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Bradley awards first professional doctorate degree
When Dr. Mary Jo Mays began teaching in the physical therapy department at Bradley 18 years ago, she was the department’s only faculty member. Now, there are 10.
Sixteen students earned the doctorate of physical therapy degree on May 17 as part of Bradley’s inaugural class in the program instituted three years ago. Bradley’s bachelor of science in physical therapy was first offered in 1990 and transitioned to the master of physical therapy degree in 1997. Bradley replaced the master’s program with the three-year professional doctorate in physical therapy in 2005. The first professional doctorate ever to be offered at Bradley, it continues to be the only program of its kind in downstate Illinois.
“Education was headed that way,” explains Mays, who retired in May. “It took nine years to get from offering just the bachelor of physical therapy degree to offering the master of physical therapy degree. It took another five years before Bradley offered the doctor of physical therapy degree. More than 80 percent of the graduate programs in physical therapy are now at the doctorate level. We needed to be at the doctorate level, as well, because of the kind of knowledge students must gain. It allows time to integrate experience with classroom instruction.”
After earning a bachelor’s degree in health science or a related field, with coursework in physics, biology, statistics, and kinesiology, students complete 105 credit hours of concentrated academic and clinical work. Five supervised clinical experiences are also required, in areas including pediatrics, geriatrics, orthopedics, neurologic, and general acute care.
“I found that you really learn the most from the clinical affiliations. There is only so much that can be taught in the classroom. I liked that the five clinicals were spread throughout the curriculum rather than saved for the end because it was easier to learn some of the material after having seen a patient for comparison,” said JAMIE EILTS DPT ’08.
Applicants for the program increase each year, with about 190 students applying for 20 to 24 openings in 2008. Demand for physical therapy services continues to be strong. The growing elderly population is particularly vulnerable to conditions that require therapeutic services, and baby-boomers are entering the prime age for heart attacks and strokes, increasing the demand for cardiac and physical rehabilitation.
More children will need physical therapy as technological advances save the lives of more newborns with severe birth defects. Future medical developments will also permit a higher percentage of trauma victims to survive, creating additional demand. “The field is very wide open, and we are constantly getting e-mail from recruiters,” says Mays.
Dr. Joan L. Sattler, dean of the College of Education and Health Sciences, hired Mays to develop the programs, establish the department, and hire and mentor faculty. “Dr. Mays was undaunted by the enormity of the tasks before her. She made a plan and implemented activities incrementally from establishing academic facilities to obtaining national accreditation for the program in 1994. She is highly respected within the Bradley community, has served as the Senate president, and is well-known nationally in the physical therapy higher education community. I feel extremely fortunate to have recruited her.”
“Dr. Mays shaped the curriculum into the challenging set of standards that it is, and always expected us to live up to those standards, no matter the setting,” said MEGAN SWEARINGEN DPT ’08.
Dr. Steven Tippet, PT, ATC, SCS, professor and associate chair of the Department of Physical Therapy and Health Science, succeeds Mays as chair of the department.
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