James Gordon has received the highest honor bestowed by the American Physical Therapy Association when he delivered the 45th Mary McMillan Lecture at the association’s annual conference in June.

Gordon, associate dean and division chair for the USC Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy, is the fourth Trojan to have that distinction, following in the footsteps of Margaret Rood (1969), Helen Hislop (1975) and Carolee Winstein (2009).

Deriving inspiration from Hislop’s speech, “The Not-So-Impossible Dream” — a game-changer for physical therapy with its push toward research and knowledge creation — Gordon used a part of her quote, “If greatness is a goal, it will take great thinking and consummate honesty to achieve it,” for the title of his lecture.

Gordon noted that the speech coincided with the 40th anniversary of his having received a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy from the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center, and he noted the quantum leap the profession has made since.

“Not in his wildest psychedelic dreams would our 1974 RPT [Registered Physical Therapist] have imagined that a physical therapist would ever graduate with a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree,” he said in his speech. “The DPTs who graduate in 2014 have so much more knowledge, skill and expertise than the RPTs who graduated in 1974 that it almost seems a different profession.”

Underscoring the profession’s evolution, Gordon compared a 1974 Physical Therapy journal to one from 2014, noting that only 12 percent of the articles were of original research 40 years ago whereas 78 percent are today.

He also pointed out that the number of physical therapy educators with PhDs had increased 25-fold in the 40-year gap, according to the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education.

— John  Hobbs