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Speakers and Honorees
Mary M. Rodgers, PT, PhD, FAPTA, FASB, FISB
Honorary University Marshal
Professor Emeritus, Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science,
School of Medicine
Don't call Mary M. Rodgers a specialist. When it comes to physical therapy, she is a generalist — one who has done it all. “I started as a clinical physical therapist, then a teacher and researcher, and finally a department chair,” recalls Rodgers, who joined the faculty of the University of Maryland School of Medicine in 1994.
She quickly found a home in its Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science. “I initially taught biomechanics and conducted research in what was then a Master's Program in Physical Therapy at UMB,” she says. “In 1998, I was appointed department chair and provided departmental leadership and stewardship for 15 years. In addition to higher education administration, I continued my research and teaching during that time.”
Now professor emeritus after retiring in 2017, Rodgers looks back with pride on her quarter-century at UMB and is thrilled to be chosen as Honorary University Marshal, who will lead the procession into Royal Farms Arena on May 18. “I was very surprised and grateful for this wonderful honor!” she says.
It is recognition well-deserved.
During her time as department chair, the department’s rankings rose from unranked to the top 10 percent of all physical therapy programs in the country, research funding increased, and five new educational programs were initiated including the PhD program in Physical Rehabilitation Science, the transition of the Master in PT to Doctor of PT education program, the Doctor of Science in PT and transitional DPT programs, and the DPT/PhD joint program.
Expanding the academic programs is among her favorite memories. “I really enjoyed initiating new programs because of the creativity and innovation involved,” says Rodgers.
“At the time they started, each was one of the first of its kind in the country. The PhD in Physical Rehabilitation Science was one of the only PhD programs nationwide that was housed in a Department of Physical Therapy. The Doctor of Science in Physical Therapy program was one of the first programs on this campus that was primarily online. It enabled clinicians to get the advanced degree while working full time.”
Rodgers, who is director of the Pilot and Exploratory Studies Core for the Maryland Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center at UMB, has held a number of research and education advisory positions including serving as senior advisor for the National Institute for Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering of the National Institutes of Health for the past eight years. Her own grants include projects like “Research Training in the Epidemiology of Aging,” and "Wheelchair Propulsion Performance in Young, Middle-Aged, and Elderly Adults."
While appreciative of the federal funding she has received, Rodgers embraces even more the support that came from within the School of Medicine family.
“The endowed professorships funded by two of our outstanding alumni, George Hepburn and Jane Satterfield, were real highlights,” Rodgers says. “I will be forever grateful to the two of them for their belief in our department and the profession of physical therapy.”
While proud of the school and department — which she still performs committee work on campus and nationally as professor emeritus — Rodgers also is proud of the University in total.
“Over the past 24 years, UMB has expanded its campus with new buildings and programs, more students, staff, and faculty,” Rodgers says. “It has increased its visibility on a local community level as well as on a national level. There has been progress in bringing the individual schools together as a campus.”
This collaboration will be much in evidence on May 18 as students from UMB’s six professional schools and interdisciplinary Graduate School will be marching onstage to receive their diplomas. It is a moment that Rodgers, who has degrees from the University of North Carolina and Penn State University, looks forward to immensely.
“I am very excited for all of these graduates who have worked so hard to complete their programs and are now ready to launch into valuable careers,” she says. “I can’t wait.”