A Founding Director’s Vision for DPT Education

In October 2014 I was in my 17th year as a full time faculty member (with tenure) at the University of Massachusetts Lowell Department of Physical Therapy. My focus was shifting to scholarship after having served for 5 years as the Department Chair. However, in November 2014 an opportunity presented itself. An opportunity to direct my scholarship toward the development and implementation of a new DPT program at Plymouth State University. Below is the letter of application and the vision for the program I submitted along with my curriculum vita. A few months after submission I was faced with making the decision to leave a comfortable position of 17 years and blazing a new trail. A stark realization was that I wanted to take the position, only fear of leaving held me back initially. However, with that realization I knew there was nothing else to do. Moving to Plymouth State University to develop and implement the DPT program was set in motion.

I am providing this letter and vision for those students that may want to know more about why I applied, which is based primarily on a vision for DPT Education.

Letter of Application

To Whom It May Concern:

Please accept this letter of application and the attached curriculum vita for consideration in your search for the Plymouth State University Founding Chair of the Physical Therapy Department and Founding Director of the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program. My background, experience and proven capabilities ideally match this position’s qualifications, representative duties and responsibilities. This position caught my attention for three reasons.

First, it would be a challenging opportunity to found a new department and program in a public university. My education at UMass Lowell was available to me because it is an institution of public higher education. My mentor throughout PT school at UMass, and in my first several years as a faculty (Dr. Joseph Dorsey), founded the program in 1977 specifically because Massachusetts did not have a public higher education option in physical therapy. I can imagine no greater pursuit for the second half of my career than using my background, experience and skills to help provide a DPT education to students in the State of New Hampshire.

Second, this position would be an opportunity to implement cutting edge educational approaches to prepare physical therapists for the changing health care landscape. Programs should be flexible and adaptable with a process of systematic program review and adjustment built into their foundation. Faculty in these programs should be highly accessible to students, while being scholars and visionary leaders to the profession. Founding a new department and program provides the opportunity to develop such a transformative department and program with graduates prepared as clinicians, leaders and advocates. As you will read in my teaching philosophy and vision for this position, I believe it is critical for a program to recognize the educational elements of all aspects of department and program function, not only classroom experiences. I would bring to this position experience, insights and ideas developed during 22 years of involvement with the APTA, 20 in the profession, 17 years as a clinician scholar educator, and five years of direct academic administrative experience. A major accomplishment of my time as Chair and Program Director was a mastery of the accreditation requirements, program assessment, curriculum assessment, curriculum design and development, and clinical education. A major challenge was attempting to implement transformative ideas in a program with a long history of fairly rigid practices. This position would allow me to bring a vision to reality, founding a new department and program with transformation and adaptability built into the core of the department and program.

Third, this position would allow me to relocate just a bit further north to be closer to a region with abundant natural resources and outdoor recreational activities. This is clearly a personal reason. Over the years I have developed a passion for nature including forest hikes, peak bagging and snowshoeing. As my children have gotten older I have had more opportunities for these activities. As they now graduate from high school, my wife and I have the opportunity to relocate to be closer to our recreational activities.

Rather than extending this letter of application any further I will close here and append additional information for your consideration in the pages that follow. I will highlight some aspects of my background and qualifications, provide a teaching philosophy and vision for this position.

If you have any questions or requests, please do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Vision for this Position

My vision for this position emerges from the previous statements with a consideration of three facts put into action with three principles with consideration to three current barriers to PT education. I look forward to the opportunity to discuss this vision with you in more detail.

