Physical Therapy Service & Leadership

Physical Therapy Student and Patient


Rockhurst offers a wide array of service options both in and out of the classroom, allowing students to tailor their service to their unique interests. Service learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection. Service is volunteerism outside of the classroom that benefits the greater community.

We are proud that our DPT students actively engage in volunteer service locally, regionally, and internationally, engaging in dozens to hundreds of hours of volunteer activity during the 3-year program. Students maintain an ongoing record of these service experiences that contribute to their transformation into health care service providers and enhances their success in the job market.

Service Learning

Service learning experiences combine learning goals with community service and are embedded across the DPT curriculum. Students serve older adults, children, and/or developmentally disabled individuals in the community by performing developmental screenings of children, assessing adults for age-related fitness and wellness, screening older adults for fall risk, and more.  

Community-Based Service

Here is a short sample of where you might find our students serving the community.

International Service Trips

Physical therapy students may have opportunities to travel internationally to serve populations in need. Selected students have an annual trip to Ecuador and serve with occupational therapy students and faculty at the Damien House. Over the years, students and faculty have had the opportunity to travel to many destinations, including: Guatemala, Ecuador, El Salvador and Haiti. The cost is often discounted for students and supplemented by Rockhurst University.

Individual Service

Rockhurst DPT students have a strong history of service to the program, profession, and our local community.  For example, students have:

  • Served in leadership roles for the Missouri and Kansas Physical Therapy Associations, and the American Physical Therapy Association

  • Contributed to building a playground for underserved children

  • Participated in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) events for children

  • Interviewed prospective students for admission to the DPT program

  • Helped to develop and implement a balance and mobility screening clinic for people with Parkinson’s disease

  • Cooked for and served meals to homeless individuals

  • Assisted with Special Olympics and Parent’s Night Out



In line with the vision of the University and core values of the College of Health and Human Services, facilitating leadership development is foundational in the Department in Physical Therapy Education. Our program offers multiple opportunities for leadership experiences, reflection, and growth.

Faculty support and nurture students’ professional growth and development to assist them in becoming leaders. Students are encouraged to attend professional events, such as the Midwest Student Conclave, the American Physical Therapy Association, and meetings and conferences.

All students complete a series of four unique courses called “Professional & Leadership Development” that build essential skills for physical therapy.  In these courses, students engage in leadership roles through community outreach and relationship-building with professionals and community leaders.  Student reflections on their leadership skills include the following:

“The DPT program at Rockhurst University cultivates lifelong leadership through continued opportunities within and also outside of the program. The leadership example from the faculty and the continued guidance within the courses challenges students to think about how leading can affect positive change in our world and our profession.” - Chaeli Greco, Class of 2016

Our program offers diverse opportunities for students to develop leadership capabilities. Students may serve in roles, such as: 

  • Class officers
  • Organizers of service projects
  • Work-study roles as teaching assistants, research assistants, administrative assistants and supplemental instruction leaders
  • Liaisons to campus advisory boards
  • Liaisons to department committees
  • Missouri and Kansas Physical Therapy Association student special interest groups



Exceptional student leaders are recognized by the following awards:

Donna J. Calvert Award for Outstanding Professionalism and Communication

Donna J. Calvert, PT, PhD was one of the co-founders of the Physical Therapy Education Department at Rockhurst University.  She began her employment at Rockhurst University in May of 1983 and was the first Academic Coordinator of Clinical Education in addition to her faculty responsibilities.  Dr. Calvert was instrumental in identifying the need for a specific program intended to enhance the formation of students’ professional characteristics. Subsequently, she designed and implemented a multimodal program of professional development for all physical therapy students at Rockhurst. Dr. Calvert resigned from the faculty in May of 2003 as a tenured, Full Professor. Her contributions to this aspect of student development have prepared our graduates to meet the challenges of professionalism and communication in clinical practice. The purpose of this award is to recognize a student who exhibits superior professional behaviors and communication skills during his/her time in the Physical Therapy Education Program.

Ellen Spake Award for Outstanding Leadership

Ellen Spake, PT, PhD was one of the co-founders of the Physical Therapy Education Department in 1983.  For 20 years, from 1983 until 2003, she served as the Director of the Physical Therapy Education Program. Her vision and leadership skills led the department in the curricular evolution from a bachelor’s degree, through a masters’ program and into the present Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. The purpose of this award is to recognize a student who exhibits superior leadership skills during his/her time in the Physical Therapy Education Program.

Catherine Rush Thompson Magis Award

This award was initiated in 2007 to recognize students who have exemplified the concept of “magis” (more) during their time in the program. It was renamed in 2019 to honor Dr. Catherine Rush Thompson, a faculty member in the Rockhurst DPT program who exemplified magis through her dedication to her students and colleagues and the program.  This award is given when faculty agree that one or more students in the graduating class have consistently demonstrated generous excellence and commitment to others.  Students considered for this award have a strong record of meaningful contributions to the program, profession, and/or community. 

Lampe-Loescher Award

The Lampe-Loescher Award was created by Gerry Lampe, PT and Lou Loescher, PT. Jerry and Lou were members of the original advisory group who worked with Rockhurst University in the establishment of the physical therapy education program. The award is given annually to a graduating student who exemplifies exceptional leadership and service while in the physical therapy program and the potential for exceptional leadership and service to the profession.