BOR committee approves new physical therapy department

Samantha Wright

The Doctorate of Physical Therapy program could soon have its own departmental home. 

The program’s new home was approved at Friday’s Board of Regents committee meeting. Housed under the Allied Health department in the College of Health and Human Services, the two-year-old program could have a separate department exclusively for itself.

The department was approved unanimously, he said.

The item now has been passed to the full Board of Regents, who will approve or deny the move of the department next month. 

Phillip Bale, member of the Board of Regents and part of the Academic Affairs Committee, had approving the department as the first item up for committee discussion at the meeting.

If approved, it will stay under the College of Health and Human Services. All faculty currently teaching as part of the program will stay and there are no current plans to hire new faculty.

Bale said this is a popular program, with over 500 applicants already competing for 30 spots. There should be no worries about not attracting enough applicants.

“It’s very competitive” Bale said. “Physical therapy slots have been competitive for decades, so there won’t be any dearth of applicants.”

He added that the physical therapy department is an example of the university’s dedication to helping society and bringing excellence to itself.

“It’s a great example of the university fulfilling a societal need,” he said. “And you can certainly make the case that it brings some distinction to the university that we can do this, that we have the talent and desire and motivation to do it.”

Bale said this program shouldn’t cause a strain on the university’s budget because of its popularity. 

“Because there is a great demand for this type of education, this program pays for itself,” he said. 

The program will provide students with jobs that help others. They’ll be good paying jobs, because “they will be something that is sought and needed by the public,” he said.

Harvey Wallmann, director of the Doctorate Physical Therapy program, said the program receiving its own department will help bring it attention, especially for people trying to find it online. Wallman said currently, searchers have to dig through Allied Health’s page to find their program online, versus having their own separate department page. 

“Most of the big programs out there are at the department level,” he said. “It means we have more exposure, because it is a graduate program . . .  and it’s the only real entry-level doctorate program.” 

He added the program is also due to be accredited. An accrediting body will visit in November and decide their accreditation status in April of 2016. 

Wallmann emphasized the creation of the department as more of logistical move than a physical one.

“Since we’re in Allied Health right now, everything will just be transferred to this department,” he said. “And we’re already housed in the new building by the Medical Center . . .So it’s really nobody’s moving physically, we’re just moving on paper.”

Wallmann said the department will be official at the start of the next fiscal year, pending Board approval.

Neale Chumbler, dean of the College of Health and Human Services, said having its own department will help the Physical Therapy program in several ways.

“It will increase the visibility of this excellent program, it will increase national recognition and it will help with fundraising,” he said.

He added this new department is a smart move because physical therapy is a growing field.

“The field of physical therapy is very popular, people from all over the world apply to this program and this department will raise the profile even further,” he said.

He said he doesn’t foresee any problems with the program moving into a new department.

“In some ways it has operated as a department, so it should be a seamless transition,” he said.

Chumbler said this will allow the physical therapy program students to have their own place to call home.

“[Having a department] kind of gives more of an identity, more of a home,” he said. “Now students can say, ‘I have my own separate department, identity and focus.’”