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USM Instructor Wins Prestigious Medical Fitness Award

Mon, 11/25/2019 - 02:34pm | By: Van Arnold

Dr. Melissa Ziegler University of Southern Mississippi (USM) kinesiotherapy instructor Dr. Melissa Ziegler was presented the prestigious 2019 Marla Richmond Memorial Education Award during the Medical Fitness Association’s 29th Annual Conference held earlier this month in Orlando, Fla.

The award is presented to an individual who has been recognized as an exceptional educator. The recipient also has shown significant dedication to the medical fitness industry by disseminating innovative, accurate and accessible exercise science, fitness and wellness information to patients, clients, community and members by means of original or unique written materials or programming.

“I am so privileged and thankful to receive this award. Marla Richmond was acclaimed worldwide as one of the most innovative teachers of her time,” said Ziegler. “I am sure I do not even come close to meeting the criteria, but to be recognized for doing something I love is incredible.”

Kinesiotherapists were the pioneers in using adapted exercise and movement education to help individuals restore muscular strength and endurance thus regaining functional independence. The USM curriculum focuses on the basic assessment and treatment skills that are applied in a variety of clinical settings.

USM’s kinesiotherapy program is a division within the University’s School of Health Professions that operates under the College of Nursing and Health Professions.

Ziegler has been a member of USM’s kinesiotherapy faculty since 2006. For the past 13 years she also served as the Executive Director for the American Kinesiotherapy Association, a non-profit organization based in Hattiesburg, Miss.

“During this period of time she also worked toward the completion of her Ph. D. and was awarded this degree this past year. She is passionate about her teaching and has an excellent rapport with the students in our program,” said Jerry Purvis, Coordinator of USM’s kinesiotherapy program.

A native of Baton Rouge, La., Ziegler earned her bachelor’s degree in human performance with an emphasis in kinesiotherapy from USM. She obtained a Master of Arts in human performance with a specialization in exercise science from the University of Houston-Clearlake in Houston, Texas, before earning her doctorate from USM.

She has been a member of the Medical Fitness Association for the past 10 years and currently serves as the State Captain for Mississippi and chair of the organization’s Fellowship Committee, while also serving on various other MFA committees. Five years ago, she was recognized as an MFA Fellow, the organization’s highest level of membership.

The Medical Fitness Association, a non-profit organization, was formed in 1991 to assist medically integrated health and fitness centers achieve their full potential. The Association is a professional membership organization whose mission is to ascertain and respond to the needs of medically integrated centers throughout the world.

Ziegler points out that her teaching philosophy revolves around personal goals of preparing students to become confident, well-prepared, logical clinicians.

“I believe as an instructor it is my responsibility to instill students with the appropriate problem-solving skills to prepare them for anything they may encounter,” she said. “In exercise and therapy, miracles happen all the time and to give my students the tools to possibly make miracles happen, who would not want to do that every day?”

To learn more about USM’s kinesiotherapy program, call 601.266.5371 or visit: