To advance global excellence in abdominal and pelvic health through evidence-based practice, innovative education, research, and social responsibility.
As a global authority in abdominal and pelvic health, we transform society by empowering professionals and people everywhere.
Research & Knowledge
Who We Are
The Academy of Pelvic Health Physical Therapy (formerly Section on Women’s Health) is a 501 (c) (6) non-profit professional association of more than 3,700 physical therapists (PTs), physical therapist assistants (PTAs), and student physical therapists (SPTs). Members provide the latest evidence-based physical therapy services to everyone from childbearing women to peri-menopausal mothers, young athletes to men with incontinence or other pelvic health complications. We host nationwide education courses, certifications, and Clinical Practice Guidelines for our members and patients. Additionally, we offer resources like a PT Locator directory, lab training in pelvic and abdominal health physical therapy, career tools, networking opportunities, and access to the Journal on Women’s Health Physical Therapy with membership.
The Academy is driven by its mission and measures its success in fulfilling the mission-related goals of its strategic plan developed by the elected board members. Governance provides the vision and direction to ensure that an organization is on the right path. The responsibility for governing an association rests with a volunteer board of directors, operating according to the association’s bylaws and working in collaboration with the association’s Executive Director to set the strategic direction, allocate necessary resources and make key decisions that association staff then implement to meet member needs and execute the strategic plan. Volunteer leadership is distributed among committees, task forces, and other groups, making volunteer management an important operational function that supports different pillars of the strategic plan.
Elizabeth Noble founded the Academy of Pelvic Health Physical Therapy (formerly called Section on Women’s Health of the American Physical Therapy Association) in 1977 under the original name of the Section on Obstetrics and Gynecology. The professional association served as a resource for continuing education and knowledge needed by physical therapists interested in healthcare of women before, during and after pregnancy. Click on the timeline below to explore our journey from the past to the present.
Members voted to change the Section name in 1995 to Section on Women’s Health to mark the specialized education required to address women’s physical therapy needs. In 2011, the organization updated its mission and vision statements to recognize SoWH members who also treat males affected by incontinence, pelvic pain, fibromyalgia and osteoporosis.
In 2011, the organization updated its mission and vision statements to recognize SoWH members who also treat males affected by incontinence, pelvic pain, fibromyalgia and osteoporosis.
In July 2014, Section on Women’s Health Board of Directors approve the creation of the Name Change Task Force based upon member feedback. The NCTF Task force was created and included: Carrie Pagliano – Chair, Jill Boissonnault, Secili DeStefano, Dan Kirages, Rebecca Stephenson, Mikki Townshend, Tamra Wroblesky. View the full history of the Name Change journey.
In 2015, the task force IDs the purpose, overview of our history, considerations moving forward (Academy, role internationally, DSP) ID additional member feedback opportunities. Section on Women’s Health conducts the first Name Change Membership survey. The Name Change Task Force created and distributed a survey to ask members if they are in favor of a potential name change. Based upon member interest in a name change, the Name Change Task Force asks itself whether a consultant is needed to move forward. Identifies need for Consultant. Requests support from BoD. The Name Change Task Force has been tasked with exploring a potential name change for the Section on Women’s Health (SoWH). The Task Force is gathering information from current practitioners regarding a potential name change. The SoWH Board selects Navigate Strategies as the Name Change and Branding consultant.
In 2016, thought leader discovery interviews were conducted with Navigate Strategies at CSM 2016 and the Name Change Town Hall at the General Business Meeting. The consultant develops a survey to distribute to the membership resulting in 314 member responses. The survey addressed what is important to section members. Consultant looks into the description of specialty practice (DSP) and reviews pilot study. Initial pilot data points to variability in practice patterns compared to 10 years ago. The task force submits initial branding proposal to the SoWH board for review at their Summer Board Meeting. The SOWH Board of Directors draft new mission, vison and strategic plan. The Board of Directors to roll out to the membership.
