Progress in the Department of Physical Therapy

Dr. Stacie Fruth, founding chair of the Department of Physical Therapy

The WMU Board of Trustees approved the establishment of the Department of Physical Therapy in April 2015, but the work on building a Doctor of Physical Therapy program began much earlier. When Dr. Stacie Fruth started as founding chair in January 2017, the department and program finally established a presence in the College of Health and Human Services. This year has seen more growth and progress toward the 2019 start date of the DPT program.

Personnel update

Finding the right personnel is essential in the development of a new department and academic program. This summer, the PT department grew by two faculty members, and a staff member will be added in the coming weeks. The department is also currently searching for two additional faculty members.

  • Daren Webb started as Director of Clinical Education in July. Most recently, Daren was staff physical therapist in the Sports Medicine Clinic at the Sindecuse Health Center.
  • Dr. Don Hoover officially joins the department as professor in August. Dr. Hoover was most recently an associate professor in the physical therapy department at Western Kentucky University.

Space progress

See the proposed layout of the EWB second floor, as unveiled at the 2016 State of the College

Upon her arrival, Dr. Fruth took up temporary space in the Dean's suite on the second floor of the building. With the arrival of PT faculty and staff, department offices have moved to the third floor, adjacent to OT and PA offices.

Meanwhile, there has been progress with plans to renovate the second floor of the Ernest Wilbur Building (EWB), which is located near the northeast corner of the CHHS building. The renovated space will include classroom and lab space that will be available to all CHHS programs. It will also include a shower facility, a welcome addition for staff and students who exercise during working hours or who want to shower between clinical experiences and classes, for example.

Still in the early stages, the architectural plans have been approved and construction bids are being considered. If the current timeline holds, renovations will be complete by fall 2018.

The curriculum process

A major hurdle in achieving program accreditation is development of a curriculum that includes every element of the accreditation requirements. This has been the primary focus of the current faculty. A full curriculum proposal will be submitted for university-wide approval this fall. 

At this time, plans are to offer a two-and-a-half year program with cohorts of 30 students starting in the summer II session. Working closely with CHHS Advising, the department has also finalized prerequisites for the program, including minimum GPA and a requirement to take the GRE.

"The Department of Physical Therapy is building an innovative, contemporary and learner-centered DPT program," said Dr. Fruth. "We have developed excellent working relationships with the other schools and departments in the College of Health and Human Services, and I look forward to working collaboratively with other programs within the University."

As more information becomes available, the Department of Physical Therapy website will continue to grow. In addition, the department will become more active on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms as they recruit faculty members and begin to recruit students for the program's first cohort in summer 2019.