"There's a great deal of education, motivation, and psychology in what we [as physical therapists] do - in addition to the tremendous desire to see people return to functional living."
“Someone once told me that physical therapists are a personality type,” says Marilyn Moffat, “and I have a feeling that we are. We tend to be outgoing because we’re concerned about movement of the human body, physical health and well being. We also serve as major cheerleaders. Getting a 90-year-old up out of bed so that he or she can start walking again is not always easy. Also, there’s a great deal of education, motivation, and psychology in what we do - in addition to the tremendous desire to see people return to functional living.”
Moffat's career spans several decades of teaching, research and international practice. She first came to the Department of Physical Therapy as a part time professor and doctoral candidate in the late 1960s. She’s remained at NYU ever since. Today she directs both the clinical Doctor of Physical Therapy program and the post-professional master's program in pathokinesiology. She also maintains an active private practice.
All of this makes for an extremely full schedule. “I am at NYU four days and spend the rest of the week at my practice or in service to the profession. I’ve always taught and practiced simultaneously because I believe it’s important in a clinical skill area to keep abreast of the latest innovations in the field.”
Professor Moffat is also a widely published author. Her book, American Physical Therapy Association's Book of Body Maintenance and Repair, is considered a standard in the field. She has edited four major textbooks that accompany the Association’s publication, The Guide to Physical Therapist’s Practice, the definitive volume of practice that she spearheaded when President of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).
She has also recently finished her own book for publication called Age-Defying Fitness. The book emphasizes the importance of maintaining overall fitness in the forty to eighty-year-old population by focusing on posture, strength, balance, flexibility and endurance. Moffat says the goal of the book is to help preserve the wellness of older people so that they don’t need to enter institutional environments. “I want to see seventy, eighty, and ninety year old people who are healthy and well and living independently with a good quality of life.”
Moffat is also helping the World Confederation for Physical Therapy standardize educational requirements for entry-level physical therapist education around the world. International work like this has been especially gratifying to her, and she sites projects in Thailand and Taiwan as highlights of her career. People in both countries initially did not perceive physical therapy the way we do in the US. Moffat’s work helped Thai and Taiwanese people realize the benefits of physical therapy and, over the years, many of the students she trained in both countries have come to NYU to study in the department.
Because of the diversity of her background and her extensive involvement with the APTA– she was the organization’s president for six years - Moffat feels she brings a unique approach to her teaching. “I indoctrinate my students - literally - in the importance of professionalism and their professional activities in life.” Our students undergo a very intense educational program and work extraordinarily hard. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every class we’ve had. After years of being involved in the department, I still excited and stimulated with what I’m doing here.”