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[August 14, 2006]

To better prepare physical therapists with the clinical skills and advanced medical knowledge to critically evaluate and treat patients, SUNY Downstate Medical Center has introduced a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree program geared to the needs of today’s professionals — and the needs of the people of Brooklyn.
Downstate is one of only two schools in the borough with a graduate program in physical therapy, and it is the only public institution in the metropolitan New York area to offer a combined BS-DPT degree. While other colleges and universities require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree prior to admission to a DPT program, students armed with an associate’s degree and only one extra year of undergraduate study can earn both a bachelor’s in health sciences and doctoral degree in physical therapy by enrolling at Downstate.
“This is good news for students,” says Joanne Katz, PT, DPT, PhD, chair of the Physical Therapy Program at SUNY Downstate’s College of Health Related Professions. Compared to annual tuition costs elsewhere—as high as $25,000 and up—Dr. Katz believes Downstate’s program, at $7,235, is “one of the best bargains in town.”
The inauguration of Downstate’s DPT program coincides with new legislation from Albany. Governor George Pataki recently signed a bill that gives New Yorkers what residents of many other states already have, direct access to physical therapy services without a physician’s referral. In response to the Governor’s action, Dr. Katz said, “This legislation gives consumers more choice and improves their access to health care.”
Downstate’s academically rigorous three-year DPT program offers three semesters of undergraduate coursework and six of graduate courses. Class size is kept small; 22 students are currently enrolled and no more than 30 are admitted each year to guarantee that everyone receives maximum attention.
Students become skilled in examination, evaluation, diagnosis, prognosis, and providing physical therapy interventions based on current scientific evidence.  Examples of physical therapy interventions include the use of electrical stimulation and ultrasound; therapeutic exercises for strength, coordination, balance and flexibility training; and wellness and prevention programs.  Physical therapists work with people of all ages, including children with developmental delays, injured athletes, and individuals who have lost function due to heart problems, diabetes, and pain. They also collaborate with other health professionals, such as physicians, nurses, occupational therapists, audiologists, speech therapists, and social workers, in a variety of clinical settings.
The DPT program has attracted a diverse group of students, including several who have chosen physical therapy as a second career. One of them, Cameron English, had a long and successful career as a dancer, performing in such shows as Fame on television and the film version of Chorus Line. “My dance injuries finally led me to PT,” he says. “It was my new-found passion. Like dance, it found me.”
With salaries starting at $55,000 in New York and going up as high as $80,000, physical therapy offers students just entering the profession many career opportunities. The DPT program is also a boon for Brooklyn. Since the majority of its students live in the borough and all are required to perform their internships at local hospitals and clinical facilities, many stay to practice in the communities that most need their services.
Listed as one of the “Top 10 Hottest Careers” by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment is expected to grow even faster now that America’s 78 million Baby Boomers are reaching the prime age for heart disease, arthritis, and other debilitating conditions. “People are living longer, healthier lives, and they have high expectations for the quality of life they hope to enjoy in later years,” Dr. Katz explains. “Physical therapists can help them achieve that goal.”
The Physical Therapy Program is part of the College of Health Related Professions, one of four health science colleges at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. For more information on the program and its admission requirements, go to: