ECU, UNCP form physical therapy partnership

July 1, 2015
The East Carolinian

East Carolina University began a new partnership with University of North Carolina at Pembroke last week in an effort to increase the number of physical therapists working in eastern North Carolina.

A memorandum signed by Chancellor Steve Ballard and UNCP Chancellor Kyle Carter stated that ECU’s Department of Physical Therapy will launch a satellite program at UNCP beginning in the 2016-