DPT Professor awarded University’s highest honor
The 2015 Bonnie Jean Kelly and Joan Kelly Award for Faculty Excellence is Doctor of Physical Therapy Professor Laura Sisola Gilchrist.
Dr. Gilchrist is also a Clinical Research Scientist in the oncology program at Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.
Dr. Gilchrist received a bachelor's degree in biology from Lawrence University and received a second bachelor's degree in physical therapy and a doctorate in neuroscience from the University of Minnesota.
Her achievements on and off-campus are a model of intellectual passion and a deep caring. Dr. Gilchrist’s mentorship of students is outstanding, her body of scholarly work is impressive, and her notable research accomplishments help improve the quality of life for children battling cancer.
She followed in the footsteps of her mother, Professor Emerita Susan Sisola, to St. Catherine. Sisola first joined St. Kate’s in 1988, and was a member of the faculty of all three physical therapy programs – the associate, master’s and doctorate. She was the PTA’s program director from 1991 to 1999 and also served as program director of the transitional MPT – DPT program during the 2003–2004 academic year.
Dr. Gilchrist joined St. Catherine’s Master of Physical Therapy faculty in 1999, and was a member of the team that revised the program’s curriculum as it moved from a master’s to a clinical doctorate degree. Their innovative integrated model that encouraged self-reflection and experiential learning turned heads and won national attention from the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. During this transition, Dr. Gilchrist also served as program director during the 2006–2007 academic year. St. Kate’s DPT program is among the most competitive in the state and is ranked 86th in the nation by U. S. News and World Report’s “Best Graduate Schools.”
Her research, with both DPT students and colleagues, seeks to understand the impact cancer treatments have on children’s peripheral nervous system. The grants she received include two from the American Cancer Society and one from the National Institutes of Health.
A prolific author and collaborator, Dr. Gilchrist has shared research discoveries in numerous peer-reviewed and blind-reviewed articles and book chapters.
She has presented her research and participated on panels at major professional meetings of physical therapists and cancer rehabilitation researchers as well as neuroscientists. She also reviews manuscripts for a number of professional journals of oncology.
Dr. Gilchrist is involved in the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) at the state and national level and conducts numerous workshops for physical therapy practitioners in addition to her St. Kate’s courseload. She currently serves nationally on the Board of Directors for the Oncology section of the APTA and Chaired the Breast Cancer EDGE Task force Research Committee. She also serves on the Minnesota Cancer Alliance Conference Committee and on the Pine Tree Apple Tennis Classic Advisory Committee that raises funds for Children’s Hospital Cancer Research.
The American Physical Therapy Association has honored her three times — in 2007 with an Emerging Leader Award, in 2010 with the Oncology Section’s Stephen Gudas Award for Outstanding Publication in Rehabilitation Oncology, and in 2014 with the Oncology Section’s Research Award for contributions to the field of oncology rehabilitation research.
Her long-time collaborator, Lynn Tanner, a physical therapist and rehabilitation clinical specialist in Oncology at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics, said: “Laura is a leading researcher in oncology rehabilitation and is always willing to assist others in our search for knowledge to improve the quality of life of our amazing patients and children around the world.
"Laura has changed my life as I would have never chosen research as a preferred career choice. She is always willing to listen to my crazy ideas and validates my concerns in a thoughtful way. She is a true mentor for our profession.”
About the Bonnie Jean Kelly and Joan Kelly Awards
St. Catherine alumna, donor and Centennial 100 honoree, Joan Kelly ’46, honors the memory of her parents and her sister with generous gifts that fund three prestigious programs designed to recognize academic excellence and advance the national visibility of St. Catherine University.
A successful businesswoman and Phi Beta Kappa graduate in English, Joan Kelly attended both high school and college on the campus of St. Catherine with her sister, Bonnie Jean, who died while a student here.
The Bonnie Jean Kelly and Joan Kelly Faculty Excellence Award is a $10,000 prize that recognizes academic excellence and outstanding achievements that raise the visibility of St. Catherine University.
Kelly also established the Bonnie Jean Kelly and Joan Kelly Distinguished Visiting Scholar Fund that makes it possible to bring a nationally-known scholar to the University annually for seminars, workshops and colloquia for a portion of the year.
The Bonnie Jean Kelly and Joan Kelly Student Excellence in Writing Award recognizes superior work in writing. The $2,500 awards are granted to two exceptionally talented student writers at the Honors and Awards Ceremony each spring.
Past recipients of the Bonnie Jean Kelly and Joan Kelly Faculty Excellence Award
2014 — Mark Blegen, associate professor, chair of Nutrition and Exercise Science and co-director of the Women's Integrative Research (WHIR) Center
2013 — Mary U. Henderson and Megan Kalina, professors, Business Administration
2012 — Kathleen Matuska, program director, Master of Arts in Occupational Therapy
2011 — Geri Chavis, professor of English
2010 — Amata Miller, IHM, professor of economics and director of the Myser Initiative on Catholic Identity
2009 — Susan Dandridge Bosher, professor of English, and Margaret Dexheimer Pharris, professor of nursing
2008 — Mary Ann Brenden, associate professor of social work
2007 — Laurie Swabey, professor of American Sign Language/Interpreting
2006 — Mary Wagner, professor of Master of Library and Information Science