Doctor of Physical Therapy program obtains initial accreditation

Photo provided by WKU News

John Reecer

Western Kentucky University’s doctor of physical therapy program received its initial accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education last week.

The accreditation from the CAPTE comes after WKU’s initial physical therapy class of 30 students officially ended their final semester in the program.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for the program that just finished its third year,” Neale Chumbler, dean of WKU’s College of Health and Human Services, said.  “Getting accredited as the first class graduates is a spectacular culmination.“

Physical therapy programs are not authorized for initial accreditation until the final semester of the program has been completed.

On April 24, 2013, the CAPTE granted the doctor of physical therapy at WKU to be a candidate for accreditation once the program met all the required criteria.

“We are only one of two state universities to have the program so the selection process for the program here is highly selective,” Chumbler said. “These seniors were the forerunners of the program. They made a decision to be the inaugural class here.”

According to program director Harvey Wallmann, the need for the program was so great when he was first hired at WKU that the community gave the budding program enough support to make a sizable impact.

“This has really been something that a lot of people have put their time and effort into,” Wallmann said. “It’s the culmination of a lot of time and effort on a lot of people’s parts, and particularly the people in the community. I have to give a lot of credit to the community. They gave a lot of support to us and that makes a big difference when the community embraces you. “

Most of the students in the 2016 graduating class came from Kentucky; the program gives preference to state residents, according to the program’s website.

“Twenty-four out of 30 therapists were from Kentucky and probably most of them were from south-central and western Kentucky,” Wallmann said. “I think they are going to do a great job with their future careers as they are going into areas that we need therapists to go into. “

Wallmann said over 80 percent of the graduates probably have a job waiting for them, pending the results of the board exam, which entitles them to practice physical therapy. 

“When they (the class members) first come in, they are all sort of wide-eyed and that sort of thing,” Wallmann said. “You can see them change over time as in three years they become professionals.”

Even with the initial accreditation, the size of graduating classes in the program will continue to remain the same at WKU, but growth in the future is something that has been discussed.

“That’s one of the things we have been talking about with administrators like Dr. [Gary] Ransdell, the provost and Dr. Chumbler,” Wallmann said. “The way our accrediting body works is that you have to have a couple of years of established cohorts. We can’t increase size for a couple of years yet. To gradually increase the class size is the intent.”