New physical therapy doctorate approved

(Nov. 16, 2004)  —  A proposal to establish a doctor of physical therapy program in the School of Allied Health Sciences at East Carolina University has been approved by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors.

The board approved the doctor of physical therapy or DPT program on Nov. 12 following a unanimous recommendation by the University of North Carolina Office of the President, Graduate Deans Committee.

The doctoral program will begin in May and will accept 30 students per year. The program is a three-year, 106-semester-hour program that will include 32 weeks of clinical education.

The program comes at a time when more demands are being placed on physical therapists, said Dr. Denis Brunt, professor and chairman of the ECU Department of Physical Therapy.

"The changing health care system requires the graduating physical therapist be prepared for a greater degree of independent practice," Brunt said.

For example, the recent passage of the Medicare Prescription Drug and Improvement Act requires the Medicare Payment Advisory Committee to assess the impact of providing Medicare beneficiaries with direct access to physical therapists.

"The ability to practice independently is especially important in those rural areas where other health professionals are less likely to be present," Brunt said. "DPT programs are able to provide the scope, depth, breadth and rigor of scholarly preparation needed for current and future practice trends, including direct access."

By 2008, it is estimated that 90 percent of physical therapy programs will be at the DPT level, Brunt said.

The Department of Physical Therapy and the undergraduate program at ECU began in 1970. It graduated its first students in 1972 and has since grown from three faculty members to 11. The department transitioned to a master's program and admitted its first graduate students in 1996.

For more information, visit the department Web site at http://www.ecu.edu/pt.

Contact: ECU News Bureau | 252-328-6481