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Sandra A. Billinger, PT, Ph.D., FAHA

KU Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science

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Sandra Billinger, PT, Ph.D., FAHA, is a world-renown expert in exercise, brain health, and stroke recovery. Her work has been continuously funded through the National Institutes of Health since 2011 and has also received funding from the American Heart Association and the American Physical Therapy Association. She has published extensively and has delivered hundreds of lectures and courses nationally and internationally.

At KU Medical Center, Billinger serves as director of the Research in Exercise and Cardiovascular Health (REACH) laboratory and leads two multi-site NIH-funded trials. Her research initiatives have resulted in the following discoveries: 1) development of maximal and submaximal exercise testing protocols on a recumbent stepper, 2) a novel method for assessing brain blood flow response during exercise, and 3) a patent application.

A professor in the Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science, Billinger teaches in the physical therapy doctoral degree program including course PTRS 826 Cardiopulmonary Physical Therapy. She also has a joint appointment in the School of Medicine departments of Neurology, Molecular and Integrative Physiology, and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Billinger currently serves as the neurovascular division director within the KU Alzheimer’s Disease Center’s NeuroImaging Core. She was appointed the school's interim associate dean for research in July 2016 and served in that role until September 2017.

Activities at the state and national levels include the following:

  • Chair, Stroke Rehabilitation and Recovery Committee, Stroke Council, American Heart Association (2014-2017).
  • Lead author, 2014 American Heart/Stroke Association Physical Activity and Exercise Recommendations for Stroke Survivors.
  • Research committee member, Cardiovascular and Pulmonary section, Academy of Neurologic Physical Therapy.
  • Chair, inaugural Health Promotion and Wellness Committee, Academy of Neurologic Physical Therapy.
  • Editorial board member, Physical Therapy Journal and Journal of Neurologic Physical Therapy.

Among her many honors, Billinger received the 2012 Golden Synapse Award for Best Manuscript published in the Journal of Neurologic Physical Therapy as well as the 2014 Margaret L. Moore Award for Outstanding New Academic Faculty Member from the American Physical Therapy Association. She also was recognized with the American Heart Association's 2016 Stroke Council Award and Lecture.

At KU, Billinger was honored with the 2016 Stata Norton Teaching Award from the KU School of Health Professions and the 2016 Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award from the University of Kansas, in addition to the 2013 Early Career Achievement in the School of Health Professions Alumna Award.

For more details, please see Billinger's curriculum vitae PDF document

Academic Background

Billinger earned a bachelor's degree in physical education with a minor in gerontology from Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas in 2002. She received her master's degree in physical therapy in 2004 and her doctorate in rehabilitation science in 2008 from the University of Kansas.

She completed a postdoctoral fellowship in cardiovascular outcomes under the direction of John Spertus, M.D., St. Luke’s Hospital, Kansas City, Mo.

Research and Publications

Billinger's research interests focus on three areas of study: cardiovascular physiology, brain aging, and stroke recovery. She has successfully mentored junior faculty, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and physical therapy students.

For more detailed information about Billinger's research, please visit the REACH laboratory website.

PubMed: National Library of Medicine

Last modified: Aug 05, 2021

Sandra A. Billinger


Sandra A. Billinger, PT, Ph.D., FAHA

P: 913-945-6685 (office), 913-945-6630 (lab)
F: 913-588-9428

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