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School offers doctorate now

The School of Physical Therapy at USF’s College of Medicine is taking measures to ensure that physical therapists graduate with a stronger ability to serve patients.

Before the shift, the master’s degree was the highest attainable degree in the school. Now prospective students can vie for a doctorate in physical therapy.

“The primary difference is the expanded and enhanced formal education in preparation for entry-level practice, and that’s in a number of areas,” Program Director of the School of Physical Therapy William Quillen said.

Physical therapy students at USF will now enter the workforce with a greater advantage than other physical therapy students in Florida.

“The profession has said that the doctorate of physical therapy is the preferred degree. So it is clear to us that is the future,” said Laura Swisher, coordinator of professional education for the School of Physical Therapy.

According to Quillen, this is a step in the right direction because the profession will most likely demand advanced degrees in the field.

“I think that some point in time in the future that all graduates that are practicing will have earned their doctorate of physical therapy and licensure may transition to require that,” Quillen said.

In addition, the new doctorate program is the only public university in the state to offer the degree.

“The University of South Florida was the first public university in the state university system to be authorized to offer the doctorate of physical therapy degree and that occurred a year ago,” Quillen said.

On a national scale, it propels the USF College of Medicine to the forefront of other public schools in the country as well.

“Nationally we’re one of only about 15 physical therapy education programs to be in either a school or college of medicine. That makes us unique,” Quillen said.

Another new change for the School of Physical Therapy is a rolling admissions procedure that does not require applicants to take the Graduate Record Exam. The admissions process consequentially is even more competitive than some of the other branches of health sciences.

“I want to enroll a qualified class of students, but I also want to enroll students who want to be here at USF and value what we’re doing here at the school of physical therapy. (Rolling admissions) is a way to ensure that we get the most qualified students at the earliest, practical point,” Quillen said.

According to Quillen, the new transition for the school is not only relevant to students enrolled or interested in becoming a physical therapist.

“This about the whole profession’s evolution,” Quillen said. “This is about advancing the profession in total.”