Elise Townsend, DPT, PhD, PCS

Admission Chair, Associate Professor of Physical Therapy, Associate Director, PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences
Physical Therapy
PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences
(617) 724-6345
Office Location: 
Shouse - 403

Elise Townsend, DPT, PhD, PCS, is Associate Professor and Admission Chair in the Department of Physical Therapy, and Associate Director of the PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences program.

Dr. Elise Townsend is a Board Certified Specialist in Pediatric Physical Therapy with clinical and research interests in management of children with neuromuscular diseases across the lifespan. She has worked in the Pediatric Neuromuscular Clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital and practiced in Early Intervention for children birth to three years of age in Charlestown and East Boston communities. Currently, she works with Kathryn Swoboda, MD, at MGH as a collaborator for research, clinical trials and clinical care for children with Spinal Muscular Atrophy.

Elise teaches in both the DPT and post-professional Masters programs in the areas of pediatrics, motor learning, evidence based practice, directed research, health promotion, and clinical decision making and in the PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences.

Research Interests

  • Physical therapy management of children with neuromuscular disorders


Recent publications:

KJ Krosschell, JT Kissel, EL Townsend, SD Simeone, RZ Zhang, SP Reyna , TO Crawford , MK Schroth , G Acsadi, PS Kishnani, JC von Kleist-Retzow, B Hero; G D’Anjou, EC Smith, B Elsheikh, LR Simard, TW Prior, CB Scott,  B LaSalle, A Sakonju, B Wirth , KJ Swoboda (Under revision, April 2017). Clinical Trial of L-Carnitine and Valproic acid in Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type I.

EL Townsend, C Bibeau, TM Holmes (2016). Supported Standing in Boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Pediatric Physical Therapy 28(3): 320-329.                                   

CA Canapari, N Barrowman, L Hoey, S Walker, EL Townsend, BS Tseng & S Katz (2015). Truncal fat distribution correlates with decreased vital capacity in Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Pediatric Pulmonology 50(1):63-70.

Recent conference presentations:

EL Townsend, SD Simeone, KJ Krosschell, RZ Zhang, KJ Swoboda for the Project Cure SMA Investigator's Network (accepted). Stander use in Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA): Findings from a large natural history study. Poster to be presented at Cure SMA Annual Meeting, Orlando, FL, June 2017.

EL Townsend, K Krosschell, R Zhang, Y Zhang, G Acsadi, T Crawford, G D’Anjou,, J Kissel, M Schroth, S Reyna, K Swoboda (2016). Natural history of timed motor function tests in SMA type 3: Associations between age and motor outcomes. Poster presented at Cure SMA Annual Meeting, Anaheim, CA, June 16, 2016.

J Baldwin, A Hassan, EL Townsend, A McCarthy-Jacobson. Effectiveness of Body Weight Supported Treadmill Training on Gait Speed in the Stroke Population: A Systematic Review. Poster presented by first author at APTA Combined Sections Meeting, Neurology Section, San Diego, CA, January 2013.


BA, Interdisciplinary Studies, University of Virginia
MPT, Physical Therapy, Emory University
DPT, MGH Institute of Health Professions
PhD, Child/Developmental Psychology with Neuroscience minor, University of Minnesota