Dr. Mary Knab’s 28-year tenure has been a model of innovation, collaboration, and fostering success.

Mary Knab was very content being the associate director of physical therapy at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital when she first was contacted by MGH Institute members Leslie Portney, Kathy Gill-Body, and Bette Ann Harris.

Students needed to have better clinical skills to hit the floor running, they told Knab, and they had come up with a solution unique to the profession: a one-year paid internship in which they would be immersed into the daily work of being a physical therapist. But they needed someone with the expertise and knowledge to get the initiative off the ground, and they felt – they knew – Knab would be the perfect fit. 

a group of smiling people pose in front of a "happy retirement" banner
Dr. Mary Knab (5th from left) poses with the Interprofessional IMPACT Practice team.

“I wasn't thinking I wanted to become an academic coordinator of clinical education,” recalled Dr. Knab. “But I listened to what they told me and became convinced that the IHP would be doing physical therapy education differently.” 

Knab began meeting with clinical managers and administrators, explaining the school’s vision and putting together the nation’s first internship that to this day is one of the things that sets the program apart. 

“While dozens and dozens of schools have tried to copy it and to match it, no one’s been able to,” said Dr. Portney. “It wasn't because they didn't have resources. They didn't have one thing.  They didn't have Mary.” 

Portney was one of several people who spoke at Knab’s retirement party on January 12. In a room filled with current and former colleagues, along with her wife Joan Kargel, Knab was warmly recognized for her myriad accomplishments during a 28-year career at the IHP. It included her being named an associate professor emerita.  

“You really have shown what it means to be not only an exemplary scholar, but also someone who cares about the success of others and works very hard to facilitate their success,” said Dr. Reamer Bushardt, the school’s Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs.

Dr. Peter Cahn, Associate Provost for Academic Affairs, pointed to Knab’s work revitalizing the school’s interprofessional education focus when in 2012 she joined the new Center for Interprofessional Studies and Innovation as inaugural director of IMPACT Practice, IHP’s interprofessional innovation initiative, and eventually Associate Provost for Interprofessional Education and Practice. Under Knab’s direction, the school’s disparate client centers were brought under one roof as the Sanders IMPACT Practice Center. Today, the Marjorie Ionta Physical Therapy Center, Julie Atwood Speech, Language and Language Center, Aphasia Center, Tabor/Connor Family Occupational Therapy Center, and Ruth Sleeper Nursing Center comprise a robust group of centers where students under faculty supervision provide more than $1 million in free care to community residents. 

She also developed a three-part series of required courses of team-based interprofessional education experiences focused on developing core competencies for collaborative practice, helped create three Interprofessional Dedicated Education Units at Massachusetts General Hospital, and implemented the school’s annual Community IMPACT service day – all of which regularly brings together students from the school’s direct-entry programs to learn with, from, and about one another while acquiring the team-based skills that studies show improve patient outcomes.  

Add in her work authoring and assisting in research publications and presentations on the school’s interprofessional focus, plus becoming a recognized leader in developing innovative and effective clinical education models, and it’s clear Knab has made her own impact on the Institute. “I feel good because I know that interprofessional practice and education is a core value here at the Institute and is really in such good hands,” she said. 

For her part, the ever-humble Knab deflected her accomplishments, preferring to thank and compliment all the people with whom she has collaborated during her IHP tenure.  

“I look around this room and I think how much it's been about all the mentors I’ve had through the years, the teamwork and sharing ideas and sharing our energy and working together to create really wonderful things here,” she told the audience. “I’ve been able to stand on the shoulders of so many others who have done such great work and I’m fortunate to have been able to contribute to that. I feel like it’s something that I've learned from and something that I've contributed to, and I do feel good about what we’ve done together.”