Physical Therapy Celebrates 60 Years of Excellence in Healthcare Training

Share or print this article

The University of Michigan physical therapy (PT) program is 60 years old. Along with that anniversary, PT is celebrating its move to the UM-Flint campus 30 years ago.

Physical therapy alumni, faculty, students, and staff will be celebrating with events this weekend in Ann Arbor and Flint.

Founded on the Ann Arbor campus in 1952, the program was almost eliminated in the early 1980s before public opposition and a concerted effort by UM-Flint and the Flint medical community persuaded the U-M Board of Regents to move the program to Flint.

University of Michigan Physical Therapists
University of Michigan Physical Therapy celebrates 60 years

 Dick Darnell was the department head at that time. He is recognized as a pioneer in promoting physical therapy research in the state. Through his efforts for curriculum enhancement, UM-Flint awarded its first Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy degrees.

"The relocation of the physical therapy program from Ann Arbor to the Flint campus facilitated both its academic and professional development. Its accomplishments over thirty years are a testimony to the wisdom of the Board of Regents at that time," noted Darnell. "In no small measure, the accomplishments of the physical therapy department can be attributed to the nurturing environment it found within the university and the community in Flint."

When the PT program moved to UM-Flint, it was originally housed in the Lapeer Street Annex, the former Surge Building located near Court Street and Lapeer Road. The location was also shared with the UM-Flint nursing department.

Class of 2012 celebrates Physical Therapy in Flint for 30 years

 In May 2002, PT moved into its current location in the William S. White Building. That was also the first year physical therapy awarded the doctor of physical therapy degree (DPT).

Over the past decade, the PT program has seen not only continued its growth on the Flint campus, it has reached across the country and across oceans to improve healthcare. In 2009, the department began to offer a fully online, transitional DPT Program. In late August 2011, the online Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy was offered to 16 graduate students from seven different Nigerian universities.

"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."

The PT program has also received national attention for its research that is helping to lower treatment costs for some cancer patients. The research has changed physical therapy practice and service delivery in the U.S. and abroad.

In the past few years, PT has created partnerships with other prestigious medical organizations, including UM Medical Center PT on development of Neurologic and Pediatric residency programs.

This past year, the UM-Flint program was selected by the Veterans Affairs (VA) Ann Arbor Healthcare System to prepare physical therapy residents for advanced specialty practice. This program is aimed at developing advanced physical therapy practitioners who care for the whole patient, and are prepared for board certification in cardiovascular and pulmonary physical therapy by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties.

UM-Flint is the first university in the country to work with the VA on the Cardiopulmonary PT Residency. Only six universities were selected this year to provide special training.

President of the Michigan Physical Therapy Association (MPTA) Kake Jakubiak Kovacek, in noting the 60th anniversary of the PT program said, "MPTA is very proud of the UM-Flint Physical Therapy Program tradition of excellence in all its programming—here at home and abroad. Your commitment to the profession, your focus on student-centered learning, and your belief in engaged citizenship throughout the globe certainly does UM- Flint PT proud, and likewise makes the MPTA profoundly glad that your program is part of our Chapter."

The start of PT Heart in January 2012

The latest addition to the PT program is PT HEART, a student-led pro bono clinic that was established in January 2012. It is a clinic committed to providing physical therapy services and health education to the uninsured and under-insured of Genesee County. Students from the Doctor of Physical Therapy program and students from the Health Education program collaborate on this initiative.

To celebrate the anniversary, an alumni reunion and dinner will be held this coming Friday (Oct. 12, 2012), and will continue on Saturday (Oct. 13) in Ann Arbor at the U-M football game.

Happy 60th, Physical Therapy!

The Office of Marketing & Communications can be reached at [email protected].