University of Nebraska Medical Center

Joe Norman to retire after 30 years

Joe Norman

Joe Norman, PhD, will retire after 30 years of service to the Physical Therapy program in the College of Allied Health Professions, effective December 31, 2022. PT Program director Betsy Becker, PhD, announced Dr. Norman’s retirement with this letter to the College:

While I am pleased by this opportunity for Dr. Norman, his absence will be felt by each one of us.

Originally from New York, Dr. Norman earned a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from New York State University College at Oneonta in 1976. He was the first person in his family to earn a college degree. He then graduated from the University of Southern California with a Master’s degree in Physical Therapy (1979) and Colorado State University with a PhD in Physiology (1992). He was hired as an Assistant Professor in the UNMC Division of Physical Therapy Education in 1992 and, to our great fortune, made Omaha his home. In July 1998, he was promoted to Associate Professor, and in July 2008, he was promoted to Professor with Tenure. He has contributed to our division in many ways through his 30-year tenure.

Dr. Norman’s investment in our program is far-reaching. His service includes several leadership positions within the division including Associate Director (2007-2010) and Program Director (2013-2018). In addition to the skills needed to be an excellent faculty member – compassion, respect and integrity – responding to a call to lead the division requires a uniquely qualified person. A few key leadership accomplishments during Dr. Norman’s tenure as program director are the supervision of our division’s growth to the Kearney campus, urging the revision of the DPT curriculum, and oversight of the expansion of the physical therapy profession to China. Dr. Norman led the charge in achieving these feats with a great deal of hard work, kindness, and many cups of coffee.

Dr. Norman also served on the division’s Clinical Education Committee, Admissions Committee, and the China Program Department Planning Committee (a collaboration with Tongji University and Sunshine Rehabilitation Hospital). He served as a member of the UNMC Promotion and Tenure committee and as Chair of the College of Allied Health Professions Promotion and Tenure committee. In addition, Dr. Norman contributed to the profession of physical therapy through national, regional, state and local area community activities. He is a Fellow of the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation, a member of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), APTA-Nebraska, and a board-certified Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Clinical Specialist by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties.

Dr. Norman’s successful research agenda focused on physical activity interventions and exercise adherence for individuals with cardiovascular and pulmonary conditions, physical performance measures, quality of life, and patient-reported outcomes. He has been on NIH-funded studies for over 15 years and has over 35 peer-reviewed articles. Dr. Norman was recognized as a UNMC 2016 Distinguished Scientist from the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research. This prestigious recognition identifies researchers who have been among the most productive scientists in the country.

Dr. Norman has mentored professional students in conducting research, some of who have gone on to pursue further graduate studies. The MS and PhD graduate students he has mentored have successful careers and developed into independent researchers and mentors. Although his primary research area is in cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation, he has consulted on projects to assist with research designs that focused on education and other clinical practice areas. Dr. Norman is very supportive of faculty endeavors and has spent hours mentoring others by asking the “right” questions to help focus goals for career advancement. As a senior faculty member, he has a keen interest in faculty development. He has a well-developed interprofessional network that is enviable to less experienced faculty and he utilizes these connections for the betterment of others.

Dr. Norman was awarded Certificates of Appreciation for Excellence in Teaching by the UNMC Student Senate in 1999, 2007 and 2008. He was selected School (now College) of Allied Health Professions (CAHP) Teacher of the Year in 2002. In 2014, he was honored with the Mary Ellen Sacksteder Award from the Nebraska Physical Therapy Association in recognition of outstanding contributions to the advancement of physical therapy. He received a Chancellor’s Council Silver “U” Award in 2015. In 2019, Dr. Norman was presented the CAHP Outstanding Service Award for “extraordinary contributions . . . that result in the significant advancement of the College and the Allied Health Professions.”

Dr. Norman is held in high esteem by his colleagues. Long-time faculty member and former Program Director Patricia A. Hageman, PT, PhD, FAPTA, stated, “Dr. Norman (Joe) is an innovative leader with an exceptional record of substantial contributions to the program, the profession and UNMC at the state, national and international levels. Ever humble, Joe puts others before himself, elevating students, alums, faculty and practitioners through his listening, mentoring, and genuine caring for their wellbeing. My wish for Joe is great joy as he transitions to having more time to pursue his many interests.”

Thank you, Dr. Norman, for your dedication to the Physical Therapy Education program. We have benefited from your expertise as a leader, educator, researcher, and mentor. Future students will also benefit from your work here as your legacy lives on through the ten faculty members who became alumni during your lengthy career at UNMC (Becker, Bills, Christensen, Frazee, Gossman, Sleddens, Venema, Wells, E. Wellsandt, M. Wellsandt).

Please join me in wishing Dr. Norman the very best in his well-earned retirement. 


  1. Karen Brown says:

    Congratulations, Joe, and thank you for your selfless and committed dedication to our profession. You’ve inspired lifelong learning in so many young PTs, with no realization of the countless lives that have been improved by that ideal. God bless you with great health and growing joy in your retirement years.

  2. Billy Yelika says:

    Thank you Joe Norman, PT, PhD

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