USF and UWF create new physical therapy program

A new joint doctoral program in physical therapy offered by USF Health and the University of West Florida will aim to provide students with increased opportunities for education and employment.

Dr. William Quillen, director of the USF School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences and associate dean of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, said this change will provide UWF students the opportunity to partake in USFs physical therapy program.

Florida faces a critical physical therapist shortage, especially in the rural parts of the state, Quillen said. There are about 160 job vacancies in the Panhandle.

Dr. George Stewart, chair of biology and director of the School of Allied Health and Life Sciences at UWF, said the first year of classes would take place at the USF Tampa campus, because of USFs abundant health and laboratory resources and the last two years of the program, along with clinicals at various outreach and hospitals, will be held in Pensacola because of the large health care presence in the Panhandle.

This new program will be an efficient means to further health care and health care education in the panhandle region without overspending, Stewart said.

The Florida Board of Governors approved the new pilot program six months ago. The program will also allow expansion of class enrollment, an increase from 36 students per class to roughly 48.

Taylor Muehlstein, a freshman majoring in health sciences, said she plans to study physical therapy in the future, and shared positive feedback about the new program.

Ive lived in Florida all my life so I think its great that two Florida universities are linking up like this, Muehlstein said. Hopefully this program will provide more resources for the state.

This program has been in the works since 2010 between USF and UWF.

Its been a long journey, but certainly worth the trip, Stewart said.

Physical therapy students at UWF and USF will be able to apply for the program in July and begin classes in the Summer 2014.