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Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy announces $5 million initiative

Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy Board of Councilors members David Karchem, Tracy Sykes, John Wallace, David Hayes, Linda Givvin, and Covey Lazouras; Avishai Sadan, dean of the Ostrow School; DPT student Gustavo Alonso; and James Gordon, associate dean and chair of the division. (Photo/John Skalicky)

The USC Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy officially launched its $5 million campaign initiative on Oct. 18, the largest undertaken for a physical therapy program in the United States. The six-year initiative aims to strengthen the division’s continued leadership in education, research and clinical practice.

A celebratory picnic attended by faculty, staff, students and the division’s Board of Councilors marked the beginning of the campaign initiative, which is part of The Campaign for the University of Southern California, a multiyear effort to secure $6 billion or more in private philanthropy to advance USC’s academic priorities and expand the university’s positive impact on the community and world.

“It is the division’s goal — our mission — to transform lives,” said James Gordon, associate dean and chair of the division. “We transform lives through research that will find better ways to treat diseases that strike across the lifespan, through our clinical practice, and through education of tomorrow’s professionals and researchers.

“To accomplish our goal, we need great faculty, state-of-the-art facilities and outstanding students. And to get all of those we need to raise funds,” Gordon added. “Today, we are proud to kick off this campaign and to enlist everyone in the division — faculty, staff and students — in this effort.”

Under the banner “We Transform Lives,” the fundraising drive will enable the division to support more students with scholarships; recruit and retain distinguished teaching and research faculty; equip facilities with the latest technology; and sustain the groundbreaking research on disease, injury and aging that drives breakthroughs in scientific understanding and treatment.

Gordon also announced the establishment of the Kathleen Bice Clinical Excellence Scholarship and reported that the division’s Board of Councilors has pledged 100 percent participation in the campaign.

Other speakers at the event included Avishai Sadan, dean of the Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC; Gustavo Alonso, a student in the division’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program; and Angela Parris, a patient of the USC Physical Therapy Associates.

Alonso recalled spending a summer as a college student at a rehabilitation center for special needs children in Mexico. At that time he was majoring in accounting and computer science. A few years later, however, after having physical therapy for a knee injury, Alonso realized that the hands-on profession he really wanted to enter was physical therapy.

“USC offers us the opportunity to be challenged by premier educators and to work with leading researchers in our field,” he said. “And USC challenges its students to think about social responsibility and community engagement by helping underserved communities.”

Parris is a physical therapist who suffers from Guillain-Barré syndrome, a disorder that affects the peripheral nervous system with ascending paralysis being the most typical symptom. With her leg muscles weakened by the disorder, Parris received treatment for severe arthritis by Yogi Matharu, assistant professor of clinical physical therapy in the division.

“Had I not come to USC,” Parris said, “I would not be able to stand here today.”

To view campaign kickoff photos, visit

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