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Professor Emerita

Division of Physical Therapy
Department of Allied Health Sciences
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7135

Email Dr. Thorpe


  • PhD, Pediatric Physical Therapy, Medical College of Pennsylvania and Hahnemann University, 1998
  • MS, Early Childhood Motor Development and Motor Learning West Virginia University, 1983
  • BS, Physical Therapy, University of New England, 1988
  • BS, Elementary Education, West Virginia University, 1979


  • PHYT 750- Psychosocial Aspects of Disability
  • PHYT 820:  Advanced Patient Management I  (Cerebral Palsy)
  • PHYT 726:  Exercise Perscription/PHYT 730: Biomechanics (Aquatic Therapy)
  • HMSC 701: Scientific Basis for Human Movement (Motor Learning)
  • PHYT 727- Motor Learning and Motor Control
  • PHYT 854- Capstone Projects

Research/Scholarly Interests

  • My research has focused on improving health care services, function, and participation for adults with cerebral palsy. My participation in an international investigator group allows me to combine the data I have gathered on secondary conditions within a small cohort of adults with CP with other international databases with similar variables so that we can make significant contributions to the literature. These results will lead to the development of more efficacious interventions to allow adults with CP to be as functional as possible for as long as possible. Equally important, these cross-sectional, and eventually longitudinal, data will assist in developing prevention programs that will better predict adult outcomes for individuals with CP and their families and eventually be instrumental in the development of programs to prevent secondary conditions.
  • I am also involved in health services research, utilizing large data to identify longitudinal patterns of health care utilization for adults with CP diagnosed with specific musculoskeletal conditions.
  • Learn more about my current research by watching this video from UNC Research.

Professional Societies

  • American Physical Therapy Association
    Section Memberships: Aquatic, Pediatric
  • North Carolina Physical Therapy Association
  • American Academy of Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine


  • West Virginia University, College of Physical Activity and Sports Science, Hall of Fame Inductee, 2018
  • Richard Ruoti Research Award for Excellence, Aquatic Therapy Section, American Physical Therapy Association, 2015
  • Anniversary Award, Section on Pediatrics, American Physical Therapy Association, 2013
  • Mestibov Award for Clinical Contributions to Adults with Devleopmental Disabilities, Residential Services Inc., 2018
  • Please see this PubMed Link for a list of peer-reviewed publications
Deborah Thorpe, PT, PhD