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Alumni News Elena Potter December 01, 2023

As the Department of Physical Therapy at UAB commemorates six decades of excellence and evolution, it's an opportune moment to reflect on the profound impact of its alumni. Within this history, stand two remarkable graduates whose pioneering spirits and contributions have indelibly shaped the landscape of physical therapy. Their stories serve as testament to the enduring legacy of UAB's educational excellence in the field.

Betty Denton, PT, Class of 1969

Betty DentonOne of the very first graduates from UAB Physical Therapy, Betty Denton, PT, obtained her Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy from the University of Alabama in 1969 (UAB was not officially established as an independent university until later that year). She stayed in Birmingham and at UAB, working first as Supervisor of Clinical Education from 1969 to 1978, and then Acting Assistant Director of Physical Therapy Clinical Services at University Hospital.

Denton joined the PT faculty in 1984. She served as Academic Coordinator of Clinical Education from 1989 to 1991, and Coordinator of Curriculum Development and Evaluation from 1991 until her retirement in 2005. Denton also played a critical role in transitioning the program from a master's to doctoral program, which led to the first full cohort of Doctor of Physical Therapy students to begin in 2006.

Throughout her tenure, Denton received numerous honors and awards. She received the Highest Clinical Achievement Award in 1969 and the Loretta Boger Award for Excellence in Clinical Education in 1981 from the Department of Physical Therapy. She was the recipient of several School of Health Related Professions awards such as the Distinguished Graduate in 1986, James W. Truelove in 1993, and the Joseph F. Volker Award as top faculty member in 1995.

For over three decades, Betty Denton has played an integral part in the development and growth of the PT department with her expansive career in teaching, research, leadership as well as her dedication and service to the community.

“Betty was first a master PT clinician. This made her an exceptional educator in both the clinical and academic setting. Her highly refined communication skills and compassion for her students made her a valued teacher to many,” said Department Chair David Morris.

Beth Whitehead, PT, Class of 1972

Beth WhiteheadBeth Whitehead, PT, MPH, earned her Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy in 1972 and her Master of Public Health in 1980. Upon graduating, she worked at both UAB and Spain Rehabilitation Center as a clinician and has remained very active in advancing PT in Alabama since.

Whitehead played a pivotal role in advancing the Alabama chapter of the American Physical Therapy Association in the early 1990’s and has consistently been a huge supporter of UAB PT. She was a founding member of Physical Therapy Learning Institute (PTLI), which serves as a think tank for physical therapy educators. Their mission is “to provide leadership and advocacy to challenge the status quo and drive innovation in physical therapy education, research, and practice.” Whether it is primary care physical therapy or diversifying the workplace, Whitehead has been very instrumental in growing PTLI and driving its interests. This organization celebrates disruptive innovation and constantly asks the question: What needs to happen to spark change?

Whitehead also owns her own physical therapy clinic, HealthActions Physical Therapy, with her partner Debbie Powell, PT, OCS. The clinic, founded in 1981, strives to provide patient-centered physical therapy of the highest quality to the local community. They have never wavered from that mission in serving clients at their 10 locations scattered across the southern half of Alabama.

“Beth has always been innovative and forward thinking. She and her team at HealthActions have consistently served as role models for achieving excellence in clinical care,” said Morris. The legacies of Betty Denton and Beth Whitehead stand as pillars within the illustrious history of UAB's Physical Therapy Department. Their unwavering commitment to education, innovation, and community service embodies the mission of excellence that continues to define and shape the landscape of UAB PT.


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