AMTA Announces 2020 National Award Recipients

The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) celebrates the accomplishments of AMTA national groups and individuals whose enthusiasm and leadership have earned high recognition by bestowing a series of national awards.

The association has announced the recipients of its 2020 national awards for outstanding service. Usually done during the AMTA National Convention, President Angela Barker made the announcements during the Board of Directors conference call on August 25.

Distinguished Service Award

The recipient of The Distinguished Service Award is Dr. Ann Blair Kennedy.

Dr. Kennedy has dedicated many years of service to the massage therapy profession and to AMTA. After a long career as an active massage therapist, she shifted her time to complete her DrPH and accelerated her approach to massage therapy research. She continues to be an advocate for massage therapy; an educator who teaches future doctors to consider integrative therapies including massage; a researcher; an editor; and, still an active volunteer. And, she continues to serve this year as chair of the National Governance Committee.

Dr. Kennedy is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the division of Behavioral, Social, and Population Health Sciences at the University of South Carolina School Of Medicine Greenville (U of SC SOM Greenville) in the department of Biomedical Sciences. She became a licensed massage therapist in 1999 and is also Board Certified.

The Distinguished Service Award is given annually to honor someone who has contributed to the massage therapy profession in an outstanding manner and to acknowledge diligent volunteerism done in an altruistic manner.

In honor of her award, we interviewed Dr. Kennedy about the massage therapy profession and her career. Read the full interview.

President's Award

The recipient of this year's President's Award is Doug Nelson. 

Doug Nelson is a passionate ambassador promoting the art, practice and science of massage therapy. He continues to be a practicing massage therapist, while teaching across the country. He is a mentor, an accomplished researcher, a published author and he has led The Massage Therapy Foundation with passion and dignity. Doug also recently represented the massage therapy profession with skill and clarity, on behalf of AMTA, at the recent national online Innovation in Pain Management Symposium.

The President’s Award honors someone who has contributed to the massage therapy profession in an outstanding and altruistic manner, and is selected by AMTA’s National President.

In honor of his award, we interviewed Doug about the massage therapy profession and his career. Read the full interview.

Becky Schwoebel Making a Difference Award

The AMTA Board of Directors created a new award to honor the life and service of longtime AMTA volunteer Becky Schwoebel, who passed away earlier this year. The Becky Schwoebel Making a Difference Award honors an outstanding long-time volunteer who passionately shares their skills and talents in assisting AMTA to fulfill its mission in supporting the members, while promoting the art, science, and practice of massage.  The first recipient of the award is Patty Phillips of Washington.

Patty is a long-time volunteer and friend to AMTA who expresses her volunteer service integrity, professionalism, leadership, a vibrant team spirit and an unquestionable commitment to the members of AMTA and our profession. In addition to her service on the AMTA Board of Directors from 2016 to 2020, Patty continues to serve on the AMTA Culture and Policy Workgroup of the Governance Committee. She previously served on the National Chapter Relations Committee and the Planning Committee, and as Chair of the National Finance Committee.

Patty has served in multiple capacities for the AMTA – Washington Chapter, including as Chapter President, and was the 2013 recipient of the AMTA-WA Chapter Meritorious Award. She is the Founder and Owner of Get in Touch Therapy in Renton, WA. Read more about this award

Humanitarian Award

The 2020 AMTA Humanitarian Award goes to Kathleen ‘‘Cass’’ Crewdson.

Cass is dedicated to service. She offers volunteer massage therapy for a wide variety of charities (for the homeless, elderly, sick and shut-ins), and for those who become caregivers for family members. She also has been a dedicated AMTA member and volunteer for more than 30 years. She has been a Chapter President in Connecticut, as well as a mentor to new board members in her chapter. She is a two-time Chapter Meritorious recipient, and has also served on the AMTA National Chapter Relations Committee for many years. She’s the epitome of the volunteer spirit with a desire to serve.

