Interdisciplinary training sets foundation for special practitioners

The following story is reprinted from the Spring/Summer 2007 issue of the USF magazine RESEARCH:

Shanna Fitton, SPT (left), and Jacqueline Lovejoy-Osborne, PT, DPT, Sciences, work with Darcy Enrille as she undergoes physical therapy.

The USF School of Physical Therapy & RehabilitationSciences is well on its way to achieving national prominence. Opened in 1998, the School attracts some of the brightest students in the country, fosters a collaborative relationship between studentsin the Physical Therapy (PT) program and USF’s College of Medicine, and became the first public university in Florida to receive State approval for a doctoral program. Success has come at a time when, more than ever, rehabilitation services are recognized as an integral part of the medical field.

The foundation for a physical therapist’s work, from its post-World War I origins to modern practice, is to restore movement and improve quality of life. With the increased number of military amputees and demands for a healthy, active lifestyle, the need for qualified physical therapists has grown significantly within the past five years.

“The responsibility of a healer is to give hope. Physical therapy and the other disciplines which contribute to rehabilitation sciences are in great demand and a growing area of research,” says Dr. William S. Quillen, Director of the School andAssociate Dean, USF College of Medicine.

In less than 10 years, the school has surpassed national standards and is now on par with similar programs at top-10 universities. Like its peers, the School’s greatest advantages are its affiliation with USF College of Medicine and its access to university resources.

“There are only about 12 to 15 programs nationally where the PT program
is part of a college of medicine. We have the opportunity to capture the richness of resources that have been directed toward medical students.
Our students have the benefit of a great first-year foundation that
sets them up to be special practitioners,” says Quillen.

In 2004, the School introduced the Doctor of Physcial Therapy (DPT) degree program. The charter DPT class began in August 2005.

“When we created the DPT program, we were able to integrate into the
foundational sciences of the first-year medical curriculum so that medical and PT students could take the same course work and learn side by side in this difficult, challenging, and formative year,” says Quillen.

The result of this innovative, interprofessional approach is technologically
aware and practice-ready graduates.

The School also works with departments across campus to attract undergraduates to the program, facilitate faculty research and student advising, and respond to public demand. For example, injuries that military personnel incur during times of war often include traumatic limb
amputations and brain injuries. For good or ill, one consequence of this physical damage is technological advances in rehabilitation sciences. With the aid of a $1-million federal grant, the School and the USF College of
Engineering are addressing the issue together to develop prosthetic and orthotic educational material and conduct pilot research on select orthotic, prosthetic and bioengineering topics.

As it continues its path of leadership, educational innovations, and research, the School is quickly establishing itself as one of the best PT programs in the country.

“We are fueling the growth and transformation of rehabilitation sciences,
which will incrementally move us to becoming a nationally known program,” says Quillen.

Quillen is the Director of the School of Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences and Associate Dean of the USF College of Medicine. He received his Ph.D. in Sports Medicine from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, and an M.P.A. in Health Services Management from Golden Gate University, San Francisco. Quillen is a retired Commander in the United States Navy.

– Story by Kathy Greenberg
– Photos by Joseph Gamble