Congratulations to the 2023 Award Winners!

   February 17, 2023

Excellence in geriatrics physical therapy was celebrated during the APTA Geriatrics Member Meeting held at CSM 2023 in San Diego.

Joan M. Mills Award

The APTA Geriatrics Joan M. Mills award recognizes an APTA Geriatrics member who has given outstanding service to the Academy of Geriatric Physical Therapy. This award was established in 1980 in honor of Joan M. Mills, APTA Geriatrics’ first President, whose vision, determination, and dedication united physical therapists caring for geriatric patients in their commitment to excellence in the delivery of physical therapy to ageing adults.


This year the award is given to Michelle (Missy) Criss, PT, DPT, PhD. Dr. Criss has been involved in the field of geriatrics her entire career; working in skilled facilities, home health, extended care and various locations in Pennsylvania and Washington. She currently works in academia and geriatric residency programs, helping advance the field of geriatrics to future clinicians.


Dr. Criss exemplifies excellence in the integration of scholarship, service and teaching in the field of geriatric physical therapy.


Dr. Chriss founded the Geriatric Physical Therapy Residency at University of Pittsburg Medical Center in 2011. Her list of service to Chatham University includes activities to the DPT program, the School of Health Sciences and to the University at large, representing commitment to smooth transitions for students entering health careers and specifically in advocacy for services to older adults. Dr. Criss does more than show-up, she is often the planner, designer and facilitator of the initiative or project.


Dr. Criss’ dedication and hunger to serve is evident as she has shown interest in all facets of service to the APTA and geriatrics as witnessed in her engagement with APTA Pennsylvania and APTA Washington. Her scholarship interests are even more impressive: she has a long list of refereed publications and presentations in geriatric physical therapy. Her history of service at the community and university levels also mirrors her desire to establish herself as a true role model for both students and practicing PTs in and out of the clinic.


Clinical Impact in Geriatrics Award

The Clinical Impact in Geriatrics Award recognizes one APTA Geriatrics member for outstanding clinical practice in a geriatric health care setting. This year’s award was given to Jessica Keele Murdin, PT, GCS, CTCCS, CEEAA. Murdin integrates evidence-based practice with her extensive clinical knowledge and extraordinary communication skills and then packages it in an approachable and actionable way. This results in better patient outcomes, but also better adoption of these practices by her colleagues. Clinicians who work with Murdin are inspired to master the content and implement it in their own practice with older adult patients.


Murdin is a leader who seeks innovative ways to improve the lives of older adults in geriatric care settings. She single-handedly developed, and is providing leadership for, a group Otago exercise program. She found an innovative way of utilizing the unique skillset of a physical therapist for movement assessment to identify impairments, and appropriately prescribe exercises, in collaboration with other exercise specialists who teach the class. The group format makes it possible to reach more frail older adults with this evidence-based fall prevention program. The program has been successfully implemented in assisted living facilities and senior centers and is being replicated in other communities.


Murdin clearly demonstrates leadership in teamwork and program planning for older adults. She leads her team every day toward the most innovative evidence-based care and has presented on these topics, both locally and at CSM.


Academic Impact in Geriatrics Award

The Academic Impact in Geriatrics Award recognizes one APTA Geriatrics member for excellence in an academic setting. This year’s award is given to Jennifer Bruursema, PT, DPT.


Bruursema is a full-time physical therapist and rehab program coordinator with Innovate Rehab and Wellness and also serves as a guest lecturer and lab assistant in Creighton University’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program. She is passionate about education and coordinates clinical affiliations for physical therapist and physical therapist assistant students for the Innovate clinics.


Bruursema exemplifies what it means to be a passionate, patient, and knowledgeable educator within the geriatric population. She educates clinicians and helps ensure students have the most comprehensive geriatric experiences possible. Under her leadership, one of the Innovate facilities, Hillcrest Health and Rehab, was recently awarded Creighton University’s Site of Clinical Excellence award for 2021. In 2020, she was recognized as Creighton University’s Clinical Instructor of the year.


Excellence in Geriatric Research Award

The Excellence in Geriatric Research Award recognizes an outstanding research contribution to science as shared in a research report published by a physical therapist member of APTA Geriatrics in a peer-reviewed journal in the field of geriatrics and gerontology. The research is recognized for the perceived impact of the published report on future research, education, clinical practice, or a combination of these areas. This year, the Excellence in Geriatric Research Award goes to Amit Kumar, PhD, MPH, Assistant Professor, Department of Physical Therapy, Northern Arizona University.


Kumar and his team published Impact of hospital-based rehabilitation services on discharge to the community by value-based payment programs after joint replacement surgery.


Dr. Kumar’s research focused on evaluating the impact of multiple chronic conditions on health care access and health outcomes in older adults, particularly in patients receiving care in acute and post-acute care settings, such as inpatient rehabilitation facilities and skilled nursing facilities. Dr. Kumar has conducted health service research using “Big Data” to show the effectiveness of rehabilitation services in reducing hospital length of stay and hospital readmission, thus reducing the cost of care and improving patient outcomes.