A one million dollar grant from the Lilly Endowment will allow Manchester’s Fort Wayne campus to start a doctoral program in physical therapy.
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Fort Wayne Campus Receives $1 Million Grant for Doctoral Program in Physical Therapy

 Cinnamon McDonald

The Fort Wayne campus has received a $1 million grant from the Lilly Endowment to launch a doctoral program in physical therapy (DTP).

The planning for this program will take place for the next few years, and the grant will open up many opportunities. “It will help us cover the cost of hiring faculty and equipment that the labs need,” said President Dave McFadden.

The Lilly Endowment regularly invites colleges and universities in Indiana to apply for a grant. “We were among the schools that could apply for up to $1 million,” McFadden said.

McFadden and the group of people behind this project have a plan to launch the program. “There’s a lot of demand for physical therapists and for seats in physical therapy programs,” McFadden said. “Having a physical therapy program is part of our strategy to build out new programs in health sciences. We will use the money to hire a founding director and faculty to get the program started. We will also use it to equip classrooms and teaching labs on our Fort Wayne campus.”

Dr. Lea Johnson is the head of this program and in charge of the committee working in the background every day “A doctorate in physical therapy is considered the entry level degree to practice in this field,” she said. “Our doctoral program in physical therapy will include Integrated Clinical Experiences (ICEs) in healthcare institutions and practices during the academic portion of the curriculum.

“Students will have three full-time clinical education experiences in three different settings, for a total of 30 weeks,” Johnson continued. “The program will also incorporate the use of simulation via high-fidelity manikins and standardized patients. We anticipate the program will be less than three years in length.”

Every student interested in this program can expect to find themselves landing in many hospitals and similar places around the country, and world. The field is growing more and more every day. “Physical therapists diagnose and treat movement disorders resulting from health-related conditions,” Johnson said. “They care for individuals of all ages, from newborns to older adults, examining each individual to develop and implement an individualized plan of care. They address an individual’s need to improve their ability to move and engage in daily activities.”

But physical therapists do more than that. Johnson noted that physical therapists also develop fitness and wellness programs. “This is a popular and rapidly growing field,” she said. “According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of physical therapist openings will increase by 28 % over the period 2016-2026. This is faster than the average for all occupations…”

What can the newly minted DTPs expect after graduating and passing their board exams? They will be qualified to work in acute care hospitals, out-patient hospital-based and private practices, rehabilitation facilities, home health agencies, schools, sports and fitness centers, according to Johnson. 

Manchester has benefitted from Lilly in the past. For instance, MU’s major building and pharmaceutical program was funded by the 35 million grant in 2012. This Lilly Endowment grant is a part of a larger Lilly statewide initiative called Charting Our Future. “Through Charting our Future, the Lilly Endowment made generous funds available to Indiana colleges and universities,” Johnson said. “These grants enable institutions to further their educational missions in new or innovative ways.”