February 16, 2001
Volume XXXIV, No. 7

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New chair of physical therapy sets goals for department

Dr. Giovanni De Domenico Dr. Giovanni De Domenico

Post-professional specialty programs … enhanced distance education … a research institute where students and faculty collaborate with other universities and health care organizations throughout the world. These are some of the things Dr. Giovanni De Domenico, new chair of the physical therapy department, envisions for the department in the new millennium. Accomplishing these goals will be a challenge. For Dr. De Domenico, however, defeating the odds has become a way of life.

As an adolescent, Dr. De Domenico had to struggle to do things his peers could do. The English native was affected by a macula degeneration of the eyes called Stargardt's disease. At 18, Dr. De Domenico couldn't get a driver's license because of his poor eyesight, and in 1967 an ophthalmologist diagnosed his condition. Today his visual acuity qualifies him as being "legally blind." To this day, Dr. De Domenico has never known the personal freedom afforded by being able to drive a car himself.

Despite his disability, Dr. De Domenico pursued his interests in physical therapy.

"Like many people with a progressive disability, I depend on the grace of the Almighty and my own personal determination," Dr. De Domenico said. "Not being able to drive or read with ease is an inconvenience and a frustration. But I adopt a can-do attitude and I find another way to get things done."

His interest in physical therapy and his determination led Dr. De Domenico across the globe to two continents and two countries. After earning his physical therapy qualifications in England in 1970, and a master of science degree from the University of Aston in Birmingham, England, in 1977, Dr. De Domenico emigrated to Australia. He was appointed as a faculty member in the School of Physiotherapy at Sydney University in Sydney, New South Wales.

In 1984 he was appointed as senior lecturer in the School of Physiotherapy at Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia. There he was responsible for undergraduate and postgraduate teaching and research in the area of electrophysical agents.

Dr. De Domenico completed his Ph.D. in 1988 in the School of Physiology and Pharmacology at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. In 1989, he moved to Canada, where he became associate professor in the School of Physiotherapy at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. There he was again responsible for teaching all aspects of electrophysical agents. In 1992, he moved to Saskatchewan, Canada, where he was named professor and director of the School of Physical Therapy and assistant dean in the College of Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.

Prior to coming to the Health Science Center, Dr. De Domenico was professor and chairman of the department of physical therapy for almost seven years at the University of South Alabama in Mobile. There he oversaw major redevelopment of the department, including the creation of a master's degree in physical therapy. The first group of graduate students completed the program last year.

Dr. De Domenico has published his research in more than 32 scientific publications, including four books and a monograph. One of those books, Basic Guidelines for Interferential Therapy, about a type of electrical stimulation, was published in 1982. It was the first book of its kind published anywhere in the world.

He has presented more than 30 papers at scientific conferences and more than 100 courses and lectures in many countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia, North America and the United Kingdom. He has been an active member of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy in the United Kingdom, the Australian Physiotherapy Association and the Canadian Physiotherapy Association, and has served on many local and national committees.

As chair of the physical therapy department at the Health Science Center, Dr. De Domenico said his first orders of business will be to become fully acquainted with faculty and staff and to understand all aspects of the existing program.

"There is a great deal of talent in this department and there are tremendous opportunities on this campus," Dr. De Domenico said. "I want to get to know the research interests and needs of our faculty so we can work to develop them."

After that, Dr. De Domenico said he wants to concentrate on developing post-professional specialty programs, distance learning opportunities and a research institute within the School of Allied Health Sciences.

"With post-professional specialty programs, we will be able to attract qualified physical therapists to our campus," he said. "They in turn will generate strong research output."

Dr. De Domenico believes that distance education is another key to attracting potential students to the Health Science Center.

"The reality today is that qualified physical therapists, who already are working in the field, are unlikely to be willing to quit their jobs in order to go to graduate school or new research projects," he said. "Distance education will allow the Health Science Center to offer educational opportunities to students across the globe. Students won't have to physically travel to campus to take classes or to participate in research projects."

A research institute, Dr. De Domenico believes, will help to carve out a reputation for excellence in research for the Health Science Center.

"I see it [the research institute] as a place where faculty and students collaborate on research projects with other universities, hospitals and health care organizations across the world. The development of high-quality patient education programs, backed by research, would be another role the institute could play in this community."

Dr. Marilyn Harrington, dean of the School of Allied Health Sciences, said she looks forward to working with Dr. De Domenico to enhance programs in the physical therapy department.

"Dr. De Domenico has a proven track record of improving the academic quality of physical therapy programs across the world," said Dr. Harrington. "Because of his international ties with Australia and England, he brings to the Health Science Center an expanded vision of rehabilitation for the future. Our students and faculty are truly fortunate to have him as our new chair."