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Professor Leigh Hale has been awarded the highest physiotherapy honour in New Zealand.

Dean of the School of Physiotherapy Professor Leigh Hale has been made an Honorary Fellow for 2023 by Physiotherapy New Zealand; the highest physiotherapy award bestowed in New Zealand.

Professor Hale is the 16th person to receive the award since its inception in 1965, and says she is overwhelmed with the news.

“I was quite taken aback. It came as a complete surprise and I was overcome to hear that I had received this, but obviously elated too,” Professor Hale says.

“My achievements however have not been in isolation, as I have had stellar mentors and all my research has been undertaken in partnership with others, so this is really a shared award.

“It’s a fantastic way to both end the year and welcome in a new one filled with new possibilities for the School of Physiotherapy.”

Professor Hale received the award for her decorated and dedicated career to the field of physiotherapy, having published more than 170 journal articles, six book chapters, and presented at more than 100 conferences on her research, which has mostly centred around clinical rehabilitation.

She has spent decades researching and contributing to the field of community-based physiotherapeutic rehabilitation for disabled people, and those living with neurological conditions like multiple sclerosis, stroke, dementia, and Parkinson’s, as well those with learning disabilities and older adults.

“My research covers a broad spectrum from developing community falls prevention programmes, through to understanding exercise and physical activity in people with conditions like multiple sclerosis, and even the use of virtual reality in stroke rehabilitation.

“My main goal has always been to use both quantitative and qualitative methodologies to investigate and identify how physiotherapists can enable people to live healthy and engaging lives.”

She has been committed to diversity and equity, especially in the physiotherapy workforce, mentoring and advocating for Māori and Pacific students, something which has led to her receiving numerous Health Research Council (HRC) awards , including a recent HRC programme grant as a co-director.

Professor Hale’s other achievements include being appointed an academic advisor for the Faculty of Health Sciences at the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in 2021; being on the leadership team for the Critical Disability Issues University of Otago Network since 2022; and serving as Chair for the Disability Equity in Health Professional Workforce Task Group. She has been an Editor for the New Zealand Journal of Physiotherapy for eight years, is a past committee member of the Physiotherapy Neurological Special Interest Group and has supervised 26 doctoral students.

Kōrero by the Division of Health Sciences Communications Adviser, Kelsey Schutte.

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