The AMTA Humanitarian Award is presented to an AMTA member who has demonstrated the "heart" of massage in action through volunteer work, which may or may not include massage, done in the larger community.

Government Relations Activist Award

This year’s recipient of the AMTA Government Relations Activist Award is Elizabeth (Betsy) C. Krizenesky of Wisconsin.

Betsy has been a strong advocate for our profession, particularly through government relations activities and advocacy on the state level in her 36 years as an AMTA member. Her contributions and leadership have had a permanent effect on the recognition of massage therapy as a licensed health profession in Wisconsin. When the state enacted licensure for massage therapy, Betsy became a member of the first Massage Therapy and Bodywork Therapy Affiliated Credentialing Board of the State of Wisconsin. She was appointed by the Governor and served on the board for nearly 10 years.

This award is presented to an individual for exceptional accomplishments at the chapter and/or the national level of AMTA for their governmental relations activities.

Sports Massage Achiever

John Combe of Oregon is the recipient of the 2020 AMTA Sports Massage Achiever Award.

A well-known AMTA member and sports massage therapist, John has been a massage therapist multiple times for major athletic events, such as the LA marathon, and worked with elite athletes in Olympic trials. He has also been a longtime continuing education provider, presenting a variety of classes related to sports massage. His class on Techniques for Sports Massage Therapists has been presented during AMTA conventions and presented at a wide variety of state educational venues.

This award is presented to an AMTA member for accomplishments in the area of sports massage.

National Meritorious Award

Kim Pucka of the Indiana Chapter is AMTA’s 2020 National Meritorious Award recipient.

Kim was in the forefront of getting Indiana massage therapists licensed. She has worked diligently with AMTA’s Indiana lobbyist and state officials to promote the clinical side of massage therapy field. She has also worked avidly to enforce licensure in an effort to reduce human trafficking. She has served the AMTA Indiana Chapter in many capacities, including as President and Government Relations Chair.

This honor is awarded to an AMTA member to acknowledge diligent volunteerism done in an altruistic manner.

Certificate of Appreciation

The AMTA President may also present certificates of appreciation for those she or he feels deserve special mention and appreciation. A Certificate of Appreciation is awarded to Dr. Niki Munk.

In the last few years, Dr. Munk has done extraordinary work to review potential AMTA position statements and to guide and participate in ongoing research to further validate what we massage therapists do for the health of our clients. She was a contributor to AMTA’s publication Massage Therapy in Integrative Care & Pain Management, has been a member of AMTA’s National Healthcare Committee, helped represent AMTA and our profession to advance massage therapy research at the NCCIH//NIH, and was a panelist at the Alliance for Balanced Pain Management, Pain Summit.

She is a published researcher who continues to promote massage therapy and assist AMTA with important research for our legislative efforts at the state and federal levels.

Jerome Perlinkski Teacher of The Year Award

Valerie Smothers is a teacher who has impacted the lives of many through her passion and dedication to massage therapy and the 2020 recipient of the Jerome Perlinski Teacher of the Year Award.

Valerie is a teacher at the Palpation Prep School of Massage in Benton, Kentucky, a school she founded with a desire to graduate excellent massage therapists. She has been a massage therapist for 20 years and began teaching in 2011.  

Those who nominated her for the award describe how her enthusiasm for massage therapy has spread to her students, as well as the community. “She has always exhibited excellence in everything she does. Valerie has poured her entire heart into massage therapy.” “Valerie exudes infectious passion and gusto for her profession, vision, and the goals of her students!” “She has initiated a potential revolution for massage in our community that will, no doubt, change the world for many individuals.” Read more about this award.

Chapter Meritorious

The AMTA Chapter Meritorious Award is the highest award bestowed upon an AMTA member by a chapter.  This award acknowledges diligent volunteerism done in an altruistic manner.  Click here to view the 2020 Chapter Meritorious Recipients.