UAMS Names Jefferson to Lead New Physical Therapy Program

By Holland Doran

Jefferson, who will start at UAMS full time Jan. 1, brings more than two decades’ experience as a physical therapy educator as well as time spent in curriculum and program development. The UAMS physical therapy program, to be a part of its College of Health Professions, is working toward provisional accreditation and hopes to enroll its first students in 2015.

“John gives us the great combination of clinical practice, education and program development experience we need as we assemble this program,” said College of Health Professions Dean Douglas Murphy, Ph.D. “This is another example where the College of Health Professions is responding to a health care workforce need, fulfilling the UAMS mission of health and health improvement in Arkansas.”

As program director, Jefferson will be responsible for development of curriculum, policy, faculty recruitment and attaining accreditation.

“Establishing this program in northwest Arkansas will produce new therapists who will be in high demand in the region,” said Peter O. Kohler, M.D., vice chancellor for UAMS Northwest. “It also fits well with the education programs we already have at UAMS Northwest for medical students, pharmacy students, nursing and health professions students who will all be learning team-based care together in our clinic settings.”

Jefferson previously served as an associate professor in the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Ala. He joined the faculty at the University of South Alabama in 1994 following stints on the physical therapy faculty at Dalhouise University and the University of Alberta, both in Canada.

He received his doctorate in orthopaedic and sports science in 2010 from the Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions in Utah. In 1987, he earned a master’s degree in biomechanics from the University of Waterloo in Canada. He received a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy in 1980 from the University of Toronto in Canada.

Jefferson is a member of the American Physical Therapy Association. He is a member of the International Association for the Study of Pain. He was a founding member of the Physiotherapy Foundation of Canada.

In a needs assessment for the program conducted by UAMS this year, nearly 90 percent of clinics, hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities in northwest Arkansas agreed that there is a need for a physical therapy education program in the area. The program will address needs in programs for veterans, for the aging population and in sports medicine.

The UAMS physical therapy program will begin with 26 students and plans to add 26 a year for the three-year program to earn a doctor of physical therapy (D.P.T.). The Coordinating Board of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education approved the UAMS program in October following approval in July by the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees.

UAMS is the state's only health sciences university, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a main campus in Little Rock; a Northwest Arkansas regional campus in Fayetteville; a statewide network of regional campuses; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Psychiatric Research Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, Translational Research Institute and Institute for Digital Health & Innovation. UAMS includes UAMS Health, a statewide health system that encompasses all of UAMS' clinical enterprise. UAMS is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has 3,275 students, 890 medical residents and fellows, and five dental residents. It is the state's largest public employer with more than 12,000 employees, including 1,200 physicians who provide care to patients at UAMS, its regional campuses, Arkansas Children's, the VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit or Find us on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), YouTube or Instagram.