Marilyn Gossman Biography

Gossman-UABArchives 001Marilyn Gossman, PT, Ph.D., FAPTA, was a physical therapist, educator, researcher, and influential leader in the physical therapy profession. Marilyn received an entry-level masters degree in physical therapy from Case Western Reserve. This was the first entry-level PT masters degree established in the US .

In 1967, she was recruited to join the faculty at the newly developed physical therapist educational program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Not long after that, Marilyn took over as Chair of the program; a position she held for more than 30 years. Soon after, she recruited her friends, and Case Western Reserve alumni, Jo Clelland and Cara Adams, to join the UAB PT faculty. These three young women, with input from notable others, re-vamped the PT educational curriculum and grew it into the current Department of Physical Therapy that will celebrate it's 50th anniversary in 2014.

During Marilyn’s tenure as Chair, the program experienced tremendous growth. In the early 1970s, UAB was among the first to establish a physical therapist assistant educational program and this was at a time when even the concept of using PTAs in clinical practice was controversial.

Gossman Class BWShortly thereafter, the program established one of the first post-professional Master's degrees in PT. The post-graduate program provided practicing PTs an opportunity to develop advanced skills in musculoskeletal and pediatric physical therapy as well as offered a track in PT education which provided them advanced skills to teach in academic and clinical settings.

In 1978, the UAB PT program established an entry-level master’s degree when the vast majority of US programs were still awarding bachleors degrees.

Marilyn was always thinking about innovation and ways to propel the physical therapist profession forward. During her time as Chair, UAB became known as a pioneering institution in physical therapy education and it remains that way today.

Gossman webMarilyn’s influence on PT extends beyond UAB. She was a noted researcher with expertise in muscle physiology and falls prevention. She served on the Board of Directors for the American Physical Therapy Association and was Chair of the Foundation for Physical Therapy. The APTA still honors her each year by holding the Gossman Research Forum at its Combined Section’s Meeting and by holding the Marilyn Gossman Graudate Student Seminar which highlights doctoral students’ research. And in 1996, Marilyn was named Catherine Worthingham Fellow of the APTA.

We lost Marilyn to breast cancer in 1998. A painting was commissioned after Marilyn's death. It is based on a photograph of Marilyn doing one of the things she loved most - sailing. For those that knew Marilyn, the painting symbolizes Marilyn as a great leader at the helm of the UAB PT department which was so dear to her. Faculty members tell incoming students about Marilyn and the impact she had on the quality education they receive today. Help continue Marilyn's legacy of excellence, education and innovation by contributing to the Marilyn R. Gossman Endowed Lectureship.

Click here to give today.