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Kathy Zalewski


Kathy’s interests are focused on health disparities and health outcomes associated with rehabilitation, with a particular interest in older adults. She continues to explore how community engagement is a mediator to rehabilitation outcomes for people managing chronic disabling conditions. Kathy has a particular interest in meeting the needs of rural communities and addressing the unique rehabilitation needs of people in these communities.

Experience and Interests

Teaching Experience

  • Professor/Program Director, UW-Stevens Point (July 2019-present)
  • Associate Professor/Program Director, UW-Milwaukee (2006-2018)
  • Associate Professor, Concordia University Wisconsin (1994-2006)

Research Interests

  • Barriers to remaining physically active for adults with disability
  • Community and culture in disability and rehabilitation – with focus on the unique needs of rural communities

Research Project

Funding: Compeer Financial
Title: Shaping the Future of Rural Rehabilitation: A Training Program for Health (Sept. 2019 – December 2021)
Project Goals: This is a mixed-methods research study exploring barriers to access to rehabilitation services in rural communities in Central and Northern Wisconsin

Honors and Awards

  • Faculty Distinguished Public Service Award (2016), UW-Milwaukee
  • Dean’s Award for Outstanding Service (2011), College of Health Sciences, UW-Milwaukee
  • Alumnus Honoris Award (2008), Clintonville School District, Clintonville, Wis.
  • Mary Pat Murray Award for Clinical Excellence (2005), Wisconsin Physical Therapy Association


Professional Organizations

  • Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education
  • Commissioner and On-Site Team Lead (2010-present)


  • Physical Therapy Examining Board – State of Wisconsin: Board Member and Vice Chair (2017-present)
  • Children’s Hospital Foundation, Wauwatosa, Wis.
  • Founder/Co-Chair: Zalewski Family Endowed Fund for Neurology Care

Professional Memberships

  • American Physical Therapy Association/APTA-Wisconsin (1986-present)
  • American Council of Academic Physical Therapy: member (2012-present); director (2015-2021)

Presentations and Publications

Select Publications

  • Zalewski, K, Furhman, G. (Accepted for publication-Fall 2018) Walk. Atlanta, GA: The Journal of Humanities in Rehabilitation.
  • Amateis A, Boesel C, Ehnert B, Evans A, Hurst K, Marek K, Sullivan A, May A, Zalewski K, Huddleston W. (Published online May 23, 2018) The need for mapping personalized goals to exercise dosage in community-based exercise programs for people with Parkinson’s disease? Physiotherapy Theory and Practice.
  • Scharf, E., Thompson, K., Fons, L., Drews, J., Weber B., Zalewski K. (2018). American Physical Therapy Association Combined Sections Meeting, St. Louis, MO, “Being Part of the Community: Perceptions of public transit by people with disabilities”.
  • Zalewski K and Alt C. (2016).  Developing a New Professional Identity for Physical Therapy: Using Community Partnerships to Explore the Origins of Health. Health Promotion Research – An International Forum “Next Society”; Trondheim, NO.  
  • Zalewski K and Alt C. (2016).  Health Informed Rehabilitation: Assessment and Management of Barriers to Physical Activity. Submitted to the American College of Rehabilitation Medicine (ACRM) Annual Conference.  
  • Zalewski K,  Arvinen-Barrow M, and Alt C (2014). Identifying barriers to remaining physically active after rehabilitation: differences in perception between physical therapists and older adult patients. Journal of Orthopedic and Sport Physical Therapy, 44(6):15-24.
  • Zalewski, K and Dvorak L (2011). Activity participation and barriers to activity participation for adults with and without stroke. Topics in Stroke Rehabilitation. Oct. 18 Suppl 1:666-75.

Fun Facts

Last book you read?

A Leg to Stand On (Oliver Sacks)

Best advice you ever received?

Say Yes.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

The real answer? Well, for those who remember an old TV show called Emergency, I wanted to be a paramedic just like the people in that show. However, instead of riding in the ambulance, I would arrive on the scene on horseback (you can laugh now; I was 10 at the time).

Favorite Quote?

“If I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” (Sir Isaac Newton)

One thing about your school that you are most proud of?

Our team values learning by doing and community-engaged learning isn’t just a catchphrase, it is a culture. To do that well, our team needs to see ourselves as part of a larger whole and we have brought the richness of many voices (students, therapists, faculty, patients) to our program to honor that value.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

I enjoy watching students take intellectual risks, occasionally being wrong, and learning from those opportunities without judgment. Finding safety in failing (as opposed to failure) breeds innovation. I am thrilled when students see things I hadn’t considered – then I know I have succeeded as a teacher.

A piece of advice for students in your school?

Excellence in physical therapy is not about how much you know, but about how well you are willing to listen. The art of practice involves taking what you know and applying it to the unique needs of the people you meet. Listening with humility will help you apply that art.

Kathy Zalewski
Program Director - Doctor of Physical Therapy
Professor - Doctor of Physical Therapy
Unit Coordinator
Global Affiliate Scholar - Ed.D. in Educational Sustainability

B147 Science Building


Ph.D. in Motor Learning
UW-Milwaukee, 2001

M.P.A in Health Services Administration
University of San Francisco, 1992

B.S. in Physical Theraphy
UW-Madison, 1986