UM-Flint Physical Therapy, English, ITS & Other Departments Team Up to Improve Healthcare Training in Nigeria

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The Physical Therapy Department has joined with a number of other University of Michigan-Flint departments to help improve healthcare in the African country of Nigeria.

In late August 2011, 16 graduate students from seven different Nigerian universities will begin online studies to earn a Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy (tDPT) degree.

"We hope to improve healthcare in Nigeria by helping to raise the level of education provided to that country's physical therapists (physiotherapists)" said Professor Lucinda (Cindy) Pfalzer, PT, Ph.D., FACSM, and FAPTA.  "Our goal is to offer the DPT for several years; at that point, there should be enough qualified physiotherapists in Nigeria to take over the teaching."

UM-Flint's involvement began when Nigerian Physical Therapy (PT) organizations wanted to upgrade their PT baccalaureate program to a 6-year DPT professional entry-level program. Many experienced Nigerian trained PTs have left the country to work in developed countries, leaving a human resource shortage. UM-Flint responded to a request by the Nigeria Physiotherapy Network to assist and mentor Nigerian programs through the transition to professional entry-level doctoral education.

Nigerian trained Physiotherapist and Executive Director of the Nigeria Physiotherapy Network Emmanuel B. John, BSPT, Ph.D., played a major role in coordinating the online expansion of the tDPT program to his country.  John, who now teaches in the Physical Therapy Department at Radford University, hopes the program will produce the human resources needed for Nigerian universities to someday offer their own professional DPT programs.

"Our goal is not to bring in a program that will compete with Nigerian PT schools, but rather to complement their efforts in response to this great need in PT clinical Education," said  John. "Further, Nigerian PTs who will be able to take advantage of the online DPT and CRP programs can themselves later on become resource persons in Nigeria and in the future will be in a better position to adapt these programs specifically for the Nigerian environment."

Making the program a reality required collaboration with UM-Flint Graduate Programs, the International Center, the Office of Extended Learning (OEL), and Information Technology Services (ITS).

Anticipating that English language proficiency might be a barrier, a unique supplemental English writing course was developed by OEL staff in collaboration with PT and English department faculty members.

"After conducting a needs assessment, we've found that many foreign students in the tDPT program experience difficulties during their studies because there are several skills that students are expected to utilize from the beginning of the program. However, many of them don't possess those skills due to their different cultural and educational backgrounds,"  said Andrea Becker, OEL's Senior Instructional Designer. "We designed and developed this online module titled Developing Writing and Academic Competencies for DPT Students to help these students enter their academic program better prepared."

The course has been tested on other students around the world and is receiving favorable response:

"This course provides such a valuable information which is necessary for the foundation of any scholarly education. Personally, I learned about using sources in academic work, general guidelines for formatting a scholarly paper, and purpose and types of case reports." (Student from Kashmir, India)

"I have  learned  what  an  amazing  material  the  AMA  manual of  style  is, the  format  of  writing  in  America, how  easy  it  is  to  search  the  internet  for  resources. I would not  want  to  change  anything  in  this  course  but  to  say  a  job  well  done." (Student from Akure, Nigeria)

To make sure the program gets off to a smooth start, Professor Pfalzer and others from the PT department; along with a representative from ITS traveled to Nigeria to give the students an overview of the program and to make sure the technology is in place to deliver the online program.

"For us, Nigeria is test ground for Africa and other developing countries. We want to make sure that everything runs smoothly," said Pfalzer.

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