Physical Therapy Becomes First UTC Doctorate

October is Physical Therapy Month

Physical therapist: health care professional who evaluates and treats people with health problems resulting from injury or disease.

The UT Board of Trustees has approved for the UTC College of Health and Human Services to begin offering a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. This becomes UTC’s first doctoral program.

UTC has for years offered a master’s degree in physical therapy, putting the program ahead of a national mandate this year requiring more than a four-year degree from an accredited institution. UTC offers a rolling physical therapy admissions procedure.

In addition to the UTC program, more than 200 colleges and universities nationwide offer professional educational programs in physical therapy, according to Dr. Debbie Ingram, of the UTC Physical Therapy Department, the Academic Coordinator of Clinical Education. Ingram helps place students in a hospital or medical center to gain experience working with patients. She has served as the national chairman for Clinical Education for the American Physical Therapy and as the Federal Affairs Liaison for the Education Section of the APTA.

"Siskin, Erlanger, Memorial, Center for Sports Medicine, Parkridge Hospital , East Ridge Hospital, and Hutcheson Memorial all provide an opportunity for UTC graduate students to gain experience in physical education while working with patients, or clinical work," Ingram said.

Students from UTC have the opportunity to go these institutions to work with patients: Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, DC; Emory University Medical Center in Atlanta; University of Alabama at Birmingham Medical Center; Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota; Shepherd Center in Atlanta; Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville and the largest medical center in Vancouver, British Columbia .

Although the experience may move the student to a distant city, there is a benefit to leaving the Chattanooga area.

"Even if the new graduate chooses to return to southeast Tennessee to work, we feel they will bring these different approaches to our local facilities and ultimately strengthen the services provided," Ingram said.

Ingram encourages students to take this opportunity, if they can afford it.

"One of the most difficult situations I face in clinical education is related to the enormous financial burden our students carry. They are not paid by these facilities and housing has to be arranged and paid for by the student," Ingram said.

Here are a few quick facts:

  • there are more than 120,000 physical therapists are licensed in the US
  • more than 65% of physical therapists practice in private offices community health centers, industrial health centers, sports facilities, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, home health agencies, schools or pediatric centers
  • many other physical therapists work in hospital settings