Physical therapy faculty profile: Karen Patterson

The Doctor of Physical Therapy Program educates a new cohort of 40 students per year, so at any time 120 students are matriculating through the program. Faculty and staff work in the program to educate students in the varying facets of physical therapy. Students are prepared to graduate as generalists with additional experiences in service learning, research, community service, business and education.

In the following Q&A, get to know Karen Patterson.

What is your current position?

I am an associate faculty in the Physical Therapy Program.

Can you describe your main duties?

Karen Patterson

In the DPT curriculum, I teach “Anatomical Applications in PT,” which is a three-credit course for first-year students, with Colleen Cobey, PT, MS, FAAOMPT, and two five-credit courses, “Motor Control Dysfunction I and II” during the fall and spring for the second-year students, with Judy Dewane, PT, DSc, NCS.

My main emphasis in teaching and clinical practice is pediatrics so I also guest lecture in other courses on pediatric content. I also coordinate the UW DPT Global Health Program, which includes service-learning programs in Belize, Uganda, Guatemala and Peru. Additionally, I co-coordinate with Annie Thompson, UW Health and AFCH occupational therapy, the “UW and AFCH Gobabygo Early Mobility Program” where UW PT, OT and engineering students work together to adapt battery-operated ride-on cars for children with mobility impairments.

I continue to practice at AFCH, primarily in the Pediatric Neuromuscular Disease Clinic and I am involved with several research projects with children with spinal muscular atrophy.

When did you start working in the SMPH?

I first had a role in the Physical Therapy Program in 2004 as a guest lecturer. I became a full-time faculty member in 2006.

What is your favorite part of your job?

The favorite part of my job is actually all the different things I get to be involved in as a pediatric physical therapist. I tend to like change so in any one day I can wear many hats, so to speak. I also really enjoy working with students outside the classroom, whether it is in a lower-income country or helping to adapt ride-on toys or having them shadow me in clinic. I like the experiential learning and sharing of ideas – they are so smart these days!

What is the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part of my job is trying to keep up and do all the different aspects as well as possible. It can also be challenging when new, exciting opportunities come up, and I find it hard to say no. Also, remembering students names after they graduate – sorry, UW DPT alumni!

Can you give us an example of your typical workday?

My days really vary, which I like. Almost every day there is some degree of teaching, but four to five days a month I am in the clinic full time. Almost daily, I am involved in some different aspect as well, whether it is global health, research, clinical care or outreach.

Where are you from?

I’ve been in Madison since 2002, but I grew up in Wheaton, Ill., which is a suburb of Chicago. I attended University of Indianapolis for PT school, University of North Carolina for my master’s in athletic training and Indiana University for my undergraduate degree in PE/athletic training. I’ve lived and worked in Virginia, Chicago, North Carolina and Arizona, but Madison is home now.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not at work?

One reason I moved here from Chicago was the easier access to outdoor activities. This includes hiking, cycling, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. I am also a college sports geek so love watching the Badgers (sorry Hoosiers and Tarheel fans). I also really love to travel, especially to out of the way, non-touristy places.