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An Appreciation of Stephen M. Haley

Nancy K. Latham

As we reflect on the progress achieved in disability research over the past 17 years and where the field needs to go from here, we wish to dedicate this special issue on advances in disability research to our colleague, Stephen M. Haley, who passed away in July 2011 after a courageous battle with leukemia. Steve made significant contributions to the development of pediatric and adult outcome measures. When we look at how he achieved his success, several things stand out.

First, Steve was very open to collaborating with people from a wide range of disciplines. His publications reflect the diversity of the people with whom he worked and also show how these collaborations brought new ideas into the field of physical therapy.

Second, even when Steve was well established in his research career, he continued to challenge himself to learn new techniques, and he incorporated the latest technology to move his science forward. He even took advanced statistics courses when he realized that he needed an in-depth understanding of new approaches to remain on the cutting edge of the measurement field.

Third, Steve was focused and persistent in pursuing his research agenda. All research is challenging to fund and publish, but measurement research in particular can be a difficult “sell” because its impact is sometimes not immediately obvious. However, Steve did not waver from his focus on improving how we measure function and disability in adults and children. In doing so, he contributed to transforming the way we conceptualize and measure disability, particularly disability in children.

Steve was deeply committed to improving the quality of life of children and adults with disability, and he valued their experiences and perspectives. A central focus of his work was trying to develop instruments that would allow people to report their ability to participate and do activities from their own perspective. An integral part of his work was listening to the perspective of people with disabilities, and he allowed their perspectives to shape the development of his instruments.

Finally, Steve was unwilling to compromise the quality and rigor of his research, even though the careful approach is almost always more costly, time consuming, and difficult to do. Steve believed that this rigor was essential, because children and adults with disabilities deserve to have clear data about their outcomes and prognosis and clear data to guide the selection of treatments, equipment, and other interventions to address their disabilities.

Steve Haley was a world-renowned innovator in pediatric and adult outcome measurement. As APTA President Dr Scott Ward affirmed, “Our profession has lost a great thinker, mentor, pioneer, and friend.”

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