Accredited Education

Physical Therapist Profile – Joe Dawson, PT

Bachelor’s in psychology/pre-physical therapy from Widener University, 2000

Master’s in physical therapy from the University of Delaware, 2002


For Joe Dawson, a volunteer opportunity inspired him to become a physical therapist. While volunteering in the aquatic physical therapy department of a children’s hospital, he witnessed a young boy go from being unable to put weight on his leg to playing basketball two months later. “His attitude and outcome after physical therapy inspired me and solidified my decision to pursue a degree in physical therapy,” says Dawson. Today, he works as a director of an ATI Physical Therapy clinic in Wilmington, Del., where he treats a wide variety of orthopedic conditions, work-related injuries, and post-operative patients. He is also a certified clinic instructor through the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) and has mentored new clinicians throughout his career.

Question: What is it about your job that keeps you at it day in and day out?

Dawson: “Facing different challenges and diagnoses on a day-to-day basis keeps me on my toes. It also makes me keep my eye on the current research and how to give each patient their best possible outcome. Physical therapy research has recently focused on evidenced based medicine that will keep our profession strong as we move forward with the impending changes to insurance reimbursement. Learning from my fellow colleagues and attending continuing education course also helps to further sharpen my skills.”

Question: How do you stay up-to-date in the field and maintain professionalism?

Dawson: “Treating a wide variety of diagnoses keeps me interested in the ever-growing field of evidenced-based medicine. As a member of the APTA, I have access to a wide selection of journal articles via their website and Hooked on Evidence. Also, working for ATI has given me access to an even greater array of orthopedic based physical therapy information that guides me to the most effective treatment for each patient. Being a member of the APTA and working for a company like ATI that highly values the ongoing education of their clinicians enables me to maintain my professional growth.”

Question: What advice do you have for people just starting their education or their professional career?

Dawson: “Explore all the different subspecialties of physical therapy and try to determine what aspects of each field intrigue you the most. Physical therapy gives clinicians the opportunity to work in a wide variety of settings. For instance, my wife is also a physical therapist and loves working in an outpatient pediatric setting. On the other hand, I gravitated towards adult-based outpatient orthopedics with a strong emphasis on manual treatment of the spine. We both have the same degree but very different jobs on a day-to-day basis. Not many professions provide a high level of job satisfaction in combination with the opportunity to do so many different things.”