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Geriatric Physical Therapy Residency Program

Program Overview

The Birmingham Veterans Affairs Healthcare System offers a Geriatric Physical Therapy Residency Program that is accredited by the American Board of Physical Therapy Residency and Fellowship Education (ABPTRFE). This robust, year-long program is designed to offer the recently licensed Doctor of Physical Therapy an opportunity to advance their knowledge and skills in the area of geriatric specialty practice in preparation for Geriatric Clinical Specialist (GCS) certification through the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS).

Clinical training consists of managing a caseload of patients with geriatric involvement, mentoring sessions with highly experienced clinical staff (3 to 6 hours/week), as well as a didactic curriculum component. Clinical training opportunities/rotations exist within the following clinical areas: Acute Care, Community Living Center Skilled Nursing Facility (CLC), Home Health, Cardiac Rehabilitation, Outpatient Neuro and Orthopedics. Residents will also have opportunities to participate in the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Geriatrics Grand Rounds, UAB Geriatric Scholar’s Program, journal clubs, in-service presentations, case studies, and teaching doctoral students.

Program Mission Statement

Program Mission Statement

Providing advanced evidence-based education to develop geriatric physical therapy clinical specialists who demonstrate advanced geriatric patient/client management, evidence-based practice, critical inquiry, and teaching skills, and who are empowered to become leaders in their communities and provide quality care to our Nation's Veterans. The program will demonstrate continuous improvement and implement strategic initiatives and tactics maintaining a robust post-professional education experience. 

Program Goals

Program Goals

  • The Geriatric Residency Program will graduate physical therapists who demonstrate professional excellence and who are prepared to pursue American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS) certification as a Geriatric Clinical Specialist.
  • Develop a Geriatric Residency that meets the credentialing criteria of the American Board of Physical Therapy Residency and Fellowship Education (ABPTRFE) and advances the field of Geriatric Physical Therapy.
  • Serve as a resource within professional, academic, and social communities.
  • Identify, develop, and retain faculty to provide clinical and didactic training.

Didactic Curriculum

Didactic Curriculum

  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • UAB Geriatric Scholar Program
    •  This multi-disciplinary program focuses on educating scholars on how to provide evidence-based care to geriatric patients. It consists of lunch and learns, clinical rotations, and geriatric education.
  • Geriatric Grand Rounds
  • Journal Club
  • Professional Presentations
  • APTA Credentialed Clinical Instructor Program
  • Laboratory Instruction to UAB DPT students
  • MedBridge GCS Certification Prep Program
    • A prep series in alignment with the geriatric description of specialty practice that consists of over 45 courses covering specific conditions and the foundations of patient care management for the older adult. It is designed to provide the necessary tools to pass the GCS boards, gain expertise, and elevate the physical therapy profession.



  • Minimum of 150 hours of 1:1 mentoring.
  • Pre-planned weekly 1:1 mentoring sessions in clinical care settings to promote advanced clinical skills and critical reasoning with a focus on the APTA Description of Specialty Practice, Geriatrics
  • Program clinical faculty mentors with board certification in Geriatrics and Orthopedics   

Core Faculty and Support Staff

Core Faculty and Support Staff

Allison Hawley, PT, MS

Maryclare Powell, PT, MS

Dena Szajko, PT, DPT, GCS

William Northern, PT, DPT, GCS

Steven Dutton, PT, DPT, OCS

Shalaney Howze, PT, DPT

Jenesis Safford, PT, DPT


Mentors at Partner Sites

John D. Lowman, PT, PhD       University of Alabama at Birmingham

Michelle Dunn, PT, DPT            VA Tuscaloosa Healthcare System

How To Apply

Admission Requirements

  • U.S. citizen
  • Applicant must have a degree from the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) accredited program
  • Successfully completed the National Physical Therapy Examination
  • Applicant must obtain Physical Therapy (PT) license prior to beginning the program (may be obtained from any state). A temporary license is sufficient to begin the program, but the applicant must obtain their permanent license while in the program.

Application Procedures

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)

How many residents do you accept? 

We accept one resident into the program each year. Applicants must have U.S. Citizenship, be proficient in the English language, and have successfully completed a Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) accredited physical therapy program. Personal interviews and references are also required. Selected residents are required to obtain licensure prior to starting the residency year in July.

How do I apply to the program? 

All applications are completed on the RF-PTCAS website ( January through April 30. Please contact the Program Director with any specific questions regarding the application process.

How long is the program?

This is a 1-year, temporary appointment.

What will my weekly schedule be?

The Resident’s tour of duty is 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday but may be altered based on mentors' schedules and patient care needs. Residents will have clinical duties including direct patient care for approximately 30 hours per week and 6-10 hours per week will be designated for didactic education and individualized mentoring.

What does mentoring entail? 

“Mentoring is a professional relationship where a more experienced mentor guides a less experienced mentee to promote professional growth in a clinical setting. It is not the same as providing clinical instruction to the entry-level Physical Therapy student. It is pre-planned to meet specific educational objectives and facilitate the development of advanced professional behaviors, clinical decision making, proficiency in communications, and consultation skills.” (APTA 2012). Our program has a minimum of 150 hours of 1:1 mentoring.

What clinical experiences should I expect? 

The Birmingham VA Healthcare System is a tertiary referral hospital which allows us to provide a wide variety of clinical experiences for our residents. Clinical rotations allow for experience within the acute care, outpatient, home-based primary care, and skilled nursing settings.  Experiences include exposure to diseases and conditions affecting the musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, pulmonary, integumentary, neuromuscular, and immune systems and topics ranging from dementia, delirium, falls, frailty, heart failure, acute infection, diabetes, amputation, cancer, polypharmacy, autoimmune illness, wound care, and other conditions affecting the geriatric population.

Telehealth may be integrated into patient care in outpatient rotations and potentially home-based primary care

Will I have to study outside work?

Residents typically have several hours of self-directed study each week outside of the typical work hours. This is often reading and preparation for required professional presentations. Residents will have access to MedBridge.

Will I receive a stipend/salary?

Yes. The stipend is determined annually by the VA Office of Academic Affairs. The salary for 2024 is $53,176.00.

Will I be eligible for benefits?

Yes. Benefits include health insurance and options for vision and dental insurance. Residents receive ongoing accrual of 4 hours of paid annual leave and 4 hours of sick leave per pay period. In addition, Residents receive 11 paid federal holidays per year.

Will I have an opportunity to attend a professional meeting or continuing education courses? 

Residents are encouraged to attend the APTA Combined Sections Meeting (CSM) or Alabama State PT meeting. Funding to attend professional meetings and/or continuing education courses may be available, but it is not guaranteed through the Birmingham VA Healthcare System. Authorized absence is available for continuing education opportunities. Residents typically attend one professional meeting each year.

When will the program begin? 

The residency program is scheduled to begin on July 1, 2024.

Will I be prepared to take the Geriatric Specialty Exam upon completion of the program? 

Yes. Our goal is for all residents completing the program to take the GCS exam and become specialists in geriatric physical therapy. The GCS exam is taken in March of the year following graduation from the residency and residents are responsible for all application and testing fees though scholarships are available through the Academy of Geriatric Physical Therapy (AGPT).  For more information on application deadlines, testing dates, and costs please see the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialty website (

Will I be eligible for a job at the VA upon graduation from the residency? 

Residents in good standing will be encouraged to apply for job vacancies within the VA system, but a job is not guaranteed. We will help support residents during the Spring as they search and apply for potential post-graduation employment opportunities.