Dr. Sara Gilliland

Dr. Sara Gilliland

Assistant Professor
Crean College of Health and Behavioral Sciences; Physical Therapy
Expertise: Clinical Reasoning; Physical Therapy Education; Teaching and Learning; Professional Development; Curricular Design & Assessment;
Office Location: Rinker Health Science Campus 230
Phone: (714) 744-7821
William Marsh Rice University, Bachelor of Arts
University of California, Irvine, Master of Science
University of California, Irvine, Ph.D.
Chapman University, Doctor of Physical Therapy


Dr. Gilliland earned her DPT at Chapman University and her MA and PhD in the School of Education at the University of California, Irvine. Dr. Gilliland’s clinical practice combines her interests in orthopedic and neurologic physical therapy with her passion for fitness and wellness.
Dr. Gilliland’s research investigates how physical therapist students develop their clinical reasoning capacities. She is a member of the Clinical Reasoning Research and Curricula Consortia of the American Council of Academic Physical Therapy (ACAPT), the Research Committee for the APTA Education Section, and Scholarship of Education Special Interest Group. Her research has been supported in part by Promotion of Doctoral Studies (PODS) scholarships from the Foundation for Physical Therapy, Inc. and the Section for Education of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). Dr. Gilliland has presented her research locally, nationally, and internationally. She was recognized as an Emerging Leader within the APTA in 2015.

Dr. Gilliland joined the faculty at Chapman University in 2008. Her passion in teaching is helping students understand the applications of basic science foundations to clinical problem solving in physical therapy practice. She enjoys supporting students in community involvement including service opportunities and professional association activities. Dr. Gilliland currently works as the Chapman coordinator for the Special Olympics FUNfitness volunteers.

Licensure Information / Registration Number
Physical Therapist: State of California (#35135)

APTA Credentialed Clinical Instructor – 2010
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) - 2004
USA Triathlon Level I Coaching Certification - 2003
American Heart Association BLS for healthcare providers (CPR)
Red Cross Standard First Aid

PT 510 Functional Human Anatomy I
PT 510L Functional Human Anatomy I Lab
PT 748 Wellness and Complementary Medicine

Recent Creative, Scholarly Work and Publications

Gilliland SJ, Wainwright SF. Patterns of clinical reasoning in physical therapist students. Phys Ther. 2017: 97(5): 499-511. (DOI: 10.1093/ptj/pzx028)
Gilliland SJ. Physical therapist students’ development of diagnostic reasoning: A longitudinal study. Journal of Physical Therapy Education. 2017: 31: 31-48.
Gilliland SJ, Wainwright SF. Physical therapist students’ conceptualizations of practice. Journal of Physical Therapy Education. 2017 In press (31: 3: Summer 2017)
Gilliland SJ. Clinical Reasoning in first- and third-year physical therapist students. Journal of Physical Therapy Education. 2014; 28: 64-80.