Program in Physical Therapy, Washington University School of Medicine

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Program in Physical Therapy, Washington University School of Medicine

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  • Washington University (Saint Louis, Mo.). Program in Physical Therapy.

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  • Program in Physical Therapy at Washington University School of Medicine

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Founded in 1941 as the Barnes Hospital School for Physical Therapy Technicians, the Program in Physical Therapy at Washington University School of Medicine began the following year as a six-month program directed by an orthopedic surgeon to train therapists to treat soldiers in World War II. Starting with a class size of only seven, the Program embarked upon training students dedicated to the care of patients exhibiting movement dysfunction and, through the research of its faculty, new understanding of human movement and the conditions that affect human performance.

In 1948, the school began educating physical therapists at the baccalaureate level as part of Washington University School of Medicine. By 1980, the educational vision of the Program expanded to include post-professional education for graduate students possessing a baccalaureate degree in physical therapy. With the development of the Master of Health Science degree, practicing clinicians pursued advanced education to enhance their knowledge and skills in clinical practice, and to apply the research process to questions of professional interest. In response to continuous change in health care and higher education, the faculty began educating professional, entry-level physical therapists at the post-baccalaureate (master's degree) level in 1988. The Doctor of Philosophy was inaugurated in 1989, fulfilling the faculty's long-range goal of serving the profession with an interdisciplinary program to train researchers in movement science. During the 1980s, the Program assumed the direction of the Irene Walter Johnson Institute of Rehabilitation and in the 1990s expanded to run other physical therapy clinics of the Medical Center.

In 1999, the Program was granted approval by Washington University to offer a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) at both the professional and post-professional levels. The two new clinical doctorate programs replaced the Master of Science in Physical Therapy and the Master of Health Science (MHS). With the transition to the DPT, the Program equipped students to manage the changing needs of the healthcare environment and the growing responsibilities of the profession. In its first sixty years, more than 1500 students graduated from the Program.


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