My Father’s Journey: A Reading and Interview with Susan S. Deusinger, PT, PhD, FAPTA

My Father’s Journey: A Reading and Interview with Susan S. Deusinger, PT, PhD, FAPTA

My Father’s Journey: A Reading and Interview with Susan S. Deusinger, PT, PhD, FAPTA

By Susan S. Deusinger, PT, PhD, FAPTA

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This is the story of my father’s 83-year journey—from life, beginning November 27, 1917, to death, on February 12, 2001.

Susan Deusinger’s parents on their 50th Wedding Anniversary

My Father’s Journey: a Narrative

Behind the Narrative – A story of patient choice

“I think the stories that people tell are important lessons.”

On logic and emotion

“I think we need to forgive ourselves as practitioners for feeling about our patients. That was always a theme in my teaching.”

More than “noncompliance”

“I think the first thing the therapist has to do is to reorder their thinking; that a patient’s refusal is not necessarily noncompliance. It might be the right thing.”

Spirituality and Patient Care

“Now, we have an obligation in health care to provide as much as we can provide, but we don’t have an obligation to force what we can provide. So, then, learning … about the person’s spiritual belief would be very important.”

“My goal is to help, but not to inflict help—and that’s what we do sometimes.”

Susan S. Deusinger PT, PhD, FAPTA

Susan S. Deusinger PT, PhD, FAPTA spent 36 years at Washington University building a progressive academic culture in physical therapy to ensure excellence in clinical practice, education, and research. Upon her retirement in 2014, Dr. Deusinger had served for 24 years as director of the Program in Physical Therapy and achieved the rank of professor of Physical Therapy and of Neurology. She now serves as professor emerita. As director, Dr. Deusinger inspired students and colleagues to apply their knowledge to optimize and advance human health through movement. Her work helped lead Washington University’s Program in Physical Therapy to obtain a consistent No. 1 national ranking by U.S. News & World Report. The program has been recognized in the top 1 percent for two decades. Dr. Deusinger earned her bachelor’s degree in physical therapy in 1969 and spent the next decade in full-time clinical practice in venues across the country. During that time, she developed rehabilitation programs for patients with brain injuries, aquatic programs for people with physical disorders, educational programs for patients with arthritis, and a therapeutic riding program for children with developmental disabilities. She joined the faculty at Washington University in 1978 to coordinate clinical education for baccalaureate-level students. To hone her ability to develop new models of practice and education, she completed two graduate degrees at Washington University—a master’s degree in education in 1980 and a PhD in social work in 1987. In 1990, she was named director of Physical Therapy at the School of Medicine. At the university, Dr. Deusinger facilitated advancing professional education to the doctoral level, and she also gained approval in 1989 of the PhD in Movement Science. In 1980, she developed the program’s first faculty clinical practice—a community-based service. Subsequently, in collaboration with her colleague and husband, Robert H. Deusinger, PT, PhD, she worked to establish an on-site, evidence-based faculty practice. This practice has grown into a major outpatient service that is fully integrated into the School of Medicine’s Faculty Practice Plan. Dr. Deusinger has served as editor of the Journal of Physical Therapy Education, president of two components of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), a lead reviewer for the Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education, and a member of groups planning the future of professional and post-professional education. She is a Catherine Worthingham Fellow of the APTA. In retirement, she consults with institutions wishing to change education and practice in ways that inspire new visions for healthcare.


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