Susan Whitney, Award Recipient

More than one achievement unlocked. Susan Whitney, DPT, PhD, NCS, ATC, FAPTA, Co-Director and Professor, Physical Therapy Post-Professional MS Program at the University of Pittsburgh, received the prestigious Hallpike-Nyléen Award at the 2022 International Bárány Society meeting in Madrid, Spain for her lifetime achievements in vestibular clinical research. Not only is this the highest-level clinical research award from the international vestibular society, but Dr. Whitney is the first physical therapist and the first non-physician to receive this award.

“In our little corner of the world, this is a very big deal,” said Dr. Joseph Furman, Professor of Otolaryngology, Neurology, Physical Therapy, and Bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh and the Director of the UPMC Division of Balance Disorders.

According to Dr. Furman, a clinical research award like this is only bestowed every two years. Due to COVID, the last award was four years ago. He said historically the Society was dominated by European ENTs but has branched out over the past 20-30 years.

When asked her reaction to the news, Dr. Whitney said, “I was totally surprised since it has always been given to physicians in the past.”

The title of Dr. Whitney’s award presentation was “A Vestibular Rehabilitation Journey,” where she provided a brief overview of her work, including the validation and/or development of multiple outcome measures used in vestibular rehabilitation.

In an email announcing the award, James Irrgang, PT, PhD, ATC, FAPTA, Chair of the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of Pittsburgh, said that Dr. Whitney has contributed to at least 13 different outcome measures. Many of them are frequently used in vestibular rehabilitation and are part of the Core Set of Outcome Measures for individuals with neurologic conditions.

Dr. Furman described Dr. Whitney’s work as positioned “at the edge of the translational research spectrum where it has immediate patient care consequences.”

Congratulations to Dr. Whitney for the impressive recognition and for helping to develop vestibular physical therapy into a now-established treatment modality!