Massage Today Get the Latest News FASTER - View Digital Editions Now!
Massage Today dotted line
dotted line

dotted line
Share |
  Forward PDF Version  
Massage Today
March, 2014, Vol. 14, Issue 03

Massage Under the Microscope

The Massage Therapy Foundation uses research to move the profession forward.

By Kathryn Feather, Senior Associate Editor

For almost 25 years, the Massage Therapy Foundation has been working to educate the massage therapists about the world of research.

An industry survey conducted by the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) in 2013, found that  between July 2011 and July 2012, roughly 34.5 million adult Americans had a massage at least onceand the U.S. Department of Labor expects employment for massage therapists to increase by about 20 percent by the year 2020, faster than average for all occupations.

As more people take advantage of the health benefits of massage therapy, it is perhaps more important than every for therapists to understand those benefits in a deeper way. And that's where the MTF comes in with its case report contests and research literacy courses for therapists and educators. One key to the success of the MTF has been its strong leadership and dedicated volunteers. With a change in leadership taking place this month, Massage Today recently spoke with both outgoing President Ruth Werner and President-Elect Jerrilyn Cambron about the successess of the past and the MTF's hopes for the future.

Ruth Werner

Massage Today: What are you most proud of during your tenure as president?

microscope - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Ruth Werner: I am extremely proud of the relationship the MTF has built and solidified with the AMTA. The AMTA is our founding member and our largest donor. Over the years that relationship has had its ups and downs and some tense times when the ground seemed to shift under our feet. With the help of great leadership from the AMTA Board of Directors, the then-Executive Director of both organizations Shelly Johnson, along with AMTA and MTF staff, we were able to hash out a whole new type of relationship that demonstrates the MTF's financial viability and provides some security about our future, while maximizing the value of the AMTA's gift—which now includes a generous annual grant to be dedicated to a research project. This new relationship will also allow—even encourage—the MTF to continue building strong relationships with other industry supporters, which is of course a best practice for a non-profit foundation.

MT: What do you wish had happened during your presidency that didn't?

RW: Just a few months after I became the president, we were informed that AMTA financial support for the Foundation would be substantially curtailed. And two months after that, our Executive Director unexpectedly submitted her resignation. These events obviously left the Foundation in a very precarious position. We were lucky to get a wonderful new Director in Shelly Johnson and we were able to get approval to hire a professional development manager to help us in our fundraising. But, I had really hoped — unrealistically it turned out — to see donations to the MTF grow from around $180,000 a year to $1,000,000. The truth is, we have about 300,000 massage therapists in the country. If each one of them wrote a check each year for $5 to the Foundation, we'd be there. Imagine what we could do if every massage therapist donated the value of just one massage each year: we'd be granting millions of dollars to massage therapy research every year. I still think it's possible, but we're not there yet.

MT: What are the top goals the MTF has achieved that you feel has had the most impact on the massage profession?

RW: In the history of the MTF, I'd say that some of its most profoundly impactful projects include:

  • The founding of the International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork: the profession's only open-sourced journal dedicated to the science of massage therapy. It was an added honor to be in place to sign the papers that allow the IJTMB to be indexed in Pubmed Central: the world's largest database of peer-reviewed life science journals. The IJTMB follows a new publication model that doesn't charge users or authors; this puts it well ahead of the curve for scientific publishing.
  • The commitment to host an International Massage Therapy Research Conference (IMTRC) on a regular basis. These meetings bring research to an audience that doesn't even know it's hungry for it yet — and they also create invaluable opportunities for researchers and clinicians to connect and make plans for future projects that can change the way massage is practiced. The next IMTRC will be in Seattle in 2016.
  • Establishing a social media presence. The MTF is an active social media presence and conversations about the nature of massage therapy research are seen in many more places. Our blogs are friendly and useful. And we have been able to create a partnership with Massage Today to publish research digests that are accessible for non-science readers.
  • Our Best Practices initiative has been developing quietly in the background, but I believe that when the project is ready for public use it will have generational impact — not only within our profession, but for our colleagues in health care who need some established guidelines about using massage therapy that are produced by massage therapists.
  • One of the Foundation's greatest strengths has been our ability to work well with all the other massage therapy industry players. Being part of the Coalition of National Massage Therapy Organizations has been an amazing opportunity to use the neutrality of the MTF to help all of these stakeholders work together for the benefit of the profession.

MT: How involved will you continue to be in the work of the MTF?

RW: I will continue to be very involved with the Foundation. In my year as IPP, I will serve on all the committees I've been on (actually, more), but I won't have to lead all the meetings. And after my IPP year is up, I'll look around to see if the MTF needs a new voice, or if I can be more useful staying in place. I know I'll never be short of volunteer opportunities!

