Dr. Carol M. Davis Creates Scholarship Fund to Benefit Physical Therapy Students

Carol M. Davis, D.P.T., Ed.D., M.S., the longtime Vice Chair of the Miller School of Medicine’s Department of Physical Therapy who played a key role in establishing its highly ranked curriculum, recently made a generous gift to support the program.

Davis created The Excellence in Therapeutic Presence Award, which will provide an annual award to an outstanding graduate student who demonstrates excellence during his or her education in physical therapy, and is sensitive to the needs of the patients when delivering therapeutic care and treatment.

The donation is part of Davis’s continued commitment to the Department of Physical Therapy, which she helped build over the past three decades.

“I wanted the faculty to be empowered to call out outstanding students who, in spite of the stress of a very strenuous three-year program, still find it in themselves to be present with compassion to their classmates, faculty, and patients,” said Davis, now professor emerita and past Vice Chair for Curriculum. “This indicates that students understand just how important it is to concentrate on how they are with people, and not just what they know and what they can do. That is part of their growth as a physical therapist, and makes all the difference in the world to patients.”

Davis retired in 2009 after serving as the Vice Chair since 1988. She and Dr. Sherrill Hayes, the former Chair of the Department of Physical Therapy, who retired in 2014, were instrumental in guiding the department’s unprecedented growth at the Miller School of Medicine. Under their leadership, the program has been ranked as one of the top 10 out of 240 academic programs in the nation by U.S. News & World Report since 1995.

When Davis and Hayes began their journey together, the physical therapy program was a baccalaureate program in the School of Education with only two and a half faculty members and a handful of students.
Hayes encouraged Davis to join the program to help create a master’s program in 1987.

“The students in those first master level classes in 1990 and 1991 are now leading our program,” said Davis, who also authored the textbook, “Patient Practitioner Interaction: An Experiential Manual for Developing the Art of Healthcare.” “That is really quite exciting for us that they are such leaders. It is also a testimony to the strong faculty that Dr. Hayes brought on.”

Late in the 1990s, following another curriculum revision, Hayes, Davis and other faculty members developed a clinical Doctor of Physical Therapy (D.P.T.) program and graduated their first class in 2004.
The department also offered the first Ph.D. in physical therapy in the southeastern United States and graduates 55 doctoral students and one to two Ph.D. students annually.

The department now supports 24 academic core faculty members, more than 80 clinical faculty and staff members, and provides didactic and clinical education to more than 160 students each year. They offer post-professional clinical residency programs in orthopaedics and pediatric physical therapy, a large clinical department, with both in-patient and out-patient facilities, and a large, dynamic clinical faculty with many board-certified specialists.

Davis, whose educational career spanned more than 45 years, says she would like to continue her legacy in the department and support the University however she can.

“I love the faculty and the students,” Davis said. “I just want to be able to continue to give back, whether as a volunteer professor or in whatever way I can, to maintain the level of excellence here.”

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