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Advanced Vestibular Certificate Program

Sue Whitney working with patient model

Program Overview

The Advanced Vestibular Certificate Program is a comprehensive didactic experience in vestibular physical therapy that prepares and certifies physical therapists to be frontline providers for patients experiencing balance, dizziness and abnormal proprioception. 

Many patients start their vestibular episode of care in the emergency room or with a primary care physician and are referred to an otolaryngologist or a neurologist among five-six other medical practitioners before reaching a physical therapist to manage their symptoms. Delays in treatment and unnecessary consultations can result in less function, increased risk of falls and additional complications. 

Graduates of the AVPT certificate program will be prepared to manage patients in the primary care setting or part of a team-based model within interdisciplinary settings to maximize clinical outcomes and patient function. 

With rising health care costs and delays in treatment associated with managing balance and vestibular disorders, graduates of the AVPT Certificate Program will be well positioned to fulfill this emerging role as a frontline provider in vestibular disorders. Upon certification, participants will be uniquely qualified to achieve the Triple Aim of Healthcare:  improved patient health, improved patient experience and decreased per capita costs. 

Advanced Vestibular Physical Therapy (AVPT) Certification

The AVPT certification is delivered in a highly innovative format that allows participation from anywhere in the world, but still experience the University of Pittsburgh campus with limited travel. The hybrid format includes self-paced online coursework, synchronous virtual meetings via Zoom and four interactive weekend workshops. The content is delivered in four specific modules and arranged by content. Module 1: Advanced Vestibular Anatomy, VOR function, vestibular testing, outcome measures, differential diagnosis, vestibular perception and acute diagnosis and management. Module 2: Eye movement analysis, concussion, vision, neuropsychology, surgical management, pharmacological management, CNS impairments. Module 3: BPPV, PPPD, pediatric and older adult special considerations and psychological management. Module 4: History taking and interpretation of findings, advanced treatment techniques for physical therapists, exercise dosage, newest interventions, clinical cases, plus the video, practical and written examination.

Each module will consist of 12-16 hours of online presentations, required readings and a virtual journal club via Zoom. Participants will be required to complete the pre-requisite work prior to the weekend workshop. Each weekend workshop will provide 10-12 hours of interactive live presentations delivered through Zoom. At the completion of each weekend workshop, the participants will be required to complete a written examination on the content presented within the module.

Module 4 will require in-person participation on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh for an immersive skills and lab session and competency examination that will include a comprehensive written and practical component of content delivered within all four modules. 

Each module can be taken independently, but participants must complete all four modules and successfully pass the competency examination to become certified as an Advanced Vestibular Physical Therapist. 

Working with vestibular PT devices

Dates of Weekend Workshops

  • Module 1: August 14-15, 2021 (Zoom Classroom)
  • Module 2: November 13-14, 2021 (Zoom Classroom)
  • Module 3: January 8-9, 2022 (Zoom Classroom)
  • Module 4: April 9-10, 2022 (University of Pittsburgh, Campus Classroom)

Times

The typical schedule for the weekend workshops Modules 1-3 will be:

  • Saturday Sessions: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. (EST)
  • Sunday Sessions:  8 a.m. - noon (EST)
  • In addition, there will be a pre/post module session on the Tuesday evening before and after each weekend session (7-8:30 p.m. EST).

The schedule for Module 4:

  • Saturday April 9, 2022: 8 a.m. - 5:15 p.m. (EST)
  • Sunday April 10, 2022: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. (EST)
     
  • Tuesday April 19, 2022 written examination from 7-9 p.m. (EST)

Agenda and Learning Objectives

Module 1 
Module 2
Module 3
Module 4

Note: CEU approval pending from physical therapy state board associations.

Speakers

Amy Cassidy DPT, NCS

Amy R Cassidy PT, DPT, NCS received her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree in 2008 from Gannon University in Erie, PA. She became a Board Certified Neurologic Clinical Specialist in 2017. She is currently the Facility Director at UPMC Centers for Rehab Service Balance and Vestibular Clinic at UPMC Eye and Ear Institute. Dr. Cassidy was appointed as Adjunct Faculty for the University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences in 2021. She co-coordinated a Quality Improvement project to decrease the time of care from presentation in the ED with acute dizziness to being treated in outpatient physical therapy for UPMC. In addition to treating patients with vestibular/neurological diagnoses full time she is also the co-coordinator of EpicCare education for the Centers for Rehab Services organizing the training of electronic health record documentation within the company and is a staff physical therapist at the UPMC Critical Illness Recovery Center.

