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USC alum acquires presidential powers

by Hope Hamashige
Associate Professor Christopher Powers (Photo/John Skalicky)
Associate Professor Christopher Powers (Photo/John Skalicky)

Christopher Powers PhD ’96, associate professor in the Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy, has been elected president of the California Physical Therapy Association (CPTA), a chapter of the American Physical Therapy Association.

Powers takes the helm of the organization at a critical point for the 77,000 members. Beginning on Jan. 1, patients in California will no longer need a physician’s diagnosis to seek treatment by a physical therapist. The new law, which was successfully lobbied for by CPTA, changes the rules of ownership of physical therapy practices.

With that battle in the rear view mirror, Powers noted that CPTA has a responsibility to help with the implementation of that law to ensure that patients, practitioners and insurance providers understand the changes moving forward.

“With the passing of the new law, it will be important to increase public recognition of physical therapists as direct access practitioners,” Powers said. “Also, we will need to work with insurance companies to obtain suitable payment for services rendered within a direct access environment.”

Powers joined the division’s faculty in 1997, just a year after earning his PhD in biokinesiology at USC. He was promoted in 2003 to associate professor and holds joint appointments in the departments of radiology and orthopaedic surgery. He is also director of the program in biokinesiology.

His relationship with CPTA also dates back to his days as a USC graduate student. Powers’ first research grant, which funded part of the work for his dissertation, was awarded to him by the California Physical Therapy Fund. He has credited the organization with advancing his career and, at the same time, with advancing the entire profession through its support of researchers across the state.

“This grant provided me with the money necessary to complete my dissertation, which at the time was focused on better understanding the pathomechanics of patellofemoral pain,” he said. “I am happy to say that I have been able to continue this line of research now for over 20 years.”

Powers is co-director of the Musculoskeletal Biomechanics Research Laboratory at USC, where he continues his research on how altered kinematics, kinetics and muscular actions contribute to lower extremity injury.

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