It has been a great honor to be the MTF president. People sometimes feel they need to thank me for my service, but I feel it has been a great pleasure and privilege. That said, I have to thank everyone. Thank you to the Board of Trustees, who have tolerated me and supported me at the helm for four years.

Thank you to the AMTA staff and leadership, who have made space in their hearts, budgets and office space, so that the Foundation can serve the profession. Thanks and confidence to Jerrilyn Cambron, who steps into this position this month — she's going to be amazing. And most of all, thanks to the amazing MTF staff, especially our own Executive Director Gini Ohlson. Without them, nothing would happen. We'd be a lot of enthusiastic volunteers with great ideas but no capacity. Gini and her staff turn those ideas and good will into the contracts, grant money, publications and outreach that is the work of the MTF.

Jerrilyn Cambron

MT: What are your top priorities and/or goals as you take the reigns as president?

Jerrilyn Cambron: I am so honored to be stepping into the position of President of the Massage Therapy Foundation. My background is in research and public health, so when I found out that the mission of the Foundation focused on research, education and community service, I was instantly attracted.

As the next president, my top priority is to increase the visibility of what the Foundation has to offer the profession. I am excited to share information about the research studies we have funded, the case report contests, the numerous articles on research, the community service grants awarded and the research literacy educational programs. We are a Foundation that was created to support the profession and I want to continue making strides in that direction.

Other goals would include continuing to improve research literacy within the profession, strengthening interdisciplinary collaborations through research-related interests and developing ways for therapists in the field to better access and utilize the research findings in this profession.

MT: What's on the horizon this year for the MTF?

JC: One of the most exciting events is that the Massage Therapy Foundation will be represented at the John Hancock Boston Marathon. We will have three runners raising funds for the Foundation. In addition, our three runners from last year will return to run due to the unfortunate bombings during last year's race. The three new runners include Kathy Laskye (ABMP), Kristen Lutz (AMTA) and Karen Moers (Massage Envy); and the previous runners who have agreed to run the marathon again this year include Kathy Borsuk (AMTA), Les Sweeney (ABMP) and Thomas Heidenberger (Bon Vital). We are so proud of these runners and thankful for all the funds they have raised for us.

Our writing workgroup has many interesting articles planned that will help the profession better understand what the published research says on various topics. Our case report contests are going strong with the student case reports due June 1, 2014 and the practitioner case reports due October 1, 2014. Our research grant deadline is March 3, 2014 and our community service grant deadline is April 1, 2014. Our Foundation-sponsored journal, the International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (, continues to go strong as the only massage-focused online journal (and it doesn't cost anything to access). Finally, we will be in attendance at many of the conferences and conventions throughout the year. If you want regular updates of what is going on with the Foundation and what conferences we will be attending, please feel free to sign up for our blog posts (

MT: Why is the mission of the MTF important for the massage therapy profession?

JC: The vision of the Foundation is that "the practice of massage therapy is evidence-informed and accessible to everyone." In order to support that vision, our Foundation's mission is "to advance the knowledge and practice of massage therapy by supporting scientific research, education, and community service." All three of these areas are important for advancement of a profession, particularly research. Scientific research is essential for credibility of a profession, and it is important for massage therapists to be aware of the research that is published. The Foundation's focus is to bring more research to the field and also assist the practitioners in the field with accessing and understanding the findings.

The Massage Therapy Foundation has been successful throughout the years because of its amazing people. We have had many great presidents including: Dr. Grace Chan, Dr. Janet Kahn, John Baletto, Diana Thompson and Ruth Werner. Their leadership has been instrumental in developing the Foundation into the strong organization that it is.

During the past four years, Ruth Werner has moved the Foundation to the next level. She has put her heart and soul into this organization and her tremendous efforts have paid off. The Foundation's staff members and Gini Ohlson, our Executive Director, who has been with the Foundation for 15 years, have been influential in its success. Finally, we have many volunteers on the Board and within our committees who put in time and effort in order to help the Foundation move the profession forward.

Our people make the Foundation what it is, and we are very proud to represent this profession. If you would like to join the Foundation's efforts, please feel free to contact us at


Join the conversation
Comments are encouraged, but you must follow our User Agreement
Keep it civil and stay on topic. No profanity, vulgar, racist or hateful comments or personal attacks. Anyone who chooses to exercise poor judgement will be blocked. By posting your comment, you agree to allow MPA Media the right to republish your name and comment in additional MPA Media publications without any notification or payment.
comments powered by Disqus
dotted line