A doctor of physical therapy program has begun at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, with its inaugural cohort of 34 students attending classes.
The only physical therapy doctorate in the northern two-thirds of the state, the program addresses regional and rural needs in northcentral Wisconsin. It is designed to recruit, support and prepare students interested in serving rural communities as highly qualified primary care providers.
The physical therapy program was developed in partnership with local health care providers, said Kathryn Zalewski, P.T., doctor of physical therapy program director. “It has the specific intent of graduating physical therapists ready to collaborate and serve the evolving, diverse needs of rural communities.”
The program has intentionally connected to northcentral Wisconsin communities since planning began, she said. “The community asked for our program to focus on the development of primary care physical therapists with strengths in communication and problem solving. We are excited to deliver on this need.”
The region has an older population with a greater incidence of heart, pain-related and cerebrovascular disease. Northcentral Wisconsin also has fewer licensed physical therapists per 100,000 residents compared to southern Wisconsin.
“The DPT program model is sustainable, innovative and engaged with our local communities,” Zalewski said. An advisory board of local and regional employers, educators and practitioners informs the program curricula.
The program takes 2.5 years to complete, with classes year-round. It integrates community-engaged learning through a PT Student Clinic taught by professionals who donate their time. It culminates with two 15-week applied learning experiences in local, regional and national clinics. These learning venues include private practice, home health, hospital-based clinics, school systems, community centers and long-term rehabilitation agencies.
The DPT program has been granted “candidate for accreditation” status by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. This is a key milestone, indicating UW-Stevens Point’s program is progressing toward accreditation. CAPTE grants specialized accreditation status to qualified education programs for physical therapists and is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
Students who complete some or all of their pre-physical therapy undergraduate studies are prioritized for admission to the DPT program. Virtual roundtable discussions are offered regularly to help students plan and prepare for a career in physical therapy. To learn more, attend an information session by registering on the DPT website.
Students may apply as of June 15 for the next cohort, beginning June 2023, at the DPT website.