Concordia University Wisconsin commits to helping students develop in mind, body, and spirit to serve Christ in the Church and the world as a Lutheran higher education community. We invite our community partners and our valued alumni to be partners in advancing that mission.
Our Traditional Program Origins
Nearly 30 years ago, in the fall of 1994, the inaugural cohort of physical therapy (PT) students began their Master of Physical Therapy coursework at Concordia University Wisconsin (CUW). Two years later, the program was officially accredited. In the early 2000s, we converted the Master of Physical Therapy program to a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree, which is now the standard of education for the profession.
Currently, the traditional Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program at CUW welcomes 28 students per cohort annually. The program offers several CUW students accelerated admission, enabling them to complete both a Bachelor of Science in Rehabilitation Science and a DPT degree within 6 years. The traditional program also welcomes other students from CUW and universities nationwide who have completed an undergraduate degree and meet prerequisite requirements for admission.
Other Programs We Offer
In addition to the traditional DPT program, the Physical Therapy Department will welcome its third cohort of students into the Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) to DPT Bridge program this January. The hybrid nature of this program reaches PTAs across the nation, allowing them to advance their education and career without moving to a new city or state.
About 10 years ago, the Physical Therapy Department developed the Concordia University Orthopedic Residency as a subset. This nationally-accredited post-professional opportunity allows licensed physical therapists to advance their clinical practice in orthopedic care. Upon completing the residency, clinicians can sit for the Orthopedic Specialist Certification examination and earn the national distinction of Board-Certified Specialist in Orthopedic Physical Therapy.
About the Faculty
Eleven full-time faculty and numerous adjunct faculty and lab assistants (many are alumni of CUW) serve the physical therapy students and residents. The faculty hold various terminal-level degrees, including PhD, EdD, ScD, and DPT. Seven of the full-time faculty members also hold recognition as Board Certified Specialists in their respective domains of physical therapy practice.
Service in Practice
Service to the community is a cornerstone of the CUW DPT program. Traditional DPT students must complete at least 30 service hours over three years, but many students far exceed this requirement as they embody and live out the mission of CUW. The curriculum also embeds community outreach. Examples include educational outreach to local and at-risk schools, fall risk and health screens for community members and individuals in assisted-living facilities, and pro-bono physical therapy care.
Students in the Community Clinic
In the traditional DPT program, students spend three semesters enrolled in a series of Community Clinic courses. During these courses, PT students collaborate with licensed supervising clinicians, classmates, and students/faculty from other healthcare disciplines to provide pro-bono care to community members in need. PT students have the opportunity to work with children, adults, and the elderly population throughout this time. These courses also allow third-year PT students to mentor second-year students, building confidence in knowledge and skills. Over the years, the location of the “Community Clinic” has varied; we have rearranged classrooms on campus and provided services at numerous off-site locations. The opening of the new Interprofessional Clinic on the CUW campus in January 2023 has created an optimal learning environment for conducting patient and client care.
The newly renovated Interprofessional Clinic provides much-needed spaces to continue our efforts to educate all of our students to be interprofessional practitioners. The clinic includes a welcoming reception area, an ample open gym space, a splinting area, private treatment rooms, an observation room, an apartment, and a simulation lab.
Hear From the Faculty and Students
Elizabeth Paly, Associate Professor of Physical Therapy and Course Coordinator for the Community Clinic courses, speaks on the benefit this space provides the PT students. Dr. Paly has observed that “the IP (Interprofessional) Clinic provides a safe learning environment where our students can apply and practice clinical skills as they progress in the program.”
The use of the new clinic space is not isolated to the Community Clinic courses. Kate Bennett, Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy, states, “I love using the space to welcome patients with the health conditions students are studying to be patient examples in the Management of Neuromuscular Disorders courses.” This past spring, Dr. Bennett utilized the IP clinic space for students to practice testing and assessing a client with a spinal cord injury. She also finds the space beneficial for conducting lab practical assessments and simulated patient interactions in an environment that closely resembles what students will experience on clinical rotations and in their future careers.
A current DPT student indicates, “The clinic space has been great for real-life application of skills.” The student elaborated that the clinic has “allowed me to connect with community members and students/professionals from other healthcare disciplines.”
In the Future
The PT department is excited to continue exploring opportunities for interprofessional student collaboration and service to the community. Ideas that have been proposed include development screens for infants and toddlers, group exercise classes, and fitness activities for AbleLight students. If you feel the IP clinic or a department within the School of Health Professions could address a community need, please let us know!
At Concordia University Wisconsin, our goal is not only to provide quality education to our students and prepare them to serve but to do so by continuing to cultivate and develop meaningful community collaborations and engage our alumni. Are you interested in becoming partners in the mission of Concordia? Come join us for our upcoming event, Creating Community Collaborations: A CUW Alumni Event, on Wed. October 25th, 5:30-7:30pm. Following a welcome address, our guests will receive a clinic tour and participate in a collective discussion to identify unmet community needs and ways our IP clinic can help address them. We hope you can join us on campus!