The development of physical therapy in Taiwan began in the 1950's, continued for half a century, and can be divided into three periods: 1) initiation period, 2) foundation-building period, and 3) expansion period.
INITIATION PERIOD (1950-1966)
After the poliomyelitis epidemic broke out in the 1950's, the great demand for physical therapy, brought about by the children with physical handicaps deriving from poliomyelitis attacks, spurred the development of physical therapy in Taiwan. The children, though they survived the epidemic, were left with a permanent imprint on both their physical appearances and mental status.
Simultaneously, as physical therapists, many of the spouses of the United States Military Advisory members volunteered their expertise to render physical therapy to these children and subsequently contributed tremendously to this stage of the physical therapy profession in Taiwan.
In 1958, the staff of the Department of Surgery, National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH), initiated the very first Physical Therapy Room in the 1st west Orthopedic ward. To help patients suffering from the aftermath of the attack of the poliomyelitis epidemic, a few voluntary physical therapists from the United States--Mrs. Gray, Mrs. Saembough, Mrs. Taber, Mrs. Franklin, Mrs. Godston, and Mrs. Eaton--trained the nursing staff to carry out the practice of physical therapy.
In 1960, with the scholarship provided by US Foreign Aid, National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH) also sent two nursing staff--Ms. Pao-yu Jiang, nursing director of 1st west ward, and Mr. Dong-chu Chen, chief nurse--to Osaka University in Japan for physical therapy training. In addition, with international assistance, some other hospitals--Taipei Veteran General Hospital, Cheng Hsing Rehabilitation Center, Ping Dong Christian Hospital, and Chang Hua Christian Hospital--managed to provide physical therapy services and the related personnel training programs.
In 1966, World Health Organization (WHO) sent Dr. Pirker and Mr. Jacques--an Austrian physiatrist and a British physiotherapist respectively--to NTUH for the purpose of training local physical therapy personnel. They also helped set up a physical therapy school and proposed the course contents for National Taiwan University (NTU).
In summary, during the initiation period, the physical therapy profession in Taiwan was first started and assisted by some western foreign physical therapists who also offered training courses to meet the requirements of the physical therapy personnel inside the island in the 1950's. Subsequently, domestic health-care personnel were sent abroad to acquire physical therapy training.
Finally, in 1966, WHO assigned a few specialists to NTU to help establish a college level physical therapy program. Thus, the physical therapy profession in Taiwan was brought into existence with the assistance of some highly developed western nations.
FOUNDATION-BUILDING PERIOD (1967-1984)
In 1970, NTU combined the Physical Therapy Division with the newly established Occupational Therapy Division to form the School of Rehabilitation Medicine, the foreign instructors of which consisted of Mr. Jacques, Mr. Robinson and Mr. Leano.
In 1973, there was an enormous unfavorable impact on the development of the local physical therapy profession after WHO personnel backed out of Taiwan for the reason that Taiwan had withdrawn her membership from the United Nations. At this time, a few domestic physical therapy pioneers assumed the heavy burden of educating the future generations of physical therapists without foreign assistance.
In 1975, local physical therapists realized the importance of quality control for their professional development and thus formally established the Physical Therapy Association of Republic of China (PTAROC), which then took over the role of offering professional continuing education. Many distinguished local and international scholars and clinicians were invited to give lectures and workshops in order to keep the quality of domestic physical therapy up to the international standard.
These scholars and clinicians included Larry Ho, DPT (NTUPT alumnus) and Sally Ho, DPT (NTUPT alumna) as well as Wen Ling, PT, PhD and Mrylin Moffat, PT, PhD (both Professors of the Department of Physical Therapy, New York University), etc. Dr. Moffat later on became the President of American Physical Therapy Association and tremendously contributed to the international exchanges of physical therapy between Taiwan and other countries.
During this period, the PTAROC organized the Asian Confederation of Physical Therapy (ACPT) and energetically participated in activities organized by the World Confederation of Physical Therapy (WCPT), which helped to establish international status for the Taiwan physical therapy profession.
In 1980, together with the efforts of all faculty members of NTUPT School, Wen-Shen Liao, PT, PhD--president of the PTAROC--held the preparatory meeting for the ACPT in Taipei. This was the first international meeting of the physical therapy profession ever held in Taiwan and the meeting was attended by representatives from six countries: Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, and Philippines. In the following year, the ACPT formally began functioning.
In 1982, Wen-Shen Liao, PT, PhD--President of the PTAROC--attended the general assembly of the WCPT in Stockholm, Sweden, and thereafter the PTAROC became a member of the WCPT with our formal national title. Ever since, local physical therapists have been able to broaden their views and experiences with the international advances. Representatives from Taiwan have managed to attend each subsequent annual meeting of the ACPT and WCPT general assemblies, and have presented many significant research papers. In 1992, the fifth general assembly of the ACPT was held in Taipei by the PTAROC.
EXPANSION PERIOD (1985- till now)
International exchanges in this period were more active than those in the previous two periods. At each annual meeting of the ACPT and WCPT general assemblies, Taiwanese representatives not only actively participated in them but also presented many significant findings stemming from their research studies.
Propagating the professional expertise concept and enforcing the continuing education credit system on the local physical therapy profession, the PTAROC invited many renowned international scholars and clinicians to Taiwan--Dr. Helen Hislop, Dr. Joan M. Walker, Dr. M. Moffat, Dr. Patricia E. Sullivan, Dr. Kari Bo, Dr. Simoneau, Dr. Josephine Laycock, Dr Robert J Palisano, Dr Haley, Dr Susan K Effgen, Dr Anthony Delitto, Dr. Daniel Riddle, etc.
In 1985, the Austrian instructors for Bobath approach gave lectures at the NTUPT School. Thirty participants took part in the training course and most of them were incumbent physical therapists. This training course vastly enhanced the local treatment quality of the physical therapy profession for early infancy treatment. In 1991, Sino-American Physical Therapy Symposium was held at Taipei International Convention Center. In 1990, E.M. McKay, general secretary of the WCPT, and its President, Dr. Teager, visited Taiwan.
Additionally, many PT schools here also started to collaborate with foreign institutions. For example, in 1993, the PT School of Yang Ming University signed a contract with New York University to establish international institutional collaboration. In 1990, Dr. Patricia E. Sullivan, Professor of Boston University, offered a PT course at NTUPT School. In 2000, Dr. Joan M. Walker also offered a PT course at NTUPT School.