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Marquette University Alumni Association

College of Health Sciences Award Recipients

Young Alumnus of the Year Award

Dr. Michael L. PuthoffDR. MICHAEL L. PUTHOFF, ARTS '98, PT '00
Bettendorf, Iowa

Michael is an associate professor and director of the Physical Therapy Department at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, but his passion for education expands beyond the university’s walls.

“Over the last year, I have worked very hard to be more involved in the community promoting what physical therapists do and our role in the health care system,” he says. “I have come to find that physical therapists cannot simply expect other people to know what we do or the positive impact we can make in improving patients’ mobility.”

To spread the word, he spoke at national and regional conferences, organized a National Fall Prevention Awareness Day event, planned a Personal Fitness Merit Badge workshop for local Boy Scouts, and participated in a Girls Scouts event. And he made sure that St. Ambrose’s PT students got involved, too.

“The time I spend working with my students is the highlight of my week,” he says. “I enjoy guiding our students in their development to becoming compassionate and highly competent physical therapists.”

St. Ambrose’s students have an excellent role model in Michael. He was just 35 when he was promoted to department director, a role that involves overseeing Ambrose’s doctor of physical therapy program and orthopaedic physical therapy clinical residency program. He studies the impact of cardiac rehabilitation programs on functional abilities and has presented his research nationally.

As a clinical specialist in geriatric physical therapy, he continues to see patients and eventually would like to focus on his program’s geriatric curriculum and interprofessional learning opportunities. “Team work is the key to effective health care delivery,” he says. “I want to take the skill set I am developing as a director and focus on preparing future health care professionals to manage the complex issues facing older adults in the community.”

Hometown: Cincinnati
Favorite book: Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip and Dean Heath. “I really enjoy books about how people think, make decisions and what it really takes to get an individual to change.”
Dream dinner guest: Tom Brokaw
Marquette faculty member who had an impact: “Given my current job as a physical therapy professor, not much time passes that I don’t think about one of my Marquette professors. I have come to appreciate them all based on patients I see, projects at work or what I am teaching in the classroom. … If I was pressed to choose one individual, it would be Dr. Paula Papanek. She motivated us to learn as much as possible. Paula was enthusiastic about teaching and the profession of physical therapy. I really enjoyed her teaching style and interaction with students.”
Favorite Marquette memories: “I always enjoyed the lighting of the Christmas tree outside St. Joan of Arc Chapel. I remember one year it was just the perfect night for the lighting. The temperature was just a bit below freezing, snow was falling and everyone was singing Christmas carols. The Christmas tree looked beautiful in front of the chapel, and it was a great way to celebrate the Christmas season surrounded by friends.”
Career he aspired to in grade school: “I think I always wanted to be in health care or education. My parents were both in health care, and my father was previously in education. As a child (and still today) I look up to my parents, and I wanted to be like them.”
Marquette legacy: “My wife, Diane (Nahra) Puthoff, Arts ’98, graduated with her BA in psychology. Marquette is where we met. My brother, Matthew Puthoff, graduated in 2002 from the College of Communication.”
Most influential people: “My children, Lauren, Nick and Alex, have had the largest influence in my life. As any parent knows, children change your life in unexplainable ways. They challenge me every day to be the best person I can possibly be.”