DPT Program Faculty

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Dr. Kathye Light

Dr. Kathye Light

Professor, Department Chair

Dr. Light,  Founding Chair of the Department of Physical Therapy has been at Brenau since July of 2013.  She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Therapy, a Master’s Degree in Physical Therapy and a PhD in Motor Control Neuroscience.  Dr. Light is a member of the American Physical Therapy Association, the Gerontological Society of America, and the American Geriatrics Society.  Dr. Light is an experienced academician and researcher with numerous peer-reviewed publications and research grants to her credit.  Dr. Light is well known in the field of physical therapy, having presented her research work nationally and internationally.

Dr. Mary Thigpen

Dr. Mary Thigpen

Associate Professor, Director of Clinical Education

Dr. Mary Thigpen joined the Brenau physical therapy  faculty as an Associate Professor  in August of 2013.   Dr. Thigpen has been practicing as a physical therapist since 1979, and became a board certified clinical specialist in neurology in 1994.  She returned to graduate school in 1996, and received her doctoral degree from the University of Florida in motor behavior in 2000.  She comes to Brenau with the following mission:  “My professional mission is to construct a meaningful career dedicated to the patient, the student, and the science of movement.  Through the combined roles of clinical practitioner, physical therapy teacher, and clinical researcher I am committed to an integrated approach that will serve the individual, and society.  My primary research interest is to investigate mobility constraints and potential intervention strategies in individuals with movement limitations.  My overall career goal is to inspire my students to be dedicated to improving the quality of life of those they treat through evidence-based practice,  applied scientific inquiry, and community outreach.”

Dr. James (Jim) Lewis

Dr. James Lewis

Associate Professor

Dr. James (Jim) Lewis graduated in 1988 from the University of Georgia majoring in exercise and sports science and obtaining his certification and license as an athletic trainer. His successful accomplishments at this undergraduate level allowed the opportunity to pursue his PT degree from Georgia State University graduating in 1990. Dr. Lewis holds his license in the state of Georgia and has been practicing PT for 21 years in the out-patient setting. He is a member of the APTA and the education section with service currently as a federal affairs liaison. His experience includes a focus on orthopaedics and joint related injury of the spine and extremities. He has 8 years of experience in management including overseeing the startup and operations of two clinics. He returned to school and completed his DPT from Boston University in January of 2007 and began his teaching career in January 2010 as a part time instructor at GSU transitioning to a full time faculty position in May of 2010. He has since taught in gross and functional anatomy including lab with a focus on joint anatomy, osteokinematics and arthrokinematic. Dr. Lewis’ past experience in the clinic and continuing education in relation to the evaluation and treatment of joint pathologies has prepared his ability to teach in this area and serves to enhance the students learning experience to apply the knowledge concepts of anatomy in preparation for their future work in PT.

Heather Ross

Dr. Heather Ross

Associate Professor

Heather Ross is an Associate Professor in the Department of Physical Therapy at the Brenau University College of Health Sciences.   Dr. Ross earned a Ph.D. in Anatomy and Neurobiology from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2006. She then worked as a postdoctoral fellow for Dr. Eric Laywell in the University of Florida’s Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology. From 2009 until 2015, Dr. Ross served on the faculty of the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of Florida. There, she was named a K12 Scholar on the Rehabilitation Research Career Development Program. Dr. Ross’s research interests are centered on the combinatorial approach of neural stem/progenitor cell therapies and rehabilitation strategies following neural insult. Specifically, Dr. Ross is studying whether progenitor cell transplant coupled with cell- and systemic-based modulation, including rehabilitation approaches, can synergize to optimally promote recovery following spinal cord injury. Dr. Ross is author or co-author on several manuscripts, book chapters, or NCBI DNA submissions.  Current grant support is from the Foundation for Physical Therapy Pilot Grant Program.

