Congratulations to the 2017 PPTA Award Recipients!

by Jeffrey Rothman | Aug 26, 2017

2017 PPTA Award Recipients

Bob Wellmon
Awards Committee Chair

The job of the Awards Committee was made difficult this year by the number of deserving individuals that were nominated for each award. I would like to thank everyone involved in the nomination process, who took the time to highlight the work of members practicing in the state. I am grateful to the committee members who carefully reviewed the submission materials – Kara Kobal, Tom Stewart, Liz Troese, and Kristin Von Neida.

Carlin Michels Achievement Award

The Carlin Michels Achievement Award recognizes an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the physical therapy profession and/or the Association in one or more of the following areas: direct patient care, education, research, and service to the community or profession. 



      Debora L. Miller, PT, MBA, FACHE

Ms. Miller’s passion and commitment to the physical therapy profession is evident by her numerous contributions and accomplishments as a clinician, educator, and in the areas of academic and healthcare leadership. She has maintained continuous membership in the Association since joining as a student in 1976. Across her career, she has nearly 30 years of experience in rehabilitation and healthcare leadership and has 15 years of university teaching experience. Debbie has been extensively involved with the HPA Section of APTA and was instrumental in developing content, teaching, and assuming leadership roles in the LAMP Institute for Leadership. She has been a tireless role model and advocate for leadership development in the profession and she earned Fellow status with the American College of Healthcare Executives. Within PPTA, she has been a district director, a conference programming committee chair, and a member of the Insurance Relations Committee. She also finds the time to serve her community by being elected to the school board.

CTI Humanitarian Award

This award is given for service that occurs outside the profession of physical therapy.



Judy Traister, PT, DPT, MA

Dr. Traister has had an extensive history of providing service to others. She has been a longstanding volunteer with Surgicorps International, a non-profit organization that provides free surgical and medical care to those in need in developing countries.  Her work with Surgicorps, across 11 mission trips over the past 8 years, has taken her to Bhutan, Guatemala, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Zambia.  Judy has been a valuable member of the surgical team by providing much needed pre- and post-surgical PT services and consultation.  When not functioning as a PT, she willingly helps out in a variety of other roles – providing comfort care, reassuring patients and families, giving hugs, attending to the needs to operating room team, planning trips, and packing supplies. During her career as a physical therapist, Judy has been a volunteer for the Lily Society of Easter Seals, the Art for AIDS Committee, and the Sports by Ability Games.  She has been a continuous member of the APTA and PPTA since 1969 and has been a Chatham faculty member since 2001. She graduated from West Virginia University with a BS degree; D. T. Watson School of Physiatrics with a Certificate in Physical Therapy; Duquesne University with a MA degree; and Chatham University with a transitional DPT degree.


Service Award

The Service Award is presented to a physical therapist or physical therapist assistant who has significantly contributed to the betterment of physical therapy within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and has supported the mission of the Association.



Norman L. Johnson, PT, DPT, DEd, MSS, MBA


Dr. Johnson's contributions to the PPTA are both numerous and longstanding. He recently completed an 8-year appointment to the State Board of Physical Therapy, where during his tenure, he served as vice-chair and chair of the group.  Serving on the State Board, he was instrumental in ensuring enforcement of practice standards.  A member of the Association since 1982, Norm served the PPTA on the Professional Development Committee, the PTA Utilization Task Force, and the SWD Education Committee and has been a Legislative Ambassador since 1987. Dr. Johnson served his country for 40 years in the Navy and is the Director of the PTA program at Community College of Allegheny County – Boyce Campus, a program he founded in 1988. Dr. Johnson also gives back to the profession by being an innovative educator, and a role model and mentor for his students and colleagues.



            Paul Slocum, PT, MS, ATC


Mr. Slocum’s contributions to the PPTA clearly meets the requirement of consistent service of long duration in the betterment of physical therapy in the State. An Association member since 1973, he has made substantial contributions by serving on the Chapter Public Policy and Advocacy Committee, and leading the Referral-for-Profit Committee, while at the same time serving on APTA’s PPAC and POPTS Task Force. He was instrumental in conducting the research that identified the critical issues for members in the state and used that information to work with PPTA leadership to identify legislative and practice priorities. Paul was elected 5 times as a Delegate representing the PPTA to the APTA House of Delegates, was a member of the Continuing Education and Insurance Relations Committees, and served as the Secretary for the PA PT PAC for 13 years. In addition to service to PPTA, Paul was active in the Pennsylvania Athletic Trainers Society (PATS) and served a term as its president. In his role as PATS Legislative Chair, Paul worked with PPTA to resolve the longstanding issue of athletic trainer credentialing in Pennsylvania.

Steven Kolumban Award

This award acknowledges a physical therapist assistant who has demonstrated outstanding achievement in clinical practice, community service, and personal commitment to physical therapy through professional contributions to the PPTA, the PPTA PTA Special Interest Group (SIG), or the APTA. 



           Lee Ann Derr, PTA

Ms. Derr has served on the executive board of the PPTA PTA SIG.  As the Vice-chair of the PTA SIG, she was actively involved with recruiting and mentoring new volunteers and helped to develop policies and procedures that facilitate the leadership transition process within the group.  Lee Ann in her leadership role has given voice to the interests of the PTA and the PTA SIG at PPTA Board of Directors Meetings. Lee Ann is the current treasurer for the South Central District and has been involved with the PA PT PAC. She has been a role model for the PTA through her pursuit of life-long professional development and has an unwavering dedication to the patients that she serves and the profession. Lee Ann is a skilled clinician, who embraces the PT-PTA team approach to care.