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Vicki Mercer, PT, PhD, has received the award of Outstanding Physical Therapist, an annual award given by the North Carolina Physical Therapy Association (NCPTA).

Mercer, who has been a physical therapist for more than 35 years, has maintained a love for clinical practice.

Vicki Mercer, PT, PhD

In her nomination letter for the award, Deborah Givens, PT, PhD, DPT, and division director, highlighted Mercer’s work to improve health care of North Carolinians through clinical practice, education, research, and service.

“I am so thankful to have found a professional career that I am still passionate about and that is so fulfilling,” Mercer said. “I get to learn something every day, whether that learning comes from patients, students, fellow clinicians, academic colleagues, or CHAMP participants, and I get to have fun in the process.”

Having joined division faculty in 1994, Mercer devotes 20 percent of her time to direct patient care at University Physical Therapy (UPT), located in Hillsborough, where she provides care for adults with neurological diagnoses and balance issues. She has also provided countless hours of pro bono community service through her leadership of the Community Health and Mobility Partnership (CHAMP) program in western North Carolina.

CHAMP began in 2009 with the goal to identify and provide exercise recommendations and other interventions for older adults, living in rural and underserved areas of North Carolina, who are at increased risk for falls. The program is carried out at senior centers, retirement homes, and other locations in McDowell and Caldwell counties.

Martha Y. Zimmerman, PT, MA, said other health care providers around North Carolina should take note of the CHAMP program’s success.

“The brilliance of Dr. Mercer’s CHAMP design is the community service learning, the inter-disciplinary communication, the element of student self-assessment, and the intergenerational design,” Zimmerman said.

In addition to her work with the CHAMP program, Givens said Mercer provides exemplary patient care and practices what she teaches.

“When PT students, residents, and faculty see her in action, they find an expert practitioner who combines evidence with skill, humor, and compassion to achieve the best outcomes for her patients,” Givens said. “Her patients sing her praises and her services are in demand by physicians and others who know of her reputation.”

I know that there are many physical therapists out there who are deserving of the Outstanding Physical Therapist award,” Mercer said. “I just happen to be blessed to have colleagues, students, and friends who were willing to take the time to submit the nomination.”

At UNC-CH, Mercer teaches courses in assessment and treatment of individuals with neurological disorders for Doctor of Physical Therapy students, as well as content in neuromotor control for PhD students in the Human Movement Science Curriculum (HMSC). Mercer also serves as HMSC director. Her research interests focus on improving postural control in older adults and individuals with neurological disorders, including stroke.