The College of Public Health and Health Professions has named Barbara H. Connolly, P.T., D.P.T, Ed.D., C/NDT, FAPTA, the 2019 Outstanding Alumna of the Year in recognition of exemplary leadership and advocacy in physical therapy education, research and practice.
Connolly, who received her bachelor’s degree in physical therapy from UF in 1970, is a professor emeritus at the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center where she served as chair of the physical therapy department for 24 years and interim dean of the College of Allied Health Sciences for two years.
She is immediate past president of the Foundation for Physical Therapy and the International Organization of Physical Therapists in Pediatrics. She has served on the American Physical Therapy Association Board of Directors, the APTA Pediatric Specialty Council and the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialists. She is a recipient of the APTA’s Golden Pen Award, the Marilyn Moffat Leadership Award and the Lucy Blair Service Award. In 2002, she was named a Catherine Worthingham Fellow, one of the association’s highest honors.
Connolly shares some of her UF memories and insights:
Favorite UF memory: My most favorite memory was when I was accepted into the physical therapy program after being told by a faculty member that I probably would not be accepted. I had read a book about physical therapy and had only minimal exposure to physical therapists but just knew that was what I wanted to do. Prospective students now should never do what I did before I applied. However, I guess I was on the right track since I now have been practicing for 49 years! Another favorite memory is of having classes in the basement of Shands Hospital and not knowing what was happening “outside” for hours at a time. Additionally, our lab sessions occurred in the late afternoon after patients had been seen in the PT clinic. The students in my class experienced many late hours and time for bonding with each other.
Best lesson learned: This past year I had the good fortunate to present a lecture on “The Journey in My Shoes” to a group of PT students and young professionals at a Florida Physical Therapy Association meeting. I reflected on my days as a PT student at UF and identified six major themes that have continued throughout my career. These themes were: 1. Embrace challenges. Don’t give up on your dreams; 2. Expect the unexpected. Have a vision but don’t be surprised by deviations. Realize that others may see you differently than you do and that success often is preceded by some failures; 3. Volunteer to serve in your profession and in your community. Don’t wait to be asked!; 4. Learn to balance your personal and your professional goals; 5. Never lose the perspective of a clinician even when your role may be in academia or administration; and 6. Create a positive environment around yourself. I have cited the quote “A positive mind finds opportunity in everything while the negative mind finds faults in everything” many times over the years to family, friends, students and patients.
UF Faculty members who influenced me the most: UF had an extraordinary group of faculty members when I was a student: Barbara White, Fred Rutan, Norma “Billie” Fisher, Martha “Marty” Wroe, Claudette Finley and William “Bill” Gould. These faculty members were active in the American Physical Therapy Association and were recognized as leaders of the profession. They have served as my mentors throughout my professional career. I am so fortunate that I grew not only in my knowledge of physical therapy because of them but learned what professionalism and leadership meant.
People would be surprised to know: When I was a student, I would never speak in front of a group! However, for the past 46 years, my primary roles have been as a faculty member at a university and as a lecturer for professional development courses. So much for not publicly speaking. Another fun fact is that my husband and I have become oyster farmers in our retirement. We live in Brevard County and work with the local zoo to grow oysters that will be used in man-made reefs to clean the Indian River.