International Partnership Leads to Lebanon Valley College Physical Therapy Program Becoming Center of PT Continuing Education

Dr. Michael Lehr teaches a physical therapy course at Lebanon Valley College

Since Dr. Stan Dacko, LVC associate professor physical therapy, launched a continuing education program at the College in 2014, more than 775 participants have attended 29 separate courses at The Valley. Considering LVC’s doctor of physical program boast a nearly 100% job offer rate for its graduates, it made sense to extend this excellence to continuing education. 

Today, under the guidance of Dr. Michael Lehr, clinical associate professor of physical therapy and chair of the College’s Continuing Education Task Force, numerous PT professionals, including many LVC PT alumni, remain lifelong learners, which is necessary for physical therapists and health professionals. 

“What was once the best-kept secret in quality continuing education in central Pennsylvania has grown into a successful program resulting in LVC alumni and other regional PTs being trained by highly skilled international experts,” said Lehr. “The skills learned during the continuing education classes ultimately enhance the ability of practitioners to deliver even higher quality patient care.” 

Lehr is quick to credit Brett Windsor, chief executive officer of the North American Institute of Orthopedic Manual Therapy (NAIOMT), who oversees accreditation. “We are making a difference in elevating clinical practice and embracing our role within the healthcare system as physical therapists,” he added. “Brett has been particularly helpful in improving the standards of clinical practice for our students, alumni, and area clinical leaders.”

“I look forward to continuing our long-standing collaboration with LVC and its quality Physical Therapy Program,” said Windsor. “We are excited that this partnership will enable us to further our mission and elevate clinical practice locally, regionally, and nationally. The opening of the $20 million Jeanne and Edward H. Arnold Health Professions Pavilion allows us to provide our lab intensive manual therapy courses in a unique learning environment supported by quality faculty.”

NAIOMT recently re-launched its manual certification program, which will result in additional crucial continuing education opportunities being offered at Lebanon Valley College. 

Moreover, it’s indeed a team effort, beginning with the extraordinary organizational skills of Carol Brashear, Physical Therapy Department assistant, to Lehr and colleague Dr. Michael Fink, co-chair and associate professor of physical therapy, who went through the certification process alongside one cohort that included about 80% LVC PT alumni. “Carol has been instrumental in the implementation of the program and has been a key to our success,” Lehr noted. Also, Fink and Lehr enjoyed becoming better clinicians while sitting next to many former students.

One of those alumni is Dr. Mike O’Connell ’04, D’06, clinical director of Phoenix Rehabilitation Services in Frackville, Pa., who serves as an adjunct professor in Lehr’s Clinical Interventions Laboratories. “The partnership between LVC’s physical therapy program and NAIOMT has provided me with an opportunity to receive high-level, post-graduate training through a fellowship program near my home,” he said. “I explored other options, but they required extensive trans-continental travel. Completing my coursework at LVC saved me money and missed time from work, and, more importantly, let me spend more time with my family.” 

Dr. Katie Karnas ’13, D’15, another NAIOMT Fellow-in-Training in LVC’s continuing education program, noted additional benefits of having this opportunity available at the College. “I had the advantage of starting with NAIOMT as a sixth-year PT student at LVC thanks to the College’s connections,” she said. “I am surrounded by experts, including many of my former professors and mentors, which has helped me provide more efficient and specialized patient care. It’s also helped me build a network of well-respected professionals in the field, which in turn has led to career opportunities.” 

Programming for 2018–2019 will be held in the newly opened 26,000 square-foot Arnold Health Professions Pavilion. The cutting-edge facility and technologies in the facility, including advanced Human Performance and Human Anatomy labs, are the foundations for this year’s robust schedule of events. Visit here to learn more or contact Dr. Michel Lehr at