In 2017, the Board gathers input from APTA regarding bylaws change (must vote in person at CSM on name change/bylaw change per our own bylaws). Call with Women’s, Men’s, and Pelvic Health, Physiotherapy AUS, representatives from IOPTWH and Navigate consulting to review their recent name change and decision process. ABPTS raw data from DSP Revalidation Study demonstrates significant change in the number of therapists working with populations other than women, especially men. The Name Change Task Force finalizes list from 9 names to 4-5 for final review. NCTF unanimously votes to submit “Academy of Women’s, Men’s and Pelvic Health Physical Therapy” as recommendation for SoWH BoD approval. Acronym will be identified pending membership approval. The SOWH Board of Directors supports recommended name change and distributes membership survey to get members’ input.
The Board meets to review inconclusive survey results; Votes to not move forward with proposed name- Academy of Women’s Men’s & Pelvic Health Physical Therapy. NCTF sunsetted with final recommendations given to Board in June 2017.
In 2018, the Board meets at CSM New Orleans facilitated by Susan Iris of Navigate. Reviews past survey data, membership share & care forms, past feedback/NCTF, town hall input. Consideration of who versus what we treat versus who and what. Based on survey results, the Board share name change proposal and rationale to the membership for the name, “Academy of Pelvic Health Physical Therapy.” The Board submits the name change request to the APTA for approval.
In 2019, the APTA board approve the new name and the SoWH holds membership vote.
Results of the 2019 SoWH Name Change vote is the following:
- 65.3% (457 votes) of eligible SoWH Members voted: “YES – I approve this name change”
- 33.1% (232 votes) of eligible SoWH Members voted: “NO – I do not approve this name change”
- 1.6% (11 votes) of eligible SoWH Members voted: “ABSTAIN – I abstain from voting”
- One (1) SoWH Member submitted a blank ballot without selecting any of the options (YES, NO, or ABSTAIN) which was counted as an invalid vote.
SoWH is now working on establishing itself as Academy of Pelvic Health Physical Therapy starting January 2020.
The Section on Women’s Health, founded in 1977 as the Section on Obstetrics and Gynecology, has a long and rich history of practitioners unafraid to break new ground in patient care and advocacy. These trailblazers were champions for women PTs and PTAs, seeking more research on the female anatomy and an increase in representation by women as content leaders, faculty, article writers and researchers in APTA’s leadership communities. This trailblazing legacy is the foundation for the bond all our members share today.
The name change represents an evolution of the Section on Women’s Health. The passion, vision and willingness to forge new paths inherent in women’s health physical therapists allowed our specialty to grow and thrive. This next part of our journey embraces those same characteristics, and ensures our core value of inclusiveness is apparent to both practitioners and patients. By placing the focus on what we treat, we will help reduce barriers to access.
What will not change is our commitments to education, excellence and advocacy in support of women’s health. The Section will provide cutting-edge content, best practices, residency and fellowship program support and tools for continued advancement in prevention and treatment.
The term “academy” is also a better descriptor for the organization’s current role as an expert body in healthcare provider issues related to healthcare and payment reform. It also embodies how we serve as liaisons to various external groups. The time is now to make the name change that better reflects the Section’s role internally and externally and that better aligns with the mission, vision and strategic plan of the Section.
The Academy of Pelvic Health Physical Therapy (APTA Pelvic Health) continues to focus on its role as a vital resource for physical therapists interested in continuing education, research and lab training from leading physical therapists. Members also receive the Journal of Women’s Health Physical Therapy, networking opportunities, a voice in advocating for physical therapy patients and the profession, specialized sessions at APTA conferences and more.
Today, however, the scope of practice for more than 3,500 SoWH members has widened to include myriad health abdominal and pelvic concerns of women, men and children: incontinence, pelvic/vaginal pain, prenatal and postpartum musculoskeletal pain, osteoporosis, rehabilitation following breast surgery, lower back pain, lymphedema, conditions specific to the female athlete, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, wellness and exercise.