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Global Health

The Department of Physical Therapy & Human Movement Sciences prioritizes global health experiences within the Doctor of Physical Therapy program. This includes faculty research, local social responsibility efforts, global opportunities for students and awareness of the many issues that affect the field of physical therapy worldwide. Browse the resources and topics below to learn more about our work. 

Faculty Projects

 Gail Huber, PT, PhD, & Bill Healey, PT, EdD, GCS

A relationship between Westside Health Authority (WHA) and the Department of Physical Therapy & Human Movement Sciences started in 2004. A faculty member contacted WHA to invite community health advocates to discuss the impact of health disparities and describe their healthcare experiences. This relationship became formalized when Bill Healey and Gail Huber received a partnership-building grant from the Alliance for Research in Chicago Communities in 2009. Since then, they have worked with WHA staff on nine projects related to physical activity promotion and access to physical therapy. In addition, we have participated in community screenings for blood pressure, fitness and balance.


 Margaret Danilovich, PT, DPT, PhD, GCS

Danilovich's lab investigates physical activity and exercise interventions for older adults with frailty. In work funded by the Retirement Research Foundation, she is currently studying the effectiveness of a resistance exercise program in reducing frailty among older adults receiving Medicaid Home and Community Based waiver services. In this work, she has trained 126 home care aides employed through Help at Home to lead an exercise program with their clients during usual care services. A PCORI-funded Eugene Washington Award partners with Help at Home to develop and pilot test a health interview tool for home care aides to elicit care preferences among their clients. Danilovich is also funded by the Foundation for Physical Therapy Academy for Geriatric Physical Therapy to develop and test a self-management program for older adults with frailty. This project partners with the University of Chicago Successful Aging and Frailty Evaluation clinic

Local Student Opportunities


In the Professional Advancement & Community Engagement (PACE) requirement, students spend at least 10 hours volunteering with local organization focusing on professional development and social responsibility as a healthcare professional. Students identify areas of personal and professional growth, set goals to improve in these areas and are able to select an organization and opportunity that will help them achieve their goals.  

The following organizations are a few examples of the opportunities that exist for students in the Chicagoland area:

 "Out of the Loop"

The department's Global Health Committee and Diversity Committee plan an annual “Out of the Loop” bus tour to provide an opportunity for students and faculty from multiple departments to meet people working to improve the health of people living in Chicago’s medically underserved communities. 

As future physical therapists, our students will encounter patients and families that live and work in  neighborhoods outside of where our campus is located. The aim is to meet neighborhood residents and community organization staff and listen to their stories about local healthcare and learn about how neighborhood environment and other social factors contribute to health.

 Global PT Day of Service

Global PT Day of Service is an event that brings together over 8,000 physical therapists and students from over 42 countries. The vision of this event resulted from asking the question: “What if”?

“What if,” on the same day, clinicians, students and associated staff of the physical therapy profession volunteered in different communities around the world? What if we then shared those moments and acts in a way that was galvanizing, inspiring and promoted connections all over the world?

 World Physical Therapy Day

World Physical Therapy Day is an event that is held annually on Sept. 8. The day is an opportunity for physical therapists from all over the world to raise awareness about the crucial contribution the profession makes to keep people well, mobile and independent. We celebrate this day by hosting a luncheon for incoming students. One of the goals of the luncheon is to promote global health and the role physical therapy plays and to inspire students to think about how they can participate during their academic and professional careers.

International Student Opportunities

The Department of Physical Therapy & Human Movement Sciences offers clinical education experiences for DPT students outside of the United States. These opportunities are consistent with the department’s mission of producing global leaders and one of the pillars of the university’s strategic plan, which is to engage locally, nationally and internationally to heighten our global impact for the greater good. The relationships with our international host partners are intended to be sustainable and to mutually benefit the students and host sites. We currently have two international partners and are continually seeking new global health opportunities for students and faculty members.

 Hillside Health Care International, Punta Gorda, Belize

For this learning experience, students complete four-week rotations in a rural multidisciplinary health clinic where they provide rehabilitation services for pediatric and adult outpatients who have a variety of musculoskeletal and neurological conditions. Students also educate children in elementary schools about the value of accepting people with disabilities into their communities. The Hillside Health Care International rehabilitation director, our faculty members or affiliated physical therapists provide direct supervision for the DPT students.


 University of San Sebastian, Concepcion, Chile

Students who participate in this opportunity are involved in a total immersion experience of the Chilean culture and language as they practice in intensive care units and comprehensive rehabilitation units under the supervision of local therapists and University of San Sebastian faculty members for six to eight weeks. Students also participate in formal coursework with kinesiotherapist (local physical therapist) students.


 Videos & Blog Posts

First Do No Harm: This is a qualitative research documentary explores the ethics of global health clinical electives and volunteer projects in developing regions. It features interviews from experts and global health providers from Europe, Africa, Asia, North and South America. 

Insights on Community Impacts of International Volunteering: This three-minute video summarizes research insights on the positive and negative impact international volunteerism may have on a community.

Why UNICEF and Save the Children Are Against Your Short-Term Service in Orphanages: This post provides a concise breakdown of why people who spend their lives dedicated to child well-being do not want you or your students volunteering in orphanages.

How Volunteer Agencies May Be Taking Advantage of You: Feeling the urge to do “good” abroad? Read this first.

Volunteering in Developing Communities: One of the most important parts of volunteering abroad in developing communities and countries is having a firm understanding of the ethics of development work and precisely what it is your “service” is doing for the people, culture, community and environment where you are volunteering.

Ethics of International Engagement and Service-Learning Project Web-Based Guidebook: This guide is designed to provide students, faculty, staff and international community partners with resources designed to provoke ethical reflection on international engagement and service learning projects.

TED Talk: Controversies in Short-Term Medical Missions: This TED Talk features Nicholas Comninellis at TEDxUMKC.


 Articles & Books

 Training Module

Johns Hopkins Berman School of Bioethics & Stanford Center for Innovation in Global Health offers the “Ethical Challenges in Short-Term Global Health Training” online course. It consists of a series of 10 cases to introduce trainees and others involved in global health research and service to ethical issues that may arise during short-term training experiences abroad.

Contact Us

For more information, contact Alice Salzman, EdD, assistant professor of Physical Therapy & Human Movement Sciences:

645 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1100 
Chicago, IL 60611 

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