The Washington University Program in Physical Therapy integrates outstanding education, interdisciplinary research, and quality clinical care to carry out its mission of advancing human health through movement.

Our Vision

In advancing human health through movement, Washington University Physical Therapy will: 

  • Transform our professional identity by promoting the human movement system as the foundation of physical therapy
  • Synergistically align creative education, groundbreaking team science, and innovative evidence-based practice within the framework of the human movement system
  • Foster a culture of committed common interest that supports diversity, inclusion, critical thinking and creativity
  • Embrace consumer values and goals

human movement systemThe Human Movement System

At the core of our approach to physical therapy is the human movement system, which consists of physiological organ systems that interact to produce and support movement of the body and its parts. Movement science is the study of the movement system, and we believe physical therapists are the world’s movement system experts.

Our program has pioneered the development of movement-focused physical therapy education, research and treatment. The human movement system continues to be our foundation for treating patients, conducting research and training the next generation of leaders in physical therapy. Our vision is aligned with the vision of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), which is to “transform society by optimizing movement to improve the human experience.”

Washington University Program in Physical Therapy faculty created the basic concept for the above graphic representation of the movement system and adopted the current version in August 2014 .

Those wishing to utilize the graphic are encouraged to do so and should acknowledge the use with the following reference: 

Human Movement System Model by Washington University Program in Physical Therapy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at


Founded in 1942, the Program in Physical Therapy began as a six-month program training therapists to treat World War II soldiers. The original class comprised only seven students, but the Program quickly grew thanks to a passion for providing quality care and a desire to understand human movement and the conditions that affect it.

In 1948, the Program became a part of the Washington University School of Medicine and began educating physical therapists at the baccalaureate level. The curriculum, clinical experiences and professional development opportunities evolved, and the Program’s educational vision expanded to include graduate and professional training.

By educating physical therapists through rigorous doctoral, postdoctoral, and continuing education programs, engaging in groundbreaking research, offering effective treatment of movement dysfunction, and maintaining active leadership responsibilities in the APTA, our Program continues to contribute to the growth of this dynamic profession.