Physical Therapy Program Graduates Its First Class

By Robert Tolleson

That’s when they became the first class to graduate from UAMS’ Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program.

“Being part of the inaugural DPT class at UAMS still feels like a dream,” said Katie Bowin. “I am shocked at how quickly these three years went by, and I am beyond thankful that I was able to complete this journey with my classmates.”

The Class of 2018 started in August 2015, embarking on a 34-month journey in unfamiliar territory where no man (or woman) had gone before. There weren’t any upper classmen to pump for information, such as which professors were the toughest and which classes were the hardest.

They were blazing a new path — for themselves and for UAMS.

“One of the most amazing things about the program was how the curriculum was structured to incorporate patient care immediately,” said Bowin. “I was in a clinic on the second day of classes! This emphasis on patient care continued throughout the entire program, which was invaluable for me because I could immediately practice what I had just learned in the classroom.”

Since 2015, the program has welcomed dozens more students as well as additional talented full-time faculty and adjuncts, said John Jefferson, Ph.D., the department chair and an associate professor.

“We now have a high level of expertise for all content areas without flying instructors in from out-of-state, he said. “We have also had tremendous growth in the number of clinical sites with whom we have contracts, with a 65 percent increase in clinical sites from 2017 to 2018. And our applicant pool continues to grow — from 80 applicants in 2015 to 310 applicants in 2017.”

Three days before graduation, Jefferson received much anticipated news — the program had received full accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education.

“For any developing program, achieving initial accreditation is a crucial milestone. We have proven that we have sufficient physical resources, faculty and staff, and didactic and clinical education curriculums to graduate competent physical therapists — and that is job one,” he said.

For Scott Van Camp, these past three years have been challenging and rewarding.

“For me, the most difficult aspect of the program was time management,” he said. “This program is very intense and covers a lot of material. As a student, you have to be very disciplined and allocate your time effectively. Study time is important, but so is sleep, exercise, nutrition and being social. Sometimes balancing all those things can be extremely difficult. But in the end, it is all worth it.”

Both Bowin and Van Camp urged future students of the program to persevere.

“The program isn’t easy, but it’s not supposed to be. When we graduate, we are doctors of physical therapy who are responsible for taking care of patients during critical times in their lives,” he said.

Bowin agreed.

“This program is designed to make you into the best physical therapist you can possibly be,” Bowin said. “This is truly a once in a lifetime experience.”