Dr. Stuart Katzman is proud to be a Bulldog. Five minutes into a conversation with him and that is quite evident. Although he now resides in San Jose, he finds himself in the Central Valley, or at least, bits and pieces of the Valley find his way to him. Tonight, Katzman will step on stage at the Save Mart Center and receive the 2015 Outstanding Alumnus Award for the College of Health and Human Services at the Fresno State Alumni Association’s Top Dog Awards Gala. This prestigious honor is given to Fresno State alumni for their accomplishments in their fields and commitment to service in the community

Katzman graduated from Fresno State in 1987 – when the physical therapy program once offered only a bachelor’s degree. His road to becoming a physical therapist, however, was started by chance. When he was 19, he led an active lifestyle as a football player for West Valley Community College in Los Gatos, California. One day, a bad knee injury left him on the sidelines, and out for the season. That year, he started physical therapy treatments and in turn, became fascinated with the profession. After believing he would become an architect his whole life, he had a change of heart and decided the physical therapy profession was the road he needed to take.

Katzman at CHHS' annual Breakfast of Champions event.
Katzman at CHHS’ annual Breakfast of Champions event. October 9, 2015.

“That whole experience really got my wheels turning,” said Katzman, who would end up taking the 1984 spring semester off to think things through and explore his academic options. He spent many weeks researching Fresno State’s Physical Therapy program before coming to the conclusion that the University was the right fit for him. He started his first year in the fall, that same year, and immediately felt a connection with his new home away from home.

“I originally had no clue what Fresno State was about, but once I got there, I was impressed and overwhelmed by the all the community support for the University and the red wave,” said Katzman. “I never felt I made a bad decision. It’s only been a good thing ever since.”

For the bay area native, choosing Fresno State was an easy decision. For one, at the time, there were no physical therapy programs offered in the area he resided. Another reason was that Fresno offered a small town, comfortable feel that he was not accustomed to, having lived in the bay area and Los Angeles, previously.

For Katzman, who expressed with a laugh that he didn’t need sleep, becoming involved on campus was a priority. Within his first year, he joined the physical therapy club, a place where aspiring physical therapists could come together and socialize. In this case, it would be where he would meet some of his closest friends to this day.

He would also meet the person he would spend his life with and raise kids with – his wife, Linda, who also was enrolled in the same physical therapy program as Katzman. A year after graduating from Fresno State in 1987, they would get married – and two years after that, would open up their own physical therapy practice, Evergreen Physical Therapy.

Katzman with his friends and classmates from the class of '87.
Katzman with his friends and classmates from the class of ’87. Wife, Linda, is second from right.

Nestled away in the small community of Evergreen, in San Jose, the Katzman’s practice has been providing quality physical therapy care with the focus on community. They’ve been the proud owners and operators of this practice, which Katzman has dubbed as a ‘ma’ and pa’ business’, for the past 24 years. They pride themselves in providing individualized patient experience with the sole focus on the patient’s goals and outcomes. They say much of their success is built on the relationship and trust they have with their clientele. In January, they closed their second practice, Redwood Physical Therapy, which they had for 12 years, to focus their efforts solely on Evergreen.

Katzman says opening his own practice so soon out of college was a decision that came with ease.

“Our confidence to do it, even though we were young and just out of school, was because I knew I never had a person who couldn’t find the answer to my question and this is because of all people we met and the connections that were made,” said Katzman.

Since joining the profession, Katzman has made it a point to get involved, network and advocate for the field. Perhaps one of his greatest contributions to the field of physical therapy is simply his presence. For the past 25 years, he served on the board of the California Physical Therapy Association – a chapter of the American Physical Therapy Association, which represents more than 77,000 physical therapists and physical therapist assistants nationwide. As of January 2016, his role as Vice President will come to an end, but the memories and connections he’s built are without measure.

“Getting out and meeting with other people on bigger issues is very rewarding and always opens your eyes to things you didn’t have a clue existed,” said Katzman, of his involvement. “It doesn’t pay very well, but it pays it very nontangible ways.”

Breakfast Of Champions_Email JPG_2
The Breakfast of Champions is an annual tradition that honors CHHS Top Dogs.

As stated previously, Katzman is proud of his alma mater and that is evident at his practice. Walk into the business today and you may just see a Fresno State doctoral student. Katzman has been taking physical therapy interns for 6 to 9-week clinicals ever since opening his practice. He says it’s a great way for him to keep connected to his alma mater, but also a way to support future physical therapists. He even comes back to campus to lecture on occasion.

“I would do anything I can to help Fresno State,” Katzman proclaimed proudly. “They provided me with an excellent education and opportunities. I’m more than happy to give back to the school and department that put me in what has been a great career.”

Katzman even has an award named after him in the Department of Physical Therapy. Each year, a physical therapy student that demonstrates a professional commitment to the field receives the Stuart Katzman Award for Outstanding Contributions.

“Stuart represents what we hope all of our graduates will become: not only an outstanding physical therapist, but one that is committed to life-long learning and to enhancing the profession of physical therapy,” said Dr. Peggy Trueblood, chair of the Department of Physical Therapy. “He has given outstanding service to Fresno State and the Alumni Association through his support for our program.”

Katzman with Department of Physical Therapy chair, Dr. Peggy Trueblood.
Katzman with Department of Physical Therapy chair, Dr. Peggy Trueblood.

His dedication to Fresno State and the Department of Physical Therapy has not gone unnoticed.

“It was amazing,” Katzman said upon hearing of his Top Dog honor. “I don’t do well with recognition. I just like to do stuff and if it helps somebody, great, whether it’s treating a patient or volunteering. At the end of the day it’s nice to be recognized for what you’ve done and to be recognized by the University that has done so much more for me then what I could ever do for them. It’s really nice.”

Katzman will be joined tonight by Linda and his former classmates from the class of ’87 – who have all become close friends and colleagues throughout the years. One of them, Dan Barrows, owns Barrows Physical Therapy in Fresno and Madera. His two children, Steven, 25, a graduate of Cal Poly, and Shanelle, 23, a graduate of Sacramento State, will be there in spirit. Katzman is proud to note that his family is full of California State University graduates.

He’s excited to return to the Fresno State campus, which looks noticeably different from when he was a student, with the addition of the new Physical Therapy and Intercollegiate Athletics building. Connecting with faculty and meeting with current students is something he looks forward to. According to him, it’s nice to be able to pass leadership on to these future physical therapists.

“I will do all I can to help mentor and guide their leadership,” said Katzman. “We are very fortunate to have younger physical therapists ready and willing to step up.”