Dr. Tracy Wright

Dr. Tracy Wright

Assistant Professor, Assistant Director of Clinical Education

Dr. Wright graduated with her Bachelor’s degree in Physical Therapy from the University of Florida in 1997 and then later obtained her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from Simmons College in 2012. Dr. Wright’s qualifications include 17 years of clinical practice in neurological and geriatric rehabilitation settings.  She held physical therapy staff positions in Shepherd Center’s Acquired Brain Injury inpatient and outpatient programs for a period of 5 years.  She mentored other staff in the use of Functional Electrical Stimulation devices such as the RT300 bike and the Bioness L300 along with use of modalities for pain management.  She also provided multiple in-services to staff throughout the Acquired Brain Injury Program in various neurorehabilitation treatment techniques.  She completed a competency based course in Vestibular Rehabilitation in 2006 and completed specialized training in Locomotor Training through her participation as a research clinician at the Shepherd Center in 1999 and then again as an Activities Based Therapist in 2011.  In her clinical practice and in her role as Clinical Educator at Shepherd Center she also focused on addressing the challenges of integrating new rehabilitation technology into a rehabilitation setting.

She received her credentialing as an APTA Clinical Instructor in 2000 and was clinical instructor for multiple physical therapy students.   As Clinical Educator of Physical Therapy for Shepherd Center’s Acquired Brain Injury Outpatient and Day Program she was responsible for coordinating the clinical education of students as well as developing professional development opportunities for staff therapists.  She also mentored new staff in identifying areas of clinical interest.  Dr. Wright is a guest lecturer for DPT and PTA programs in Geriatrics and Neurorehabilitation courses and has clinical areas of interest in the treatment of Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases affecting the Geriatric patient population.  Dr. Wright plans to pursue her APTA Geriatrics Clinical Specialty in the next year. She is a current member of the American Physical Therapy Association, APTA Geriatric Section member and a Physical Therapy of Association of Georgia Member. She is currently licensed in the state of Georgia, PT license.

Bob Cantu

Dr. Robert Cantu

Assistant Professor

Dr. Robert (Bob) Cantu joined the Brenau physical therapy faculty in August of 2015. He has been practicing physical therapy since 1979, and has been involved in the physical therapy continuing education arena since 1988. He has holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Therapy, a Master of Medical Science Degree in Physical Therapy, a Master’s of Business Administration degree and an EdD degree concentrating on Health Care Education and Organizational Leadership. His doctoral work was heavily influenced by his experience functioning in both the clinical and business arenas of the physical therapy industry and his involvement in growing and managing a physical therapy business in Georgia.

Dr. Cantu has authored a textbook and numerous other chapters in the area of Myofascial Manipulation. His primary areas of practice and interest have been orthopedic physical therapy, manual/manipulative therapy of the spine and extremities, dry needling, and temporomandibular joint disorders. His other areas of interest include the ethical dynamics that occur at the interface of clinical practice and business. His primary goal in coming to Brenau University was to “help train physical therapists who can have satisfying and successful careers by providing excellent and compassionate care in a changing and challenging health care delivery environment.”


Effective November 12, 2014, Brenau University has been granted Candidate for Accreditation status by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), (1111 North Fairfax Street, Alexandria, VA  22314; phone: 703-706-3245; email:  accreditation@apta.org).  Candidate for Accreditation is a pre-accreditation status of affiliation with the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education that indicates that the program may matriculate students in technical/professional courses and that the program is progressing toward accreditation.  Candidate for Accreditation is not an accreditation status nor does it assure eventual accreditation.

Accreditation links:
Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education

Contact Information:

The Department of Physical Therapy is located at:
the Brenau Downtown Center
301 Main St. SW
Gainesville, Georgia, 30501.

Melissa Tavilla
Department of Physical Therapy
Brenau University
College of Health Sciences
Office:  678-971-1832
Fax:  678-971-1834

General inquiries: info@brenau.edu, (770) 534-6299 or (800) 252-5119 | Admissions: admissions@brenau.edu, (770) 534-6100 or (800) 252-5119 ext. 6100