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UCF Celebrates First Graduates of Doctor of Physical Therapy Program

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By Karen Guin

The first group of students in the University of Central Florida's new Doctor of Physical Therapy program will graduate this week.

Thirty students have completed the three-year, year-round program, launched in May 2007. Their degrees will be conferred at the College of Health and Public Affairs' graduation ceremony at 2 p.m., Friday, May 7, at the UCF Arena.

"We've got a group of very well-prepared graduates ready to work in the community," said Gerald Smith, director of UCF's Physical Therapy program. "When you mix a group of very good students with a very rigorous program, you get a positive outcome."

Previously, UCF offered a master's degree program in physical therapy. Advancing to a doctoral program reflects a national trend in physical therapy education, Smith explained.

UCF's doctoral program requires 35 credit hours more than the former master's degree program. "We added course work in areas such as radiology, imaging and differential diagnosis and expanded the time spent in clinical practice," Smith said.

Most of the students completed clinical internships at health care facilities in Central Florida; however, some sought clinical experience out of the area. For example, Anne Kunderman gained experience working with injured servicemen and women at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., while Matt Hennings worked with professional basketball players at a sports-medicine practice in Portland, Ore.

The graduating students range in age from 21 to 33, and about three-quarters of them are women. Most are from Florida; others are from Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, New Jersey and West Virginia.

All graduates of the accredited program are eligible to take the state examination that leads to obtaining a license to practice physical therapy.

Smith said there is a tremendous need for physical therapists in Florida. He cited a recent study by the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation that reports there are almost 1,000 openings for physical therapists in the state.

Two other classes of doctoral students are enrolled in the UCF program, and a new class of 34 students will begin next week.

To learn more about UCF's Physical Therapy program, click here.

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The health care informatics master's program at UCF really helped me connect with the industry, meet people at conferences and sit for the most-desired certification exams."
— Michael Neimann M.S. in health care informatics ('14)
My internship with the District 9 Medical Examiner’s Office was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I gained an excellent understanding of the medical examiner’s office and the criminal justice field in general."
— Adam Stubley B.S. in criminal justice, criminal profiling certificate ('11)
UCF provides its physical therapy students with an excellent education and prepares them to work in the most challenging of settings."
— Jamie Dyson Rehabilitation Supervisor, Orlando Regional Medical Center
UCF's program provided me the opportunity to expedite my student experience while attaining practical experience working within local health systems."
— Daniel Barr V.P. at National Children's Hospital; M.S. in health sciences, health services administration track ('04)
My master's education helped me see the big picture of the nonprofit industry. UCF showed me how to see the different fundraising tools within the Central Florida area."
— Krysti Griffith Executive Director of Growth from Grief; Master of Nonprofit Management ('12)
The course opened my eyes to grant writing ... I learned a great deal and you [Barbara Howell] are truly an excellent instructor."
— Deborah Reith Master of Public Administration student who secured a $10,000 federal grant through a course project; B.S. in criminal justice ('86)
The skills I learned during my time at UCF are what made my transition to law school so seamless."
— Jacqueline Iaquinta Touro Law Center student; B.S. in legal studies ('10)
As an inaugural graduate of the M.R.A. program at UCF, I can attest to the outstanding curriculum developed for research administrators. "
— April Heyward Post Award Services Coordinator, University of South Carolina; Master of Research Administration ('13)
It was at UCF that I first learned many of the skills that I’ve since honed, including mapping with GIS software - an ability I found invaluable to my search for internships, graduate-level coursework, and employment."
— Richard "Ben" Hagen Research and Communications Associate, New Economy Project, New York City; B.S. in public administration ('10)
I am excited to be able to give back to the program that invested so much in me. It is truly and honor and a privilege."
— Carlos Gual Instructor of Athletic Training; B.S. in athletic training ('09)
The faculty advisor [at my medical school] was amazed that I had the opportunity to truly participate in the full spectrum of research as an undergraduate. "
— Chase Cavayero, medical student at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicince, B.S. in health sciences - pre-clinical ('13) 
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