Emory University | Woodruff Health Sciences Center
Bookmark and Share

A Winning Clinical Instructor

Story Photo

About once a year for the past 39 years, Toni Olliff has welcomed a new physical therapy student into her work home at Emory. It’s no small commitment. Olliff then spends the next eight to 12 weeks mentoring each student individually, providing the same level of attention to the intern’s training as she does to the outpatient neurology patients they then treat together. “It’s a lot of responsibility,” says Olliff. “I like to discuss clinical issues with the student each day. If my student is treating a patient, then I want to be right there with them.”

Now, Emory’s Division of Physical Therapy is honoring Olliff’s mentoring with its first annual Outstanding Clinical Instructor Award. The award has been created to recognize clinical instructors like Olliff who show an extraordinary dedication to mentoring students in a way that cultivates critical thinking skills, fosters patient-centered care, and builds enthusiasm for lifelong learning.

Olliff is an ideal clinical instructor, says Tami Phillips, PT, DPT, MBA, NCS, assistant professor and assistant director of clinical education. “Toni is exceptional,” says Phillips. “She is able and willing to tailor a clinical experience for all types and levels of learners.”

Toni Olliff began supervising physical therapy students in 1977, when she was just a year out of her own physical therapy program. She has spent her career at Emory, working with patients who’ve experienced strokes and head injuries. The patients are often catastrophically impaired, but Olliff relishes the challenge. “Neuro is hard to treat in physical therapy,” she says. “There is no cookie-cutter treatment because no one is the same. It takes critical thinking to work with these patients.”

As for the reward for all her work with Emory physical students? Says Olliff, “It feels good to let go and see students work successfully with what they’ve learned.”

Email the editor