Cara Whalen Smith

Cara Whalen Smith, PT, DPT, MPH, CHES
Project Director

Dr. Cara Whalen Smith joined GRC in March 2016 and serves as a Project Director and Principal Investigator for healthcare workforce development and health promotion projects to improve health equity for people with disabilities at GRC. Dr. Whalen Smith is also a Manager of Program Design, Implementation, and Evaluation at GRC. She is also Adjunct Faculty for The Ohio State University School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences where she teaches the course “Global Health and Disability” for graduate interdisciplinary health professional students. As a public health physical therapist, Dr. Whalen Smith is a licensed physical therapist and a Certified Health Education Specialist with expertise in program planning, implementation, evaluation, and community health assessment.

Dr. Whalen Smith has devoted her career to improving access to health care and the community for people with disabilities around the corner and around the world. Dr. Whalen Smith brings to GRC more than a decade of experience and expertise in clinical and public health topics related to developmental, mobility, sensory, and intellectual disability. She has treated patients across the lifespan in the clinic, hospital, school, home, and community settings. She has held several academic and clinical teaching appointments locally and internationally on a variety of disability and health topics for interprofessional students and clinicians. She has also directed community-based programs for people with disabilities locally and internationally using models of community-based inclusive development. Most notably, Dr. Whalen Smith was a member of both the Core Competencies Development Committee as a health professional representative and the evaluation lead of the Ohio Disability and Health Program responsible for establishing national consensus on the Core Competencies on Disability for Health Care Education.

Dr. Whalen Smith has served in national leadership positions with the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) to address social responsibility and health equity issues for people with disabilities and was selected as a 2021 APTA Centennial Scholar and developed a resource guide for training disability competence. She has several peer-reviewed journal and abstract publications as well as a published training manual for Health Volunteers Overseas. She has been invited to present nationally and internationally on disability and health topics. Cara graduated from The Ohio State University with a Bachelor of Science in Allied Health Professions, Doctorate of Physical Therapy, and Master of Public Health.