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About APTA Wisconsin

APTA Wisconsin (APTA WI) represents more than 2,600 member physical therapists (PTs), physical therapist assistants (PTAs), and students of physical therapy. APTA Wisconsin seeks to improve the health and quality of life of Wisconsin residents by advancing physical therapist practice, education, and research, and by increasing the awareness and understanding of physical therapy's role in healthcare. APTA Wisconsin's leadership consists of a Board of Directors, Committees, Special Interest Groups and Task Forces. APTA Wisconsin is headquartered in Madison.

Our Mission & Vision

Chapter Mission | To recognize and address the physical therapy needs of people in Wisconsin, to inspire and support members, and to promote the highest standards for physical therapy practice, education and research.

Chapter Vision | Improving the human experience by optimizing movement through prevention, rehabilitation, and wellness throughout the lifespan.

Download the Chapter Bylaws

Download the Strategic Plan

History of APTA Wisconsin

In 1918, American physical therapy began with the establishment of the United States Army's reconstruction aides in physical therapy to help rehabilitate our injured World War I soldiers. In the years since, physical therapy has grown to be a vital health care profession with a track record of effectively treating millions of patients who have sustained neuromuscular and skeletal disorders. Those early physical therapists were trained in hospitals for short periods of time to meet the needs of our population after World War I.

In the winter of 1928, Wisconsin members of the American Physiotherapy Association made a resolution that a Wisconsin chapter of the Association be formed. It was moved, seconded and carried that the following be adopted:

  1. Approval of Constitution
  2. Election of Officers
  3. Appointment of Committees
  4. Other Business
  5. Adjournment

Election of Officers:

  • President Mildred Elson
  • Vice-President Laura Borwell
  • Secretary Florence Phenix
  • Treasurer Muriel Patrick

Charter members were five in number:

Laura Borwell, Madison; Mildred Elson, Milwaukee; B. Claire Miller, LaCrosse; Muriel Patrick, Kenosha; and Florence Phenix, Milwaukee.

Each of the PTs who met on this memorable occasion was not only elected to office, but also given committee responsibility. With the paying of one dollar each, the Chapter started off with money in the bank! Time proved that this personal investment in this organization has netted returns of priceless value. Membership at the end of 1929 was eleven members and had grown to 40 by the end of 1934!

In 1927 "physiotherapy" courses were initiated at the University of Wisconsin through the Department of Physical Education for Women with Miss Trilling as head of the Department and Dr. Helen Denniston as director. Dr. J.C. Elsom was also on the staff. Many of our early association members had training in these courses and recall Dr. Denniston's stimulating leadership. This led up to the years when instruction in physical therapy was taken over by the medical school in about 1936.

Early programming in the 1930s and 1940s for the Wisconsin Chapter of the American Physiotherapy Association included lectures and speakers on topics such as Fever Therapy, Psychiatry-Mental Hygiene Problems, Muscle Testing and Muscle Training in the Treatment of Poliomyelitis, Osteochondridities, The Pre-School Crippled Child, Physical Therapy in Relation to War Medicine, and Eye Defects of the Cerebral Palsy Case.

In 1943, seven association members were serving in the armed services and total membership was 48.

In 1947, PTs were not licensed in Wisconsin. The Chapter was incorporated in 1951 and the Physical Therapy Licensing Bill became law in 1953. It was next revised in 1975. Also in 1953, the Physical Therapy Examining Committee was composed entirely of members of the Chapter. Chapter dues were $2 in 1961 and the first Chapter office in 1978 was located at 6414 Copps Avenue in Madison. Today, we are located at 3510 East Washington Ave in Madison and our Chapter is almost 2400 members strong!