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Sue Whitney teaches PT students


At the 2022 International Bárány Society meeting in Madrid, Spain, Professor Sue Whitney received the prestigious Hallpike-Nylen Award for her lifetime achievements in vestibular clinical research. This award is presented in honor of Dr. Robert Bárány, who received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his fundamental work on the physiology and pathology of the vestibular system. Whitney, co-director of our Post-Professional Program in Physical Therapy, is the first non-physician to receive this distinction. “It was overwhelming when I got the news,” says Whitney, “It was as if the entire profession of physical therapy around the globe was recognized for their contributions to the management of persons with vestibular disorders and I was the lucky recipient of the award.” 

The title of Whitney’s Hallpike-Nylen Award presentation was “A Vestibular Rehabilitation Journey,” where she provided a brief overview of her work including the validation and development of multiple outcome measures used in vestibular rehabilitation. Vestibular rehabilitation is a form of physical therapy where special exercises are used to improve people’s balance and inner ear function. “We educate people about their inner ear problems and motivate them to improve their ability to move efficiently and effectively,” Whitney explains. In her address, she discussed her work on the Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) and Peripheral Vestibular Hypofunction Clinical Practice Guidelines, the Bárány Society’s International Classification of Vestibular Disorders Consensus Documents and the proposed curriculum for Vestibular Medicine. Whitney has a storied career in physical therapy and vestibular rehabilitation. In fact, she was previously called upon by the government to present her expertise on vestibular disorders and concussions to the U.S. Department of State. 

Receiving the Hallpike-Nylen Award was incredibly meaningful to Whitney. “This recognition means that vestibular rehabilitation is now accepted internationally as an integral part of the management of persons with dizziness and balance disorders.” Her accomplishment is also paving the way for future generations of physical therapists. This prestigious honor represents the formal acceptance of PTs as an essential part of the interdisciplinary team responsible for enhancing quality of life for patients with vestibular disorders. Whitney’s dedication and hard work have been a driving force behind groundbreaking advancements in the clinical field of vestibular rehabilitation. In addition to her profound work as a clinician, she makes contributions to the profession through her publications and teaching. She continues to remain humble despite these accomplishments and the many accolades she has received. “It was gratifying to have my clinical research recognized, but it has never been ‘my’ work,” she states, “This honor is shared with all the people that I have collaborated with both here at the University of Pittsburgh and those colleagues from around the U.S. and world.”  

Are you a practicing physical therapist who is looking to advance your career through hands-on experiences with passionate educators like Professor Whitney? Update your clinical knowledge and skills with the University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences’ one-year, post-professional MSPT program.