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Alumni profile: Dr Stanley Paris

Physiotherapy educator, adventurer, philanthropist and Otago alumnus Stanley Paris (Jnr) graduated from the New Zealand School of Physiotherapy in 1957.

Stanley’s father was also a physiotherapist who trained at what was then the School of Massage and subsequently ran a private practice in Dunedin. Stanley (Jnr) is possessed of a more adventurous spirit which still holds true today as he prepares for yet another attempt to circumnavigate the earth single handed in his yacht.

In 1963 Stanley travelled on a “Workers Compensation Board Spinal Research Award” to observe teaching and practice of osteopathy and chiropractic in North America and the UK. He began teaching courses in the area to colleagues in New Zealand in 1964 as well as writing his first book The Spinal Lesion. From these beginnings, the idea of a manipulative therapy group emerged and the NZMTA was formed in 1968. Stanley has an outstanding international career as a physiotherapist leading the field of manipulation and manual therapy.

He was the founding chairman of the International Federation of Orthopaedic Manipulative Physical Therapists (IFOMT), the international subgroup of the World Confederation for Physical Therapy (WCPT), formed in 1978 and was recognised by WCPT in 2011 with The Mildred Elson Award 'for outstanding leadership contributing significantly to the development of physical therapy internationally’


We spoke with him recently and asked a few questions:
Q. For you, what is special about New Zealand physiotherapy, and the Dunedin or Otago School in particular?
A. Both my father and I graduated from the School in Dunedin and were residents of Dunedin so that makes for a strong connection.
Q. What is your drive in supporting research in the profession, both in the USA and now in New Zealand?
A. Physiotherapy is an art in search of its science. Master clinicians know what works for them on the patients they treat – but how do you pass this on if you don’t know why and how and if you fail to convince others for lack of evidentiary research? We simply don’t have the research to support and refine practice. Too much of what we have consists of posters and presentations but we have few papers with large numbers and controls that would firstly impress payers/insurers and secondarily the medical profession. We may feel that we are a better alternative to many surgeries on the hips and knees and especially the spine but where is the evidence? I seek to support fewer studies but of greater magnitude and depth.
Q. Do you have any other plans for new personal challenges?
A. Last year I bicycled across America and motorcycled its length so this year with a new boat being built in Germany I shall in November launch my third attempt at a solo non-stop non-assisted circumnavigation. After that, I wish to do the Alcatraz to San Francisco swim and two days later try the same swim handcuffed.
Q. What would be your advice to young people considering a career in physiotherapy?
A. Don’t do it for the money for it will never be there. Do it as a caring and meaningful profession that robotics and technology will not be able to replace as is the case with family medicine as we know it today. Its hands on and advisement for wellness and lifestyle. It is all about quality of life for you and for others. I have said many times that medicine and surgery may save lives but no profession speaks to the quality of those lives better than does physiotherapy.