In honor of Black History Month, the UAB Department of Physical Therapy celebrates the Black/African American individuals who have had a profound influence on the profession. We extend our gratitude to these great physical therapists below for their contributions and positive impact on our field. 

Arnold Bell, PT, PhD, ATC

Arnold BellBell was one of the first black ABPTS-certified clinical specialists in sports PT. He earned a BS from Springfield College, a PT certificate from New York University, an MS in exercise science from Columbia University, and a PhD at Florida State University. He established the PT program at Florida State University and taught there for over 30 years. Bell was an athletic trainer at the 1984 and 1996 Olympic Games. He was later inducted into the Springfield College Olympic Alumni Hall of Fame and the Florida A&M Sports Hall of Fame. He was a longtime member of the APTA and the Advisory Committee on Minority Affairs.

 

Leon Anderson, Jr., PT

Leon AndersonAnderson received a degree in physical education before studying physical therapy at Boston University. For 20 years, he was the director of PT at the University Hospital of Cleveland. He later left that post to start up a private practice clinic. After receiving an MS in Education, Anderson accepted a position as assistant professor of PT at Case Western Reserve University.

Anderson held 15 elected positions in the APTA, including chair of the APTA Advisory Council on Minority Affairs. In 1971, he was elected to the APTA Board of Directors, the first Black PT to serve in that position. He later became to founding President of the American Academy of Physical Therapy (AAPT), an organization supporting black and other under-represented groups in physical therapy.

 

Mary McKinney Edmonds, PT, PhD, FAPTA

Mary McKinney EdmondsEdmonds earned her Physical Therapy certificate from the University of Wisconsin. Later on, she pursued a PhD in sociology from Case Western Reserve University and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan. Edmonds studied how social class affected patients’ experiences with health and healthcare. She founded the PT program at Cleveland State University, was dean of Bowling Green State University’s College of Health and Community Service, was provost at Stanford University and professor in the Stanford Medical School.

Edmonds was a member of the APTA Commission on Accreditation (a precursor to the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education) and the leading voice for autonomous accreditation from the American Medical Association. She was the first black physical therapist to be selected as a Catherine Worthingham Fellow of the APTA.

 

Lynda D. Woodruff, PT, PhD

Lynda WoodruffWoodruff was a trailblazer early in her life when she was one of two black students to desegregate Glass High School in Lynchburg, VA. Woodruff received a master of PT Degree from Case Western Reserve University and became the first Black faculty member in the Division of PT at the University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill. She was the founding Director of the Department of PT at North Georgia College and established the DPT Program at Alabama State University.

Woodruff was appointed to the Georgia Board of PT and served for 10 years. She was also a founding member of the Section on Clinical Electrophysiology. As an APTA member, she was a strong advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion and assisted in creating the APTA Advisory Council on Minority Affairs. She received numerous awards, including the APTA Lucy Blair Service Award.

The Georgia State Senate declared February 24, 2006, as Lynda D. Woodruff Appreciation Day. In 2020, the APTA and partnering groups established the Lynda D. Woodruff Lecture on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.