Cost of living scholarship a DPT program goal

Texas Tech University’s Health Sciences Center has a doctoral program in physical therapy that they’d like to attract more people to. One way to do this would be to set up a cost-of-living adjustment grant fund.

dr Deborah Edwards, regional dean of the Odessa Doctor of Physiotherapy program and deputy program director for the entire program for TTUHSC, said the DPT program enrolls 72 students. 36 remain in Lubbock; 18 go to Odessa; and 18 go to Amarillo.

“We always have three cohorts in Odessa, that gives us 54 graduate students every year,” Edwards said.

There are currently 19 doctoral physical therapy programs in Texas accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. There is a 20th program eligible for accreditation, so there will be 20 in Texas.

“In order to increase our cohort size, we need to get approval from CAPTE, and it’s important that we follow CAPTE’s guidelines because in order for a student who completes our program to get their license to practice, we need a good reputation have CAPTE and we must be an accredited school. So in order to grow the program, we would need to show CAPTE that in this third year with clinical sites we are able to support growth in this area. That’s really our biggest challenge getting clinical sites,” Edwards said.

“…Many of our students have to leave the field to complete their clinical rotations,” she added.

She noted that the cost of living in the Permian Basin is also a “minor obstacle.”

“One of our goals here in the Permian Basin is to start a cost-of-living adjustment scholarship fund, because now when students are looking, let’s just say they just want to go to Tech, they look at Odessa and they look at Amarillo and you see Lubbock on. We have the highest cost of living here, so one of the only ways we can really get these students to come here is by offering scholarships. I would say most people… 99 percent of the students on this campus have a significant amount of scholarship and that’s the only way to get them to stay in an area that isn’t very attractive for a college student to be in Compared to Lubbock, where football games are held, or even like DFW, where there are concerts (and) things like that,” Edwards said.

She added that TTUHSC does a good job with its interview system when students come to Odessa. They are shown the new academic building, the students praise the small cohort size and are very family oriented and support them to get through the PhD program.

“We have a difficult little niche here in Odessa because we have a great product. I would say the product gets a state level PhD rather than many other DPT degrees at private institutions which are much more expensive when their debt burden is higher,” Edwards said.

But they also look at the cost of living, which can be $5,000 or $6,000 more than if they choose the Lubbock or Amarillo campus.

“That’s goal #1 in this role as Regional Dean. I spoke to our fundraising experts on main campus and looked at the numbers of how much it would cost to have a fund that basically levels the playing field. So if you want to come to Odessa, you will get enough scholarship (money) that it will not cost you more because of the cost of living compared to other schools in the region. We have a school in San Angelo. There’s a school in Abilene. We have campuses in Lubbock and in Amarillo. All of these have lower living costs, so I hope at some point we’ll be able to offer a solid cost-of-living adjustment for scholarships to make it more attractive to bring students here,” Edwards said.

She also provided some history of the physical therapy profession.

“The profession of physical therapy was originally a certification that emerged during World War II and was primarily intended for the rehabilitation of polio victims. With the success they had with these patient populations, this profession began to evolve from a certification to a bachelor’s program and eventually a master’s program. There are several reasons it became a doctoral program, but the first entry-level DPT degree was awarded in 1996, by Creighton University (in Omaha, Neb.),” said Edwards.

Part of the reason for moving to a doctoral program was the need for more primary care, particularly in rural areas.

“There are many states that have direct access where you can go to a physical therapist just like you can go to a chiropractor, a podiatrist or an optometrist. As a first contact, the aim of the doctoral program was for all therapists to be sufficiently trained not only to assess and treat problems that we can assess and treat, but also to be able to recognize serious pathologies that emerge and need to be referred back to medicine,” Edwards said.

As of 2008, Texas Tech University Health Sciences was the first program in Texas to award a DPT degree.

In 2016, their accrediting body, the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education, began requiring all entry-level therapists to earn a PhD.

“The primary concern was to increase access to professionals who had sufficient training to recognize and know where to turn, not just to assist the patient with a musculoskeletal or neurological problem, but also knowing when something else was going on and they needed to go either to the ER or back to their GP,” Edwards said.

She added that therapists treat patients their entire lives.

Overall, it should benefit patients, so providers can tell if a patient needs to be seen in medicine, for example, or undergo rehabilitation.

“We treat multiple systems and multiple diagnoses. As we’ve grown, our curriculum and outcomes have gotten much better. … Length of stay in hospitals has decreased as physical therapy has been added to … routine care. So I would say most of your healthcare practitioners who have primary or direct access are entry level PhDs at this point,” Edwards said.

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