Rhonda Abbott '01
Driven by her passion for helping others, Rhonda Abbott, PT, FTPA, enjoys providing meaningful physical therapy care that makes a difference in the lives of her patients. Her role as senior vice president and CEO for TIRR Memorial Hermann in Houston impacts the patient and family experience on a much larger scale and improves the work experience of the hospital’s team. TIRR is a national leader in medical rehabilitation and research, a reputation which Abbott works to uphold and continue. Abbott first came to TIRR a little more than 20 years ago as a student in the inpatient pediatric rehabilitation program, and she describes the experience as “love at first sight.”
“I am confident most people do not think about that phrase in the context of the workplace, but it is indeed how I would describe what I felt for TIRR during my clinical physical therapy internship. Working with these young kiddos changed me as a person, and it told me that TIRR was where I needed to be.”
Abbott officially joined the team at TIRR in 2001 as a staff physical therapist in the spinal cord injury and specialty rehabilitation program, and she has risen up the ranks over the last 20 years to where she is today. In addition to her current position, Abbott has held other leadership roles at the hospital, including director of therapy services, director of clinical programs and vice president of operations.
As a young intern, she did not imagine that she would one day serve as CEO for TIRR, an honor that she is both grateful for and humbled by. Though in her current position she does not provide as much hands-on patient care, Abbott finds her ability to positively affect patient care experiences to be incredibly rewarding.
“To see that potential in one of our youngest patients who is relearning to walk and in the faces of my past adult patients — it is truly remarkable.”
Abbott is positively influencing the hospital’s high quality of care and creating routes and encouraging access to care for those who need it. She drives TIRR’s mission forward by utilizing breakthroughs in research, education and clinical care to advocate for empowerment and increased independence and inclusion for people with disabilities.
Abbott is grateful to TWU, where she earned her MS in Physical Therapy, for the exposure that the university provided her through the Texas Medical Center (TMC) in Houston. The curriculum and exposure to hands-on field work made a definite impact on her career path and success. In addition to a coursework timeline that best fit her need, she cites the TWU Houston campus’ location in the TMC and the School of Physical Therapy’s high rankings as factors that made TWU the obvious choice.
“I chose TWU because it was the best. Short and simple.”
While she remembers several “tough-love” professors at TWU who challenged her to succeed, Abbott identifies Carolyn Da Silva, MS ‘83, PT, DSc, as impactful and inspirational. Dr. Da Silva leads the neuroscience focused courses where Abbott’s passion for the science and art of recovery was fostered. Even after Abbott graduated from TWU, Dr. Da Silva has supported her as a mentor, professional colleague at TIRR and a friend.
“Dr. Da Silva is a person with a passion for doing the right thing, which she has demonstrated personally and professionally. I continue to admire her and am thankful for her in my own lifelong learning journey.”
Abbott continues to serve her communities as a member of the board of directors for the American Medical Rehabilitation Providers Association and as an honorary committee member of the ReelAbilities Film Festival. She is a member of the American Physical Therapy Association and the American College of Healthcare Executives. She also serves as a Tom Waugh leadership development fellow for the Texas Physical Therapy Association. In her free time, Abbott enjoys traveling with her family and celebrating their memories and adventures through photo books and video compilations.
Rhonda Abbott with her husband Blake and two sons, Jarob and Leithan, during a vacation in Costa Rica.
Page last updated 1:27 PM, July 26, 2022