UConn’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program encourages experiential learning and sees tremendous student success

UConn’s Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program at the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources will continue to build on its decades of success with its recently renewed accreditation from the Education Accreditation Commission in physiotherapy (CAPTE).

The DPT program within the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources was established in 1956 as a bachelor’s degree. As the responsibilities of the physiotherapy profession evolved, the program evolved, becoming first a master’s program and then a doctoral program in 2007.

This shift underscores the extent to which physical therapists have become autonomous practitioners. The three-year program prepares students to work in a range of physiotherapy professions.

“We are incredibly proud of the DPT program and the world-class education it provides our students,” said Dean Indrajeet Chaubey. “Our students pursue fulfilling careers in a specialized field through the education they receive from DPT program instructors.”

Millions of people visit a physiotherapist each year for help with a range of health issues that impact mobility. Physiotherapists work closely with patients to regain function and return to normal activities, whether that means daily jogging or simply being able to dress independently.

Each cohort consists of approximately 30 students. This size allows students to receive personal attention from the experts who teach in the program and to form meaningful connections with faculty and peers.

During the first two years of the program, students take lectures and laboratory classes that provide them with a solid foundation of knowledge.

Students receive introductory training in a range of specialties including cardiopulmonary, orthopedics, neurology, pediatrics and pelvic health.

“As they graduate as generalists, we expose them to a range of specialties from an entry-level skills perspective,” says Laurie Devaney, DPT program director.

Following a white coat ceremony, in their third year, the students dispersed across the country for their clinical training placements. Students spend 33 weeks in three different assignments: an inpatient, an outpatient, and a third setting that reflects the student’s particular interest.

The DPT program emphasizes hands-on experiential learning and regularly collaborates with other health professions and units within the university, including the UConn Institute of Sports Medicine, Psychology, Engineering, children’s labs and the ROTC program.

This collaborative work emphasizes a “whole person” approach to physiotherapy that offers the patient a more complete care pathway.

“It’s important that we work as a team because we have different skill sets,” says Devaney.

Students also participate in the PTCares service-oriented learning clinic. This free community clinic is developed and run by students with professors serving as mentors.

“It’s critical for our students to see different people navigate our healthcare system in different ways,” says Devaney.

After graduating from the program, DPT alumni have great and varied success. Program alumni have a 100% board exam pass rate and 100% employment rate, and a large percentage remain in Connecticut serving local patients.

In addition to more traditional physical therapy placements, such as inpatient or outpatient clinics, program alumni work with sports teams, consult at an adaptive equipment company, and small business owners.

“I’ve been so impressed over the years not only with the academic ability, but also the selfless bent with which they present themselves,” Devaney says. “These are students who are motivated to improve health care in their community.”

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