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Program in Physical Therapy Honors Carolyn Gioia with Dedication of Newly Renovated Learning Lab

The Program in Physical Therapy at the Saint Louis University Doisy College of Health Sciences recently celebrated its 90th anniversary with a dedication ceremony for the newly renovated Carolyn Gioia Learning Lab, a multi-use physical therapy space home of the program’s Pro Bono Physical Therapy Clinic. The event celebrated Carolyn Gioia's legacy and the expansion of pro bono services offered because of her contributions to SLU's Program in Physical Therapy. 

The Gioia family standing with DCHS Dean Bernard Rousseau and SLU President Fred Pestello

Members of the Gioia family with Chris Sebelski, Ph.D., PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS, Department of Physical Therapy and Athletic Training interim chairperson, Bernard Rousseau, Ph.D., M.M.H.C., FASHA, dean of Doisy College of Health Sciences, and Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D., president of Saint Louis University.

A 1949 graduate of the SLU physical therapy program in the Doisy College of Health Sciences, Carolyn Gioia devoted her life to the science and practice of physical therapy. After pursuing her master’s degree at Columbia University, New York, Gioia actively participated in various international and national physical therapy organizations during her 45-year career. Carolyn Gioia passed away on May 25, 2017 at the age of 91. She was a lifelong supporter of Saint Louis University, and she was a member of SLU's 1818 and Dubourg societies, as well as St. Ambrose Senior Citizens, Lady of Mt. Carmel, Hill 2000 Senior Citizens, St. Louis Senior Citizens, YMCA, Matt Talbott Club and the Italian American Bocce Club.

Her commitment and generosity to the Saint Louis University Program in Physical Therapy enabled the creation of an endowed scholarship in her name that will support physical therapy students, with preference given to students with physical disabilities. Carolyn Gioia’s gift also allowed for the reimagining of a learning lab space, which will serve as the home for the Pro Bono Physical Therapy Clinic.

Providing treatment for clients with orthopedic, neurologic, and pelvic health-related issues, the Pro Bono Physical Therapy Clinic elevates the learning experience for the students in the Program in Physical Therapy. It also removes barriers to high-quality specialized patient care for underserved members of the greater St. Louis community. 

Audience members sit in chairs while president Fred Pestello speaks at a lectern. The room contains items such as a physical therapy table, display skeletons and other tools.
Saint Louis University President Fred Pestello, Ph.D. speaking at the Gioia Learning Lab dedication. 

Saint Louis University President Fred Pestello, Ph.D., was elated to honor Carolyn Gioia’s legacy and celebrate all that has been made possible through her support of the physical therapy program.

“We’re here to celebrate a remarkable and vibrant legacy. Carolyn Gioia, who has been a special part of this a pathbreaker and a pioneering spirit of this university," he said. "We are proud of her legacy and now she will forever be a part of this program through what takes place in this lab, of which we are sure she would be enormously proud.”

President Pestello recognized the efforts of all faculty, staff and students in the Department of Physical Therapy and Athletic Training at Saint Louis University. He explained how Carolyn Gioia was integral in expanding our impact on the community — from the patients seen at the Pro Bono Physical Therapy Clinic to the physical therapy students who volunteer there.

“This is truly impressive — imagine all the individuals throughout the history of this program that have been served, and how we will better serve people through this program moving into the future,” he said.

During the dedication ceremony, Barb Yemm, P.T., DPT, OCS, faculty lead of the Pro Bono Physical Therapy Clinic, also spoke about the tremendous impact of Carolyn’s contributions on Saint Louis University’s students and community members and living out the Jesuit mission to serve those in need in our community.

“Blessed by a move into this newly renovated Carolyn Gioia Learning Lab space, expansion of our Pro Bono Physical Therapy Clinic services has begun," Yemm said.

The purposefully designed flexible and multifunctional space allows for better service of clients across the spectrum and enhanced student learning experiences, Yemm said. As a result of this reimagining, Pro Bono Physical Therapy Clinic will provide more than double the available student/faculty/patient interactions.

“The development of this space is allowing for increased physical therapy services to under and uninsured community members and increased opportunities for student involvement in the hands-on care for others. Teams of student physical therapists and faculty will work together to improve each patient’s function and quality of life," said Yemm.

Kathleen Gioia, niece of Carolyn Gioia, was an esteemed guest at the event. Kathleen Gioia shared memories of her aunt and how much the renaming of the lab means to the Gioia family.

The ceremony concluded with a time of spiritual reflection and a blessing of the room, led by Campus Ministry Assistant Director Erin Fitzpatrick and Robert Murphy, S.J.

Doisy College of Health Sciences Dean Bernard Rousseau, Ph.D., MMHC, FASHA expressed his appreciation for Carolyn Gioia’s support and the lasting impact it will have on the education of physical therapy students at SLU.

“On behalf of our faculty, staff, students and alumni in the Doisy College of Health Sciences at Saint Louis University, we are extremely thankful for the generosity and support of Carolyn Gioia and the Gioia family and celebrate the legacy of Carolyn Gioia on the Program in Physical Therapy and in the training of physical therapy students at Saint Louis University,” Rousseau said.

About SLU’s Edward and Margaret Doisy College of Health Sciences:

The Doisy College of Health Sciences has provided students with the tools and education to become well-prepared healthcare professionals since 1929. The Doisy College of Health Sciences offers healthcare education at the baccalaureate, master’s, doctoral and professional levels in a variety of health-related fields.

About Saint Louis University:

Saint Louis University is a Catholic, Jesuit institution that values academic excellence, life-changing research, compassionate health care, and a strong commitment to faith and service. Founded in 1818, the University fosters the intellectual and character development of more than 13,000 students on two campuses in St. Louis and Madrid, Spain. Building on a legacy of more than 200 years, Saint Louis University continues to move forward with an unwavering commitment to a higher purpose, a greater good.