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AU News

Doctor of Physical Therapy Program Meeting Demand in Healthcare

DPT grads Dec. 2023
Anderson University established the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program to help fill the need for healthcare professionals who treat their patients with care and compassion.

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Helping individuals whose freedom of movement is hindered by injury, illness or disability involves more than just being someone with the right skill set; it takes someone with a caring and compassionate approach. 

The APTA (American Physical Therapy Association) and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics project continued growth in the physical therapy field to meet the demands of an ever-growing population. Anderson University established the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program in the School of Physical Therapy within the College of Health Professions to help fill that need.

Anderson University Director of Clinical Education Dr. Jessica Jacobs says physical therapy is a great career choice for someone who is fascinated with how the human body moves.

“You have a good mix of problem solving and the capability to use creative outlets to take a patient-centered approach to care,” Dr. Jacobs said. “It is a very hands-on profession. You need to be able to work with different personalities, people with different beliefs and backgrounds than you and you have to get them to buy into your plan so you have to always have good people skills.” 

Just three years since the program’s first graduates donned their white coats, hospitals and physical therapy facilities across the Upstate and beyond are benefiting from having Anderson University Physical Therapy graduates.

“I think employers are looking for Anderson students. They know that they’re getting a good quality student who not only knows the information and has the knowledge to be a good physical therapist but also just has that caring and compassionate soul that really comes along with working with people and working in the healthcare field,” Dr. Jacobs said.  

Physical Therapy Program Chair Dr. Curt Kindel says of the Anderson University DPT graduates, “They are highly sought after. I had one employer say to me ‘how many are you graduating this year?’ I said ‘28.’ He said, ‘I’ll take as many as you have.’” 

AnMed Outpatient Clinic Manager Dr. Elliott Tolley has been impressed with the quality of graduates like Dr. Emily Matthews. 

“I think back to Emily as a student… halfway through her last rotation you already know she’s proficient, she’s at the level that we would want someone onboarding, which makes that onboarding process easier for us,” Dr. Tolley said. “We know the skill sets are there, the intangibles are there, and it’s just a quick transition for us to bring someone on. She’s been a great hire for us, a great employee.” 

Dr. Tolley is also impressed by Anderson University physical therapy students who have come to the clinic for their rotations. 

“I worked in Charlotte for a while before we moved back here and had students from a bunch of different schools. The students we’ve had and the hires we’ve had, they’ve been great. I think they’re all going to knock it out of the park,” Dr. Tolley said.

“Many of our students from here in the Upstate who want to stay here after graduating have been able to easily find a job with multiple offers,” said Assistant Professor and Admissions Coordinator for the Anderson University School of Physical Therapy, Dr. Matthew DeRuig. “These last recent graduating classes have really made an impact. I think employers are looking for Anderson students and know that they’re getting a good quality student who not only knows the information and has the knowledge to be a good PT, but also has that caring and compassionate soul that really comes along with working with people and working in the healthcare field.” 

Lead Physical Therapist Dr. Elizabeth Timmons at the Meyer Center for Special Children in Greenville values physical therapists with a willingness to learn, flexibility and work ethic. After a physical therapist opening was advertised for five months, Dr. Timmons was delighted when Anderson University Physical Therapy graduate Dr. Katelyn Mintz joined their staff.

“We are so very thankful that we did wait for Katelyn. She is an amazing fit for our school, for our team and she’s wonderful,” Timmons said.

Mintz, who has her undergraduate degree in Kinesiology and her doctorate in physical therapy, said “Even my basis of kinesiology and what I learned at AU undergrad—that plus PT has really set me up to be successful. But really just understanding how the body works, what certain deficits are, why there are certain issues with the body and then more than anything just the interpersonal skills.” 

When Dr. Bryce Austin was a teenager, he hurt his elbow playing baseball. As a result of his injury, he got an early glimpse of his future. 

“I had to go through physical therapy… and that’s how I was introduced to it. As I started going through college I was looking at career paths. I knew I wanted to do something in healthcare. I just felt a strong connection and a pull to physical therapy. I started shadowing in the area and fell in love with it there. I knew it was the right path for me and it kind of snowballed from there.”

At AnMed’s Rehabilitation facility, Dr. Austin daily works with patients during their stay there. 

“Patients come in with strokes or hip replacements, motor vehicle accidents, brain injuries… it’s a wide variety of patients,” Dr. Austin said. “They get about three hours a day, so it’s pretty intensive. They stay with us until they can get back to where they can move around on their own so they can be safe when they go home.”

Dr. Austin appreciates the thorough, rigorous classes that helped to prepare him in his work, “especially with Dr. Jessica Jacobs; I think she prepared us very well for being able to treat patients who come in with higher level strokes or brain injuries, and even recently spinal cord injuries. Without her guidance to figure out how to treat those patients, I don’t think I would be able to be so confident in my ability to do so at this point.” 

Dr. Austin appreciates his Anderson University education on a variety of levels.

“It’s definitely helped from a faith-based aspect. Anderson has helped provide a compassion aspect. I think that gets lost sometimes in physical therapy,” he said.

“What made our program special was the people of our programs, whether it be our professors, staff… whoever was in the front office, they truly cared about each and every one of us they took the time out of their day to be able to know us on a personal level,” said recent graduate Dr. Kameron Reynolds, who will soon start at the AnMed Outpatient Clinic.

Anderson University College of Health Professions Dean Dr. Donald Peace said, “We have an outstanding group of faculty members who have taken an outstanding group of students, and that’s just a recipe for success no matter how you cut it. Our faculty in the Physical Therapy program are exceptional. More than half of our faculty have dual doctorate degrees, and most of them have certifications in a variety of areas from either neuro or orthopedics or pediatrics. They come with such an incredible breadth of understanding and knowledge and are certified in extremely important environments. You take that kind of mixture and blend it with students who are already coming and are outstanding.” 

Web PT movement

The Physical Therapy field is taking notice of Anderson University professors, as evidenced by faculty members being invited to speak at national conferences, and exposure in national publications—for example, a recent article was published in the American Physical Therapy Association Magazine about SPICE (Senior Partners in Clinical Education), a program helping senior citizens.

Anderson University’s eight semester program is shorter than other DPT programs in South Carolina, getting graduates into the job market sooner. The program includes 32 weeks of full-time clinical opportunities in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, outpatient clinics, long-term care facilities, home health, and specialty practices throughout the Southeast and other parts of the country. Students gain hands-on experience during their clinical experiences under the direct supervision of a licensed Physical Therapist. 

Details can be found online

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