For this Black History Month, we want to recognize the central role Black physical therapists have held in our industry, and the contributions they’ve made (and are continuing to make) to ensure a better future for patients and therapists alike.
To this end, meet eight trailblazing Black PTs who have challenged the status quo, overcame their fair share of adversity, and have helped pave the way for a more equitable and inclusive rehab profession.
1. TaVona Denise Boggs, PT
TaVona Denise Boggs is a physical therapist, life coach, and business mentor. She uses her background as a PT-turned-life-and-business-coach to help healthcare professionals avoid burnout, boredom, and glass ceilings. Among her many accomplishments, Boggs:
- Graduated from Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University in 2001;
- Worked as a clinician and assistant clinic director in the orthopedic setting before establishing a physical therapy contracting company;
- Became a master certified life coach; and
- Created a burnout resilience program at a major Atlanta hospital.
Boggs is the founder of the Thrive Network, a private community for women who have (or want to have) an online business. She is also a sought-after speaker on business, diversity, and inclusion, and is the author of the book, Unstoppable Success: How to Finally Create the Body, Business and Lifestyle You Want. Additionally, she is the voice behind the podcasts, Breaking Protocol and Coaching & Conversations. Throughout her career, Boggs has helped countless people find their zone of genius and earn money while making a difference in their profession.
2. Remi Onifade, PT, DPT, M.Ed.
Dr. Remi Onifade is serving as clinic director at Team Rehabilitation Physical Therapy and supports operations for West End Well Werks. She is an adjunct professor at Morehouse College and the chief brand officer for IDEAL Education and Consulting.
Among her many accomplishments, Dr. Onifade:
- Graduated from Spelman College in 2008, where she made it her goal to become a physical therapist;
- Pursued a master’s degree of kinesiology at Auburn University and graduated in 2010—all while playing a significant role in building a bridge program between Spelman College and Auburn University to attract students pursuing careers in allied health; and
- Earned a doctorat of physical therapy at Emory University in 2013 and received training in neurological specialty in 2014.
Dr. Onifade is also the co-founder and president of the National Association of Black Physical Therapists (NABPT), a non-profit organization that was founded “to address the emotions and feelings of the lone minorities embarking on a journey to become physical therapists and physical therapist assistants.” NABPT’s mission is to provide opportunities for increased visibility, networking, community service, career development, and mentorship.
3. Efosa Guobadia, PT, DPT
Dr. Efosa Guobadia is a physical therapist and entrepreneur. He is chief executive officer at FFITT Health, a company that focuses on promoting accessibility and sustainability in the wellness realm, and founder of Move Together, a non-profit organization with a mission to promote transformation and transcendence through movement health around the corner and around the world.
Dr. Guobadia has many accomplishments, some of which include:
- Earning his bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst;
- Earning his clinical doctorate in physical therapy from the University of Scranton;
- Becoming a published author in leadership and global health books; and
- Lecturing in countries around the world, including China, South Africa, Switzerland, Japan, United States, Guatemala, and Ecuador.
Dr. Guobadia has focused on demonstrating how physiotherapy can help people around the world. He co-founded the Global PT Day of Service as a way to show the impact and reach of physical therapists and what they can accomplish as one. He also founded PT Haven, a platform for the physiotherapy profession to cultivate conversations about innovation as well as compassion. Dr. Guobadia is also a member of the Rizing Tide selection committee, which awards scholarships to BIPOC students who are on the path to earning their doctor of physical therapy (DPT) degree or furthering their PT education by pursuing a residency program.
4. DeAndrea Bullock, PT, DPT, CCI, CDP
Dr. DeAndrea Bullock is the assistant director of clinical education for the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at Emory University School of Medicine. She is also the other co-founder of NABPT. Among her many accomplishments, Dr. Bullock:
- Earned her bachelor of science from Kennesaw State University;
- Earned her doctorate of physical therapy from Emory University; and
- Practiced physical therapy for eight years for Wellstar in acute care, inpatient rehab, and neuro outpatient.
Dr. Bullock’s clinical expertise focuses on maximizing independence and adapting to life post neurological diagnoses. She holds advanced certifications as a certified diversity professional and completed the APTA Clinical Instructor Credentialing Program. Dr. Bullock is passionate about creating inclusive environments in both learning and healthcare and has had speaking engagements on topics including diversity, equity, and inclusion with the APTA, as well as conducting several online engagements with students and clinicians from various universities and organizations through NABPT.
5. Michael T. Robinson, PT, DPT, OCS, CMTPT, CCTT
Dr. Michael Robinson is a board-certified orthopedic clinical specialist (OCS) and founder of Polaris Physiotherapy, LLC, a private physical therapy practice where he specializes in the treatment of neck pain, temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD), and headaches. He is also a clinical assistant professor with the Howard University Doctor of Physical Therapy program.
