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Educating Future Physical Therapists

By: Germaine Bowles

Today physical therapists are highly-educated, licensed health care professionals who can help patients reduce pain and improve or restore mobility and function that has been impaired or threatened by disability, injury or disease. Research is supporting that physical therapy can help some patients avoid surgery and often reduce the need for long-term use of prescription medications. The profession of physical therapy can date back to when Restoration Aides worked overseas and in the States helping to rehabilitate injured soldiers during World War I.

Methodist University recently added a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program to its School of Health Sciences. The DPT program joins the established physician assistant and nursing programs, with a Doctor of Occupational Therapy program slated to begin in the fall of 2018. The physical therapy program is the first doctorate degree program to be offered by Methodist University.

 The DPT program accepted 40 students into the inaugural class, which began in August of 2015. Demand for the physical therapy program is high and with little wonder. On its list of “Top 100 Jobs,” U.S. News & World Report ranks physical therapy in the top 15 percent. Forbes Magazine consistently ranks physical therapy as one of the “10 Happiest Jobs.” The Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting a 34 percent growth in the field through 2024.

Recently, the DPT program moved into the new 38,000-square-foot Thomas R. McLean Health Sciences Building. The building houses multiple labs equipped with the latest technology for training and research. The biomechanics lab holds a 14-camera motion-capture system as well as a portable electromagnetic system. During activities such as running, walking, kicking or throwing, forces can be determined using the capture systems, with the results used to help prevent or rehabilitate injuries. The Human Performance Lab houses a Bod Pod, which is considered the gold standard for body composition assessment. There is also a full metabolic cart and the Biodex isokinetic testing and balance assessment equipment. Faculty and students will use the equipment to add to the profession’s body of research. The program also plans on research collaboration outside of the University, looking to partner with the military at Fort Bragg.

 Interdisciplinary education will be a strong component of the program, as the physical therapy program will be sharing space with the athletic training, kinesiology and occupational therapy programs. The DPT program shares the Anatomy Lab with the physician assistant program and takes advantage of the hospital simulation lab in the nursing program. Students from the respective programs will also take part in interdisciplinary activities, such as the physical therapy students educating the nursing students on proper body mechanics during transfers.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy at Methodist University has received Candidacy Status from the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). The program will have a review visit prior to full accreditation of the program.