Leslie Russek, an associate professor of physical therapy in Clarkson University's School of Arts & Sciences, was awarded the Distinguished Teaching Award during the University's spring 2019 commencement ceremony today. The $1,500 prize is given "in recognition of the importance of superior teaching." Candidates are nominated for the award by Clarkson alumni and the final selection is made by a faculty committee.
Russek joined the Department of Physical Therapy in 1997 and was instrumental in developing a problem-based learning (PBL) physical therapy program. PBL helps students learn how to be effective as a team, as well as learning physical therapy content through active engagement in patient case studies. Russek trains both students and faculty in how to effectively implement PBL. She teaches foundational sciences and musculoskeletal physical therapy, pain science, and research courses. As part of teaching in the first semester of the Doctor of Physical Therapy program, Russek helps students make the adjustment to the active learning format of PBL, as well as to the demands of a doctoral level health science curriculum. Her teaching extends beyond Clarkson, as she wrote the chronic pain chapter in one of the most widely used physical therapy textbooks.
Russek's research and clinical interests include hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS), fibromyalgia, headaches and chronic pain. She is one of the leading researchers on hEDS in the United States, publishing in the premiere journals for her profession and speaking at many national and international conferences. Her current research includes the use of virtual reality to measure motor control and body awareness, as well as an international collaboration evaluating the potential benefits of Pilates exercise for people with hEDS. The New York Physical Therapy Association Russek awarded her the Robert S. Salant Research Award for past research on headaches. She has fostered human subjects research at Clarkson through her 18 years serving on Clarkson’s Institutional Review Board for human subjects ethics; she served as the chair of the board for six years.
As an Orthopaedic Certified Specialist physical therapist with 28 years of clinical practice experience, Russek is a recognized expert in treating hEDS. Patients travel hundreds of miles to work with her within the Physical Rehabilitation program Canton-Potsdam Hospital. She has been active in the local community as the founder and facilitator of the Potsdam Fibromyalgia/Ehlers-Danlos Support Group, which has served hundreds of people with these conditions over the past two decades. Many people in the Potsdam and Canton communities have seen one of her public lectures on chronic pain, headaches, and fibromyalgia throughout the past two decades. Multiple DPT student teams have worked with her to provide injury prevention workshops for musicians at Crane School of Music and for dancers at SUNY Potsdam. Her service to the community and the profession was recognized with the Dr. Marilyn Moffat Distinguished Service Award from the New York section of the American Physical Therapy Association.
Russek is a 5th degree black belt in Aikido. She started the Clarkson Aikido Club 20 years ago and has trained six Clarkson undergraduate and graduate students to black belt, as well as providing many Clarkson students with an opportunity to learn this non-violent martial art that emphasizes harmony and self-awareness. She was awarded the Clarkson Student Life Award for her activities advising the Aikido Club.
Russek's biomedical engineering expertise contributed to the Wallace T. Coulter Foundation endowment, which included $6.5 million dollars to establish a rehabilitation engineering program at Clarkson. During her first decade at Clarkson, Russek advised multiple engineering student design teams working on devices to benefit people in the community with disabilities.
Russek received her bachelor of arts in applied math from Harvard College, a second bachelor’s degree in physical therapy from the University of Vermont, her clinical doctor of physical therapy from Simmons College, and her Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.