Amongst his many accomplishments, Dr. Robinson:
- Earned his bachelor of science from Howard University in 2010;
- Earned his doctorate of physical therapy from Emory University in 2013;.
- Is credentialed by the Physical Therapy Board of Craniofacial Therapeutics as a Certified Cervical and Temporomandibular Therapist (CCTT); and
- Is an APTA-credentialed clinical instructor.
Dr. Robinson practices physical therapy in Silver Spring, Maryland, where he grew up, and enjoys giving back to his community. He is a board member of the NABPT and has authored published articles pertaining to the management of lower extremity injuries in active adults and the management of individuals with low back pain.
6. Moyo B. Tillery PT, DPT, OCS, FAAOMPT
Dr. Moyo Tillery is assistant professor and director of clinical education at Elon University School of Health Sciences. She is also a fellow of the American Academy of Manual Physical Therapists.
Among her many accomplishments, Dr. Tillery:
- Graduated from North Carolina State University in 2008 with a bachelor of science degree in genetics;
- Earned a doctorate of physical therapy from Duke University School of Medicine in 2011, where she was also the Diversity Task Force president and a Cultural Diversity Award recipient; and
- Serves as an alumni mentor for Duke DPT’s Summer Discovery Program
In addition to her experience as a clinic owner and director of clinic services at Concentra, Dr. Tillery is an active and engaged member of the Occupational Health Special Interest Group of the APTA Academy of Orthopaedics, as well as the APTA Academy of Education, APTA–North Carolina, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapists, and National Association of Black Physical Therapists. She is also a member of the Rizing Tide selection committee, which awards scholarships to BIPOC students who are on the path to earning their DPT or furthering their PT education by pursuing a residency program.
7. Lisa VanHoose, Ph.D., MPH
Dr. Lisa VanHoose is a board-certified clinical specialist in oncologic physical therapy and a certified patient navigator. She investigates socioecological models of cancer-related side effects with an emphasis on minority and rural cancer survivorship as an NIH, PCORI, and industry-funded researcher. She is also a clinical professor in the physical therapy department at Baylor University.
Among her many accomplishments, Dr. VanHoose:
- Earned her Ph.D. in rehabilitation science and her MPH from the University of Kansas Medical Center;
- Completed fellowships at the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging and the National Institute of Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute PRIDE Summer Institute; and
- Received her bachelor’s degree in health science and master’s degree in physical therapy at the University of Central Arkansas.
Dr. VanHoose served as president of the Academy of Oncologic Physical Therapy (part of APTA) from 2012 to 2016. She currently serves on the Louisiana HOSA Board of Directors, is a board member of the Physical Therapy Learning Institute, and is a fellow of the American Academy of Physical Therapy. She also serves on the COVID-19 Health Equity Taskforce in Louisiana. Beyond her board affiliations, Dr. VanHoose is an advocate of eliminating social policies and practices that are barriers to movement-friendly environments. For her efforts, she was honored with the APTA Societal Impact Award in 2021.
Additionally, Dr. VanHoose is the founder and executive director of the Ujima Institute, an organization that focuses on improving the wellness of underserved communities. Ujima Institute takes a community-building approach to offer training, helps empower Black rehab therapists and students, and inspires people to start conversations about diversity, equity, inclusion, anti-racism, and social justice.
8. Lynda Woodruff, PT, Ph.D.
Dr. Lynda Woodruff was an educator and trailblazer who showed true mentorship—especially for women and minorities. After her death in 2018, Woodruff left behind a powerful example of making positive changes while educating others. Among her many accomplishments, Dr. Woodruff:
- Received her master of physical therapy degree in 1971 from Case Western Reserve University;
- Became the first African American to join the physical therapy department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill;
- Was a founding director of the department of physical therapy at North Georgia State College and also established the first DPT program at Alabama State University; and
- Received her Ph.D. from Georgia State University in 1978, where she had joined the faculty. She was then appointed to the Georgia State Board of Physical Therapy, where she served for 10 years.
As a strong advocate for diversity and inclusion, Dr. Woodruff helped establish APTA’s Advisory Council on Minority Affairs. She was also a founding member of the Section on Clinical Electrophysiology. (At the time, PTs conducting electromyography testing were being charged with practicing medicine without a license.)
In honor of her achievements, the Georgia Senate declared February 24, 2006, as Dr. Lynda D. Woodruff Appreciation Day. Dr. Woodruff also received the Lucy Blair Service Award and the Education Achievement Award from the Physical Therapy Association of Georgia.
At WebPT, we recognize the vision, courage, and strength of these trailblazing therapists. And while this representation is inspiring to see, we recognize that we—as an industry—have a long way to go in making our profession more inclusive. The work has only begun to diversify our profession. But by continuing to listen, ask questions, be vulnerable, and stand in solidarity with those who speak out against inequality in all of its forms, we can help build a better tomorrow, together. And these eight individuals are prime examples of that.