Facts

  1. Health care is changing to meet the needs of today’s society while attempting to be predictive of tomorrow’s needs (through predictive data analytics)
  2. PT as a professional service is transforming in response to health care changes
  3. PT education is transforming in response to professional transformation

Principles

  1. Teaching and learning occurs with all interactions between a student and their environment. Core, affiliated and clinical faculty, other students, and their interactions all contribute to the landscape of the environment and therefore the teaching and learning that takes place. The department must exist in a university that embraces teaching first and foremost, and has a tradition of meeting evolving education needs.
  2. Technology transforms delivery, but it does not change epistemology. A program needs to consider the use of technology in its curriculum carefully and adopt evidence based best practices in implementation. The technology should help students with their struggle through the necessary learning transition of unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence to conscious competence and ultimately practicing clinicians with adaptive practice.
  3. Transformative clinicians develop from transformative students which learn from a transformative program and will be able to think about their thinking; reason about their reasoning; and adapt in response a changing landscape. This means programs consider the planned outcomes of all activities, communicate those planned outcomes, evaluate actual outcomes and adjust. Involving students in that process contributes to their learning in fundamentally important ways to meeting the needs of health care in today’s and potentially tomorrow’s society.

Barrier Considerations

  1. Faculty Recruitment: a major problem facing DPT programs is the recruitment of qualified faculty. Faculty should be balanced with clinical oriented and prepared expert clinicians (DPT with speciality certification) and academic oriented clinicians (PhD, ScD, EdD prepared). The challenge with the first group is preparation for teaching and scholarship. The challenge with the second group is finding qualified candidates. A new program needs to consider, from its outset, how it will ensure preparation, and implement approaches to preparation of DPT qualified faculty candidates, how it will evaluate their performance and guide them through promotion. It will need robust department, college and university resources to meet this challenge. The barrier for recruiting is met by consideration to the second barrier (Faculty Scholarship).
  2. Faculty Scholarship is required as part of the accreditation process independent of the hosting university’s requirements. However, the CAPTE requirements are flexible. The challenge in PT programs occurs for two reasons: the mix of faculty and the cross cut of specializations making up a faculty. Such a cross cut makes collaboration more difficult. When collaboration is more difficult it does not occur and the clinically prepared faculty have a difficult time with scholarship, and the department environment is not as transformative as it could be (which thus influences student learning). Plymouth State University seems ideally positioned to create a unification of scholarship for faculty. Not a unification by practice areas, but a unification by methodologies and goals. The profession is in need of PT faculty to develop theory, methods, and products to increase the utilization of available evidence in practice. So building a faculty on that platform allows recruitment of faculty from a variety of practice areas for teaching the curriculum with unification to allow collaboration. Such collaboration provides the clinical trained faculty with the necessary scholarship mentoring, and the research trained faculty with clinician interaction. There are qualified PT faculty looking for the opportunity to be part of such a department because they realize that these activities are needed by the profession. They simply want to work in a department that encourages collaborations around these methods in a university that understands their importance.
  3. Clinical Education Opportunities – the single largest challenge to PT education is having enough effective, high quality clinical education opportunities. There are several creative solutions to this problem that can be adopted during the development of a new program that are difficult to implement in existing programs. Possibilities include joint clinician / clinical faculty positions creating institutional connections with PT clinics, rehabilitation hospitals and medical centers; flexible clinical rotation design; integrated experiences; simulated experiences; partnerships with explicit two way benefits. No single approach is best, and a combination may be most adaptive.

Vision Summary

A Department of Physical Therapy which houses a Doctor of Physical Therapy program that contributes to the transformation of physical therapy education through innovative and responsive curricular design, pedagogy, integrated learning experiences, novel and integrated clinical experiences, and profession developing scholarship.<p>

 

Since applying and starting at Plymouth State University in June 2015 we have accomplished a lot. We have achieved candidacy with CAPTE, have recruited several well qualified faculty, numerous excellent clinical education partners and several campus partners to enrich the learning environment. The vision above has been developed more fully with the development of the curriculum, the courses, the department space, faculty recruitment and now will reach fruition as we review applications and seek to admit and recruit our charter class of DPT students!  I remain optimistic that we can meet our current Vision and Mission which are further developed realizations of the founding vision, and that the PSU DPT program will contribute to the health of society and the effectiveness of the Physical Therapy profession.