Dr. Debbie Ingram is among the 2014 Chattanooga Area Women of Distinction honored by the American Lung Association in Tennessee. Those honored were recognized for their professional achievements and commitments to the community.
While she was growing up on a farm in Cleveland, Tennessee, Ingram decided at the age of 13 to become a physical therapist. She had watched her grandmother labor through her daily activities as she suffered with rheumatoid arthritis. Ingram wanted to find a way to help others alleviate their pain.
After 35 years of practice, Ingram says she has never had a day of regret. She began her career at Erlanger Medical Center working with all patient populations. While she served as Erlanger’s Director of Rehabilitation, The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga recruited her to help launch the physical therapy program.
Today, she is works with 90 doctoral students and serves as the Director of Clinical Education, UC Foundation Professor, and Interim Department Head for the physical therapy doctoral program. Ingram says one of her proudest accomplishments is that she has personally taught more than 600 physical therapists who currently practice.
Ingram has an extensive history of service to her profession. She was appointed by Governor McWherter to the Tennessee Board of Occupational and Physical Therapy Examiners. After serving as the chairman of that Board, she was elected as the national vice president of the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy-the organization that creates the licensing exam. She was later elected as the national chairman of clinical education for the American Physical Therapy Association and served on the Education Section’s Board of Directors. At the completion of her term, the Board appointed her as the Federal Affairs Liaison. She and a writing team won the Stanford Award for the most influential physical therapy education publication in 2012.
Ingram has written numerous research publications and she is a frequent speaker at national meetings. She serves on the Public Policy and Advocacy Committee, a 12-member group that is advisory to the American Physical Therapy Association’s Board of Directors. In 2013, Ingram was named a Catherine Worthingham Fellow of the American Physical Therapy Association—the highest honor given by the profession.
Ingram’s passion for volunteerism extends beyond physical therapy. She served as the Hamilton County Chapter President of the University of Tennessee Alumni Association and as a member of the UTC Alumni Board of Directors. In 2006, she was elected to serve as the 2007-08 President of the University of Tennessee National Alumni Association, representing the 335,000 graduates of all campuses. It was the only time in history that the president was a faculty member. Traveling across the country visiting with alumni, Ingram delivered more than 100 speeches promoting the value of higher education and its importance to our state of Tennessee. She delivered the invocation at Neyland Stadium and spoke at commencement ceremonies at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. She encouraged alumni to share their stories of how education changed their lives.
Ingram is the Faculty Athletics Representative at UTC and attends Southern Conference meetings and events. She recently served as the chairman of the search committee for UTC’s new director of athletics.