Deb LarsenDr. Deb Larsen, the Director for the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, was featured on the Wexner Medical Center's employee page, Behind the Badge. This feature provides the faculty and staff of the Medical Center, College of Medicine, and the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences a professional and personal look into our leaders.

What is your official job title?

Director, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences
Associate Dean, College of Medicine

How long have you worked here?

28 years as a faculty member, 12 in my current role, one as interim director, nine as director of the physical therapy (PT) program, and six as a faculty member. I was also a PT at Nisonger Center for two years before returning to school to get my PhD. 

What is your favorite part of your job?

Hiring new faculty, creating an environment to help them succeed, and watching them flourish in their positions.

Please describe your typical day.

I’m not sure that I have a typical day, but I typically arrive on campus about 7-7:30 a.m. and start my day with a Diet Coke (or three) and answering emails. I often have a number of meetings throughout each day to accomplish the business of the school, meeting with faculty, program directors or colleagues from medicine or other colleges, as well as university leadership. I teach one day per week and am also a STEP faculty mentor, meeting with a group of 15 sophomore students once weekly. I try to spend a day per week conducting research or writing; I edited a textbook, entitled “Neurologic Rehabilitation: Neuroscience and Neuroplasticity in Physical Therapy Practice,” which was published in 2016. I wrote all or part of 11 chapters, and we will likely be working on a second edition in the next year or two. I’m also very involved in my national professional organizations, recently completing a six-year term as president of the Academy of Neurologic Physical Therapy. 

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I initially thought I wanted to be a nurse, but after a year of volunteering as a candy striper in an ICU, I determined that was not what I wanted to do — too many needles and tubes. By the age of 16, I knew that I wanted to be a pediatric physical therapist, and that is what I did for 18 years of my career.

If you could have a meal with three famous people (living or dead), who would they be?

Condoleezza Rice — I think she’s brilliant; Anne Frank — I’d love to know how she could be so brave in such an unbearable circumstance; and Tom Hanks — I simply love his movies, and he seems to be such a nice person.

What would your perfect day be like?

Perfect days for me are at our lake house with my sons and their families, a little swimming, a little boating, a little paddleboarding, and good food, most of which I prepare. I love to cook and love family.

Where did you grow up?

Vandalia, Ohio, just north of Dayton.

What qualities do you admire most in a person?

Honesty, integrity, sense of humor

What is your favorite book?

I am an avid reader, so picking a favorite book is impossible for me. I love suspense and thrillers and historical novels (e.g., James Patterson, Herman Wouk).

Are you a morning or night person?

I am more of a morning person now. I used to do most of my work late at night until I couldn’t stay awake any longer; now it’s morning.

Where did you go to college?

BS — The Ohio State University (physical therapy)
MEd — University of Toledo (child development)
PhD — The Ohio State University (behavioral neuroscience)

What was your first job?

My true first job was washing bottles for my dad’s pharmacy at the age of nine; he paid two cents/bottle (it cost him three cents to buy new). He definitely developed my work ethic. My professional first job was as a staff physical therapist at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Toledo, Ohio.

What is your favorite band and/or favorite song of all time?

The Eagles were probably my favorite band of all time; a group of friends and I saw them again in 2016, right before Glenn Frey died. They sounded just the same as I remembered from the 70s.

Can you play any musical instruments?

Piano, poorly, despite 10 years of lessons.

What keeps you up at night?

Faculty, staff and student issues

What is your favorite food?

Pizza; I’d like to say something like broccoli or kale, but it’s really pizza — simple with pepperoni and a thin crust.

What is your proudest moment?

Personally, being a mom, raising two sons to be wonderful fathers and husbands. Professionally, being named a Catherine Worthingham Fellow of the American Physical Therapy Association.

Is there anything you have recently learned about the medical center?
A friend recently had a lung transplant, which was immediately successful; by the next day, she was breathing better than she had in years. I was somewhat surprised that they only needed to replace one lung to make such a difference. She raved about her wonderful experience at the Ross.

Who is your hero?

My dad. He was the first in his family to go to college, became a pharmacist, owned two independent stores, worked 13 hours a day, seven days per week in his early professional years but still found time to be a great father.

What makes you laugh the most?

My grandchildren; they come up with the funniest things.

What was your favorite TV show when growing up?

Bonanza

If you could have any one superpower, which would you choose?

Mind reading — it would help me so much to know what people are really thinking, not just what they’re willing to say.

What is one thing you wish others knew about you?

I’d rather people know that the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences is the home to 2,000+ students, 13 academic programs and incredible faculty and staff, teaching over 30,000 credits per year and generating over $8 million in annualized research funding. I’m somewhat surprised that, although the school has been part of the college for 52 years, many of the OSUWMC faculty and staff don’t realize it. I am so proud of this wonderful family of faculty and staff and our amazing students; they bring me such joy and satisfaction!

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