WKU’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Program continues to move forward, gaining approval by the Office of Graduate Studies during the Graduate Council meeting last Thursday.
But school officials insist there is still much to be done. The program needs to undergo approval by the University Senate in December, the Board of Regents in January and then begins a process of accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).
The program must submit a detailed report of the program to the CAPTE to receive candidacy status. From there, the program is allowed to go through with the first class of students. After three years, CAPTE reviews the program once again before finally granting accreditation.
“The first part is, ‘Tell us what you are going to do,’” said Kurt Neelly, physical therapy clinical academic coordinator. “Then they come back three years later and say, ‘OK, now prove to us you did everything you said you were going to do.’”
A bill previously passed by the Kentucky legislature which allowed Kentucky schools, with the exception of the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville to offer up to three advanced practice doctorate degree programs, allowed for the creation of WKU’s physical therapy program.
Harvey Wallmann, the director of the department of physical therapy at WKU, said there was a great need for a physical therapy program in south central Kentucky.
“There’s a lot of rural areas and underserved areas that have not been addressed with health care concerns regarding physical therapy,” Wallmann said. “Is there a need for a program? Yeah, because if you didn’t really need a program, why come out here and start another one? But there really is a need.”
The program is currently accepting applications for the fall of 2012, with a deadline of Jan. 15. It will feature a 118-credit-hour curriculum over three years, with each semester of classes already planned for students.
“They learn about all the different aspects of physical therapy in the program — it’s not just one area,” Wallmann said.
There are currently only two doctorate of physical therapy programs in the state, one being UK, and the other at Bellarmine University in Louisville. WKU’s program hopes to accept 30 students into the program next fall.
Neelly hopes that WKU’s smaller size and atmosphere will differentiate it from UK’s physical therapy program.
“What we’re striving to implement is a student-driven focus,” Neelly said. “Were not in the big city where you might be easily lost as just another number.”
Chris Bidwell, a junior majoring in biology with a specialization in pre-physical therapy, is excited about there being another physical therapy program in the state.
“It’s something people need,” Bidwell said. “Nobody is like, ‘We don’t need physical therapists.’”
That being said, Bidwell, a Glasgow native, said just because he attends WKU now doesn’t mean he would return to WKU if given other choices.
“I would definitely take WKU over Bellarmine,” Bidwell said. “I will apply everywhere and I will go wherever I get in.”