Thursday, September 22, 2022

The Program in Physical Therapy celebrates Cheryl Cavallo

Dr. Cheryl Cavallo (center) pictured at Hustle For Your Health.
Kim Levenhagen (far left) and Gloria Schwartz (right)

This week is a busy week here in the Program in Physical Therapy.  Friday is the kickoff of Homecoming 2022 at Saint Louis University.  For the past 21 years, the Program in Physical Therapy has sponsored Hustle for Your Health.  Dr. Cheryl Cavallo was a long-time supporter of Hustle for Your Health (H4YH), coordinating the event for 11 years (pictured above in the middle, green shirt) before losing her courageous battle with cancer in 2013.  The faculty and staff have warm and bright memories of Cheryl.

Dr. Cavallo is remembered by many as the epitome of professionalism, excellence, and drive.  She was a servant leader -- the physical therapist, the faculty member, who was the first to arrive and the last to leave.  In the words of Dr. Barb Yemm, “Cheryl was the will of the department.”  She led by example and that example was the high bar of excellence.  She was clear in her high expectations and standards. Many students were initially intimidated by her intensity but awestruck by her compassionate dedication to their education.  She committed countless hours to the students to ensure that each student had many opportunities to reach those expectations.  

Dr. Cheryl Cavallo pictured with faculty and staff of Doisy College of Health Sciences (2011)

Former students recall many lessons they learned from her, not through classes or clinical instruction, but from her heart.  Dr. Cavallo taught her students to…

kneel down when speaking to someone in a wheelchair to look directly into their eyes and be on the same level with them; 

have patience when listening to people, no matter how long it took them to form the words; 

listen to patients with our eyes so we observe their faces when they speak and see what their lips do not always share;

recognize that the mind and hands are the most valuable tools that a therapist will ever possess, but if not used with the heart, they are ineffective; 

never give up on patients no matter how devastating their prognosis, and to never let them give up on themselves; 

maintain a patient’s dignity while cleaning them up after an accident – this is more beneficial to the patient than an entire day spent in physical therapy; 

And she taught her students that helping someone in need is the greatest gift that could be given because it is the right thing to do.  

She gave selflessly in all areas.  

Even physically in the classroom…Gait training on the stairwell with Dr. Cavallo role playing the patient was a real experience.  If the student was to be practicing appropriate guarding of the patient who had a fall risk, then Dr. Cavallo would embody that role as a patient and actually fall!  Many SLU graduates today will never lose focus when guarding a patient thanks to Dr. Cavallo’s portrayal of the patient.  
Dr. Cheryl Cavallo pictured with Dr. Randy Richter and Diane Richter (2011) 

She lived the Jesuit mission every day by giving back to those less fortunate.  Cheryl participated in mission trips to Haiti and El Salvador.  She was extremely passionate about student involvement in service trips. Cheryl truly saw her profession as a gift because she could serve other people.  

The Cheryl Cavallo Memorial Scholarship was established to reflect Cheryl's passion and lifetime commitment to the education of her students and their preparation in the Jesuit tradition to become men and women for others. The purpose of this award is to assist physical therapy students in their upcoming PY III year who have the same desire to participate in healthcare-related domestic or international mission trips. All proceeds from the memorial fundraiser, Hustle for Your Health, will benefit the Cheryl Cavallo Memorial Scholarship.  ( ) To support this scholarship or other scholarships for the Program in Physical Therapy, please go to the giving page @ SLU.  

Dr. Cheryl Cavallo received her bachelor's, master's, and doctorate degrees from Saint Louis University and was a member of the faculty for 32 years, retiring in 2011. During her tenure, she received multiple awards for teaching and service including the Alumni Merit Award in 2011.

H4YH is a poignant reminder of how Cheryl continues to influence the Program in Physical Therapy and her indelible impact on all of us within the SLU community fortunate to have interactions and memories of Cheryl.


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