Joseph M. Furman, MD, PhD, FAAN

Joseph Furman is a Professor in the Departments of Otolaryngology, Neurology, Bioengineering, and Physical Therapy at the University of Pittsburgh and director of the division of balance disorders at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. His education includes an M.D. and a Ph.D. in Bioengineering from the University of Pennsylvania, a residency in neurology at UCLA, and a fellowship in non-surgical otology at the University of Toronto. Dr. Furman's area of expertise is vestibular function and balance disorders. Dr. Furman is a board certified neurologist, a fellow of the American Academy of Neurology and a member of the American Neurological Association. Dr. Furman's clinical activities include the evaluation of patients with dizziness and disequilibrium and consultation neurology. Dr. Furman's research interests include vestibulo-ocular function in older persons, otolith-ocular reflexes, and migraine-related dizziness. Dr. Furman has received several NIH grants in these research areas and has published over 180 refereed articles.

Michael C. Schubert, PT, PhD, FAPTA

Dr Schubert is Professor in the Department of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery with a joint appointment in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He completed his PhD at the University of Miami and a post-doctoral fellowship at Johns Hopkins University. His clinical focus is treating gaze and gait instability in people with loss of vestibular sensation.  His current research investigates differences in motor learning in the vestibulo-ocular reflex using different types of error signals.  In addition, he is conducting a clinical trial using novel equipment to improve the vestibulo-ocular reflex.  

Michelle R. Petrak, PhD

Dr. Michelle Petrak is the Director of Clinical Audiology and Vestibular Research for Interacoustics. Her primary role is development and clinical validation of new technologies in the vestibular and balance areas. She is located in Chicago where she is a licensed private practice clinical audiologist at Northwest Speech and Hearing (NWSPH). Dr. Petrak received her doctorates in Electrophysiology (1992) and Biomolecular Electronics (1994) from Wayne State University and her Masters in Audiology in 1989. Her special areas of expertise include vestibular and balance assessments and management of the dizzy patient Dr. Petrak is involved with new innovative product developments, clinical evaluations of new protocols, and publishing, teaching and training on the management of patients with dizziness. She continues to lecture extensively nationally and internationally and she has numerous articles published in the hearing industry journals. She also participates on the committees for several doctoral students as support for the research projects.

Terry D. Fife, MD

Dr. Terry Fife is the Director of the Otoneurology and Balance Disorders Program and the Director of Graduate Medical Education (DIO) at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix. He is a Professor of Neurology at the University of Arizona College of Medicine and is board certified in both internal medicine and in neurology. Dr. Fife graduated from University of Arizona magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi with Honors in Chemistry. He graduated from Texas A&M University College of Medicine then completed internal medicine residency training at the University of California, Davis and then trained in neurology at UCLA followed by a fellowship also at UCLA. He specializes otoneurology and has published numerous articles on the topics of vertigo, disorders of balance and equilibrium including cerebellar ataxia, chronic imbalance, hydrocephalus, recurrent falling and syncope.

Patrick J. Sparto, PT, PhD

Patrick Sparto is a Professor in the Departments of Physical Therapy, Otolaryngology and Bioengineering. Dr. Sparto received his Ph.D. degree from Ohio State University in 1998 and completed Master of Physical Therapy degree at the University of Pittsburgh in 1999. He is the founding Co-Director of the DPT-PhD in Bioengineering program at Pitt. He works at the Centers for Rehab Services Vestibular Rehabilitation clinic and is active in the Academy of Neurologic Physical Therapy. Dr. Sparto's fields of interest include neuroimaging of balance and vestibular function, and management of vestibular disorders after concussion. Dr. Sparto has published over 100 refereed articles and has received funding from the NIH, and Department of Defense.

Susan L. Whitney, DPT, PhD, NCS, ATC, FAPTA

Susan L. Whitney, DPT, PhD, NCS, ATC, FAPTA received her PhD in motor development/motor learning from the University of Pittsburgh and her professional physical therapy education from Temple University in Philadelphia, PA.  Currently, she is a professor in physical therapy in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, in the Department of Otolaryngology and the Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh.   Dr. Whitney is supported by the Department of Defense to develop technology for persons with vestibular disorders and to study exercise dosage.  Dr. Whitney has authored or coauthored over 160 articles on Medline and is currently engaged in research related to concussion and persons with balance and vestibular disorders.

Matthew Scherer, PT, PhD, PT, PhD, NCS, LTC

Matthew R Scherer, PT, PhD, NCS received his Masters of Physical Therapy from the U.S. Army Baylor Physical Therapy Program in 2003 and his PhD from the University of Maryland Baltimore in 2010.  He is a Board Certified Neurological Clinical Specialist since 2008.  Currently, he is Military Deputy at the Clinical and Rehabilitative Medicine Research Program in Fort Detrick, MD since 2016.  Dr Scherer has authored or coauthored more than 20 research articles as well as the textbook Physical Therapy for the Polytrauma Casualty with Limb Loss in Care of the Combat Amputee which was published in 2010.  Dr Scherer was the Chair of the Vestibular EDGE Task Force for the APTA from 2012-2014.  He is currently Army Medical Specialist Corps Task Area Manager for TBI and Behavioral Health since 2010.  Dr. Sherer is the project officer for the Military Vestibular Assessment and Rehabilitation course.

