. Nadia Marconi, joined us on May 1. Dr. Marconi obtained her physical therapy degree, as well as her master’s and doctorate degrees in Biomechanics and Motor Control in her native Brazil. She comes to us with 18 years’ experience in teaching and research in Brazil and the United States, most recently from Western Carolina University, where she served as director of the Human Movement Science Laboratory. She joins a productive faculty who, in the three years before Covid-19 affected our operations, produced 57 peer-reviewed publications and presentations and obtained 15 newly funded grants, including the first ever KL2 award in the College, by Dr. Jennifer Vincenzo.

Our faculty excel not only in scholarship but also in their clinical expertise. Our full-time and part-time faculty hold 30 clinical certifications between them, including 10 American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) Board Certifications as Clinical Specialists in diverse areas of practice, including Orthopaedics, Geriatrics, Pediatrics and Women’s Health.

Both our faculty and our alumni continue to make the news. Most recently Dr. Laurel Sexton, our faculty pelvic health specialist was interviewed by KUAF on the often misunderstood topic of incontinence ( and Dr. Chelsey Cotton (Class of 2019) was recognized as the May 2021 “Power of One” recipient by the Hillcrest Medical Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. ( )

Our small class size (24 in each of three cohorts), system-based curriculum and active learning approach continues to attract applicants from across the nation, from New Jersey to California, with the percentage of out-of-state students averaging over 50% for the past 5 years. Their onsite education is enhanced by our UAMS out-patient therapy clinic, the interprofessional student-run North Street clinic and the Arkansas State Veterans Home, all located in our building, as well as a network of clinical instructors. The network for the first time includes some of our own alumni, at over 175 clinical sites. Our students continue to impress their clinical instructors and continue to be sought after graduates. We are proud to represent CHP and UAMS here on the Northwest campus.


John Jefferson, PT, Ph.D., is the chair and a professor of the Department of Physical Therapy.