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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Tufts University School of Medicine opens new doctor of physical therapy program in Phoenix

Tufts Medical Center is pictured on Aug. 28, 2014.

Tufts University School of Medicineannounced on Sept. 15 the opening of the new Tufts doctor of physical therapy program based in Phoenix, Ariz., with plans to enroll an inaugural class in the summer of 2022. 

This is the second doctor of physical therapy program launched by Tufts School of Medicine in the past year with the first having started in May 2020, located locally in Boston.

Dr. Tawna Wilkinson, director of curriculum and assessment, also commented on what the program seeks to achieve.

“Our purpose is to prepare doctor of physical therapy students for professional licensure and ultimately, culturally conscious licensed clinicians contributing to the healthcare team and positively impacting patient well-being,” Wilkinson wrote in an email to the Daily.

The program will help to address the country's growing need for physical therapists. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for physical therapists is expected to grow in the next 10 years.

“Employment of physical therapists is projected to grow 21 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations,"according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. "About 15,600 openings for physical therapists are projected each year, on average, over the decade.” 

The same sentiment is shared by Dr. Eric Hegedus, director of the Phoenix program, who also spoke on why Arizona was chosen specifically.

“We took a good look around the nation, at where the need for physical therapists was the greatest, and that region of Arizona and the surrounding states was an area of great need," Hegedus said.

According to Dr. Tara Dickson, director of clinical education at the program in Phoenix, there are also expansionary motivations that were in play in the decision to open the new doctor of physical therapy program in Phoenix.

“To my knowledge, this will be Tufts' first program that is based entirely outside the state of Massachusetts. I think it provides an exciting opportunity for Tufts to extend its reach and its great reputation outside of the northeastern U.S.,” Dickson wrote in an email to the Daily.

The program is one of about 283 programs in the United States, according to the American Physical Therapy Association. 

According to Hegedus, the program is planning to accept 100 students each year. 

“I expect that they will have an amazing educational experience and that they will graduate and pass the national board exam and become doctors of physical therapy,” Hegedus said.

When asked if the doctor of physical therapy program will collaborate with the same Tufts program in Boston, Hegedus explained that collaboration could come naturally as research is conducted.

“I think a very natural collaboration is that when we do research, we collaborate with people from all over the world," Hegedus said. "So the research collaborations are not confined to the Tufts walls.” 

Dr. Mark Wilhelm, assistant professor and director of admission of the doctor of physical therapy program in Boston, spoke on how the school plans to collaborate with the program in Phoenix.

“Collaboration between faculty within the two programs will take many forms, some of which may develop more fully as our programs progress. Some specific areas where collaboration will occur will be in the areas of curriculum, clinical education, and research,” Wilhelm wrote in an email to the Daily.

Wilhelm also touched on the opening of the new program in Phoenix.

“As part of the Tufts DPT Program in Boston, we [are] excited about the Tufts DPT Program in Phoenix as it helps us to grow our single vision of the one Tufts DPT brand identity," Wilhelm said. "Having a second DPT program will allow us to expand our impact on student learning, societal health, and access to a Tufts education.” 

Wilkinson elaborated on why prospective students should apply to the new doctor of physical therapy program.

“Our model provides students the ability to complete the majority of their learning from their own communities," Wilkinson said. "The virtual and in-person curriculum is provided by strong, collaborative faculty dedicated to fostering student development.” 

Hegedus expanded on reasons to apply, emphasizing the affordability of the program compared to others in the United States.

“It is a program that is really more affordable, because you get to live at home but you also get to travel to Phoenix, Arizona, which is beautiful, to do your on-site work,” Hegedus said.

Although affiliated with just the Boston program, Wilhelm praised the doctor of physical therapy program as a whole.

“I believe these will be two of the main factors that will eventually lead students to find a fit at one of our DPT programs," Wilhelm said. "Regardless of which program a prospective student chooses, they will receive an excellent, student-centered education preparing them to make a positive impact on the physical therapy profession and societal health."