Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

Physiotherapy alumnus receives honorary doctorate

Monday, 28 August 2017 3:34pm

stanley-paris-capping-image-credit-McCrobie
Dr Stanley Paris receives his honorary doctorate from University of Otago Chancellor John Ward at the 19 August graduation ceremony. 

During a long and illustrious career as an educator, adventurer and philanthropist Dr Stanley Paris has added numerous feathers to his cap. Now thanks to his alma mater, he has gained a new cap (and gown) to add feathers to.

The US-based Otago physiotherapy alumnus received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree at the 19 August graduation ceremony, held at Dunedin’s Town Hall.

University Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne says Dr Paris’ devotion to advancing his profession, his appetite for adventure and his generosity of spirit epitomise the “Otago way”.

“Stanley Paris has truly made an overwhelmingly positive mark on his profession. He has been a tireless advocate of physical therapy as something that can transform the quality of people’s lives, and is devoted to ensuring that patients regain as much function as they can, rather than focusing solely on relieving their pain,” Professor Hayne says.

Dr Paris this week told Alumni and Friends he felt very fortunate to be able to financially support research, especially in the area of clinical orthopaedic and manual physiotherapy.

“While medicine and surgery may save lives, no profession speaks to the quality of those lives better than physiotherapy. We need research that both supports this and at the very least improves the quality of the services delivered by physiotherapy,” he says.

Dr Paris says that, over many years, physiotherapy has emerged from being regarded as “at the technician level under the direction of the medical profession”, to its present autonomous position where practitioners’ skills are appreciated; but the field of physiotherapy often lacks research that validates such skills.

“My goal is to help improve clinical skills so that research on our effectiveness encourages the attainment of such skills by the profession.”

Dr Paris also spoke at the graduation ceremony, describing his upbringing and the origins of his entrepreneurial and adventurous bent, and enjoining graduands to defend free speech and always strive for success in their own lives.

“Life is not without risk; it’s just a matter of managing risk. Don’t be frightened of crossing the road, taking further exams or investing financially in a business or real estate opportunity or speculation. To me, failure is to lead a life of mediocrity and that is a sad waste of talent and potential – a potential that this university has helped provide you with.”

Dr Paris attended Otago Boys’ High School before completing studies at the School of Physiotherapy in 1957. He later gained a scholarship to Europe and North America to investigate backache treatment before returning to Dunedin where he instructed at the School, and entered private practice with his father.

He began teaching courses in the area to colleagues in New Zealand in 1964 as well as writing his first book The Spinal Lesion. He has since published more than 40 articles in physical therapy, medical and osteopathic journals.

In 1975, Dr Paris became founding president of the University of St Augustine for Health Sciences in Florida, which now has campuses in California, Florida and Texas.

He is the past founding president of the Orthopaedic Section of the American Physical Therapy Association. He is a leader in the field of manipulation and manual therapy and was the founding chairman and later President of the International Federation of Orthopaedic Manipulative Physical Therapists (IFOMPT).

In 2011 Dr Paris received the World Confederation for Physical Therapy's Mildred Elson Award “for outstanding leadership contributing significantly to the development of physical therapy internationally”.

kiwi-spirit-2012
Dr Stanley Paris at the helm of Kiwi Spirit in 2012

In addition to his professional interests Dr Paris is an athlete and adventurer, and is preparing for a record attempt to become the fastest (and oldest) person to circumnavigate the globe (solo) in a cruising yacht. His attempt will further support the Foundation for Physical Therapy in the US - which he and his wife Catherine Patla gave a $3 million gift earlier this year.

His many sporting pursuits include twice swimming the English Channel and completing the World Championship Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii – all in his later years. Last year he motorcycled 9000 kilometres from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Key West Florida in under seven days and bicycled coast to coast across the United States in 30 days (at the age of 79), to raise funds and awareness for the Foundation.

Staff at Otago’s School of Physiotherapy say they are extremely proud of Dr Stanley Paris - click here to read more.

Click here to read an alumni newsletter q'n'a with Dr Paris