Patrick Kitzman, PT, PHD, associate dean for research in the UK College of Health Sciences, will receive the Outstanding Advocacy in Neurologic Physical Therapy Award from the American Physical Therapy Association at the APTA’s annual conference in 2020. This prestigious honor is given to those in the field of physical therapy who have made an extraordinary impact on advocacy for neurologic physical therapy.
Kitzman has committed his career to advocacy and selfless service through his work in physical therapy and with the Kentucky Appalachian Rural Rehabilitation Network (KARRN), which he established in 2008. KARRN’s collaborative team, spanning across Kentucky, has touched countless lives in their mission to empower communities impacted by disability.
“I can’t advocate for someone unless I’m working with them. It’s presumptuous to say, ‘I know what you need.’” Kitzman said. “The moment we at KARRN start working with someone, we agree to be their advocate and do whatever it takes to find resources for them.”
Tony English, PhD, PT, chair of the department of physical therapy, praised Kitzman’s dedication to bringing life-changing physical therapy to underserved populations. “KARRN has established a network of resources, multiple educational materials, a team of experts in the many disciplines that deal with spinal cord injury, stroke, and brain injury, and centralized these in one location. They ensure that after injury and formal rehabilitation people can return to their homes with confidence and the necessary resources to function at the highest possible level,” he said.
Kitzman’s calling to serve others extends across UK’s campus and beyond as shown by the many partnerships and interdisciplinary collaborations he has fostered over the years.
“Under Dr. Kitzman’s patience and guidance, KARRN has directly influenced the successes of the Kentucky Congress on Spinal Cord Injury (KCSCI) throughout our six years of existence,” said Alexander G. Rabchevsky, PhD, professor of physiology and endowed chair at the UK College of Medicine. “His efforts have united individuals with spinal cord injuries in the greater Lexington area and beyond to bring legislative changes. Virtually all of the programs that the KCSCI undertakes are sponsored by KARRN, and the combined registries have expanded the community outreach to help those living with disabilities in underserved regions of the Commonwealth.”
One of Kitzman’s more recent initiatives is Project CARAT (Coordinating and Assisting the Reuse of Assistive Technology). This project is in collaboration with the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at the College of Health Sciences and allows students to experience hands-on education by refurbishing assistive technology and redistributing items to underserved individuals.
“Dr. Kitzman is passionate about advancing the neurologic therapy field and improving the quality of life for individuals living with neurologic impairments,” said Frances J. Feltner, DNP, MSN, RN, FAAN, director of the UK Center of Excellence in Rural Health, which houses many KARRN initiatives. “His consistency in engaging students and contributions to the profession are truly remarkable.”
Dedication to research, advocacy, and delivery of compassionate care are all hallmarks of Kitzman’s character. And, it’s these traits he’s passing on to every student who comes across his path.
“When I first started UK, it had been years since I had sat in a research methods class. I wasn’t even sure if I was really qualified to be there,” said Kathleen Sutton, PT, DPT, MPH, CPH, one of Kitzman’s former students. “Pat reassured me time and again that ‘research is about knowing how to ask a question,’ and the confidence I now have in myself as a researcher is a direct reflection of his mentorship. I know that when I graduate, I can be an effective agent of change in whatever community I work in because of the time I’ve spent learning in his lab.”
When asked about receiving such a distinguished award, Kitzman is quick to recognize others for their support of his career. “I am humbled to receive this award. But, when you do advocacy work, it’s a group effort,” he said. “It takes all of us to make a change. It’s my pleasure to represent all the wonderful people I work with. This award encompasses the core of what my entire team does every day.”