Press Release: The University of West Florida (UWF) and the University of South Florida (USF) will be able to move forward to create a pilot program offering a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree in Pensacola. The partnership program was approved last week by the Florida Board of Governors, which serves as a key step in advancing its implementation.
“This partnership will provide a valuable opportunity for UWF students to participate in USF’s nationally recognized Doctor of Physical Therapy program,” said Martha Saunders, PhD, UWF Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs. “Partnerships like this are important because they maximize the state’s resources, build on successful programming and provide needed support to our community. We appreciate the support of both institutions’ Board of Trustees as well as the Florida Board of Governors, and I am looking forward to more collaborations in the future.”
The Board’s approval follows the Florida Legislature’s appropriation last year of $1 million to help fund the USF-UWF Doctor of Physical Therapy education partnership program.
The collaborative program will expand access to UWF students interested in pursuing a DPT and help meet a state-identified need for more physical therapists in a largely rural region of the state.
If other requirements by accreditation organizations are met as expected, students will begin applying for the program in July 2013 and start their studies in summer 2014.
The partnership will allow the USF Health School of Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences to expand enrollment in its nationally-ranked, three-year DPT degree program by as many as 12 additional students a year. The newly created slots will be competitively available to UWF graduates who meet USF’s DPT admissions requirements. When fully implemented, up to 36 qualified UWF graduates could be enrolled in the program.
Students would spend their first year of physical therapy studies at the USF Health campus in Tampa. The final two years of the three-year program would be spent in classrooms at UWF’s Pensacola campus and clinical internships conducted at hospitals and outpatient sites across the state’s Panhandle.
“This is an exciting educational partnership for health care in Florida,” said Stephen K. Klasko, MD, CEO of USF Health and dean of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine. “We are grateful that state lawmakers, the Florida Board of Governors, UWF President Judy Bense, and USF President Judy Genshaft have all recognized the critical need for more physical therapists to meet the future healthcare needs of Floridians.”
The Board of Governors conducted a statewide analysis regarding the physical therapist workforce demand. Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (FDEO) data and online tools indicate that the Pensacola area is a remote pocket of high-demand in the state for physical therapists, with more than 160 openings advertised in Fall 2012.
Florida public and independent universities awarded an estimated 392 professional DPT degrees during 2011-2012. The FDEO projected workforce demand for physical therapists is 492 annually to the year 2020.
“Together USF, with our cutting-edge physical therapy education program emphasizing inter-professional collaboration, and UWF, which provides impressive pre-professional health sciences education, will help meet this rapidly growing demand for physical therapy services.” said William S. Quillen, DPT, PhD, director of the USF School of Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences and associate dean of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.
“Northwest Florida is home to healthcare organizations, such as Andrews Institute, that are known throughout the United States for their quality physical therapy programs,” said George Stewart, PhD, Director of the UWF School of Allied Health and Life Sciences. “This program will produce qualified professionals who are prepared to enter this competitive workforce. The regional healthcare community has been extremely supportive of this endeavor, and we will utilize their expertise and facilities for internships, clinical rounds and more. We look forward to meeting their need for trained physical therapists.”