Jorge Kattah, MD

Jorge C Kattah, M.D., FAAN.  Received the M.D. form El Colegio Mayor de Neustria Senora Del Rosario, School of Medicine in Bogota, Colombia in 1972, followed by a residency in Neurology at Georgetown University  I 9176 and fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh, at the Eye and Ear Hospital in Neuro-Ophthalmology. He became Professor of Neurology at Georgetown University and moved to the University Of Illinois College Of Medicine in Peoria as Professor and Head of Neurology and Neurosurgery in 1997.  His research focus involves ocular motor function and vestibular medicine in neurologic disorders, particularly the acute vestibular syndrome in stroke, demyelinating diseases, Wernicke’s and mitochondrial disorders. He has over 150 peer review articles and is a co-investigator in the AVERT trial.

Vicky Stewart, PT PhD

Vicky Stewart, BPHTY, PhD received her PhD in vestibular physiotherapy from the Australian Catholic University and her professional physiotherapy education from the University of Queensland, Australia. Currently, Dr. Stewart works as an advanced Physiotherapist at the Gold Coast University Hospital, functioning as a primary contact vestibular physiotherapist for ENT and Neurology services, and secondary contact management post hospital presentation for vestibular disorders. She has over 12 years clinical experience managing individuals with vestibular disorders including in the emergency department through to the outpatient setting.  Dr. Stewart has authored or co-authored 6 articles and has presented at conferences nationally and internationally. 

Eric Anson, PT, PhD

Eric Anson, PT, PhD completed his physical therapy education at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in 2003 and received his PhD in kinesiology in 2015 from the University of Maryland. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship in aging vestibular physiology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. Currently, he is an assistant professor in the Department of Otolaryngology at the University of Rochester. His research interests include age-related changes in vestibular function, the functional impact of vestibular disorders and concussion, and adaptability of vestibular perception in vestibular rehabilitation. Dr. Anson’s research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Foundation for Physical Therapy Research. He has authored or coauthored 29 articles and presented at national and international conferences.

Colin Grove, DPT, PhD, NCS

Colin R. Grove, PT, DPT, PhD received his academic doctorate in Clinical Investigation from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his clinical doctorate in physical therapy from Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. At present, he is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research interests involve understanding the sensory and perceptual challenges to balance and gait in persons with labyrinthine dysfunction. Dr. Grove is a Board-certified Specialist in Neurologic Physical Therapy. For the past 27 years, he has practiced neurologic and vestibular physical therapy at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics.

Britta Smith, DPT, NCS

Britta Smith, PT, MMSc, DPT received her physical therapy degree from Medical College of Georgia and post-professional degrees from Emory University and A.T Still University. She is currently the Therapy Supervisor at Atlanta Medical Center in the Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit, but has also worked in both the acute care and out-patient departments. While she originally provided vestibular rehabilitation in an outpatient setting, her current interest is in the provision of services across the continuum of care, especially very early after the onset of symptoms. Dr. Smith is active in the Vestibular Rehabilitation Special Interest Group and is a historian for the Academy of Neurologic Physical Therapy.

Registration Fees

$650 per module

Note: Participants will be required to register for each module separately. 

Application Process

Pre-requisite Experience:

Certification is limited to licensed physical therapists.

Participants best suited for this experience are:

  • Licensed in good standing in country of origin. Will need to provide copy of license as proof. 
  • Minimum of one year of post-professional vestibular rehabilitation clinical experience

Favorable consideration will be given to applicants with at least one of the following:

  • Graduate of an APTA accredited residency program
  • A certified ABPTS specialist

All candidates are required to submit a Cover Letter and Curriculum Vitae demonstrating credentials and qualifications that meet or exceed the above admission requirements. The enclosed cover letter should indicate the participant’s expectations of the program, desired learning objectives and opportunities for implementing new concepts into clinical practice. 

 If a candidate does not meet the prerequisite admission requirements, s/he can submit evidence of the equivalent of the above criteria subject for approval by our AVPT Advisory Panel through an individual review process. Submit your request and justification with your cover letter in the application linked below. A phone interview may be required. 

APPLY HERE   

working with vestibular PT devices

Cancellation Policy

For cancellations sent before first of the month of the month preceding the AVPT weekend, tuition will be refunded minus a $75.00 administrative fee; cancellations sent after 1st of the month, but before 31st of the month preceding the registered weekend, tuition will be refunded minus a $125.00 administrative fee; no tuition will be refunded for requests sent after 31st of the month preceding the weekend workshop.