Emory Report
April 3, 2006
Volume 58, Number 25


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April 3, 2006
Balancing Act: Physical therapy professor on the move

By alfred charles

So what? if I have no legs
I have a head to think
And hands to toil
I look at them—
Those disabled minds
To think of me as nothing
I pity them for looking down at me
Even more, for not looking down at themselves
God bless them
Them—the disabled souls.

Excerpt from Disabled Souls Zoher Kapasi

By all accounts, Zoher Kapasi is a modern day Renaissance man.

Consider the evidence: He is an associate professor of physical therapy in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine who also happens to be associate director of the physical therapy program in the Center for Rehabilitation Medicine; he has earned a Ph.D. in anatomy and is a licensed physical therapist in the state of Georgia; he is a small business owner; a published author of poetry; and, if that wasn’t enough, he is about a month shy of earning a modular executive MBA from Goizueta Business School.

Considering the fact that since he moved to the United States just 19 years ago, Kapasi has racked up an impressive list of achievements, rooted in his passion for academia.

“I love learning,” he said, just a few days before traveling to Europe for a 10-day trip that is part of his MBA degree work. “And I have a lot of interests.”

Kapasi, 42, serves as a prime example of someone who has taken advantage of his position at Emory. He is using the University’s Courtesy Scholarship to defray the costs of obtaining his MBA. And Kapasi believes his decision to obtain an MBA will make it easier for him to advance his career, hopefully going one day from associate director to director.

For Kapasi, a gentle man with an engaging personality, the journey to his future began in India, his native country. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in 1983 and a master’s degree three years later at the University of Bombay in India. Kapasi decided to move to America to obtain a doctorate because his university did not offer the degree in his field.

He enrolled at the Medical College of Virginia, earning a Ph.D. in 1991. While doing postdoc work, he was recruited in the fall of 1994 to Emory, lured by the dual prospect of being able to perform research while also teaching.

“One can only do so much teaching,” he said. “Research keeps me occupied.”

Kapasi has found his niche in Emory’s physical therapy department, but about two years ago he ventured out of the School of Medicine and landed in the business school, where he is taking on another role: student.

Through Goizueta’s modular executive MBA program, he is scheduled to receive his degree in May. Its rigorous course work requires students to devote a complete week every month to their studies for 20 months during classes that meet every quarter. When classes are not in session, students are still engaged through online curricula or post-lecture assignments.

So the question becomes: Why would Kapasi, who already holds a number of degrees and a works very busy full-time job as a physical therapy administrator and professor, take on the challenge of obtaining another advanced degree?

“I have always been interested in administration,” said Kapasi. “It’s not so much ambition, but it’s what my heart wants to do. I feel I can do it and be good at it.”

It appears that Kapasi has found success as a business student.

“He brought some outstanding insights to the classroom,” recalls Rich Makadok, a Goizueta faculty member who taught Kapasi during a class titled “Strategic and Competitive Analysis.” “He was a very strong contributor to class discussion.”

In a practical sense, Kapasi maintains that earning an MBA will affirm his management skills, abilities he believes are vital for any physical therapist to have because many of them operate their own practices. It is a belief Kapasi knows first hand because he and his wife, Manisha, own and manage two physical therapy clinics in Gwinnett County.

Kapasi said his wife does the heavy lifting in the clinics’ operation. Even so, he is available to help out when needed.

From his own experience at his clinics, Kapasi has learned that physical therapists should have a command of basic business skills in order to succeed.

“If we don’t give our physical therapy students entrepreneurial skills, they are not going to thrive,” he said. “It does us no good to train these people in physical therapy and then not train them on how to market their skills.”

To that end, Kapasi has partnered with administrators at Goizueta to create two new initiatives for physical therapy students.

One is an elective class, akin to Business 101, which health students would take in their final semester. It would teach students rudimentary business and management skills, such as how to read financial statements. Kapasi said he hopes the class will be available to students by spring 2007.

The other initiative is a dual degree that would confer a Ph.D. in physical therapy and an MBA to students who complete the specialized program.

Said Kapasi: “A lot of physical therapists do move on to administrative positions, and I think [this degree program] gives our students more opportunities.”

The dual degree offering is in the final stages of administrative planning and could be a reality by this fall.
In his spare time, Kapasi also has his hands full. He is a husband and a father of a 4-year-old girl who has a lot of energy.

“A lot of my time is spent playing with my 4-year-old,” said Kapasi, adding that he likes to read and watch movies when he can. “She keeps me busy.”

Kapasi does manage to squeeze in time to write poetry. One of his poems has been published in “O, Georgia,” a collection of writings by fledgling authors. Kapasi’s poem is titled “Disabled Souls,” and, as befits a physical therapist, tells the story of a wheelchair-bound protagonist who has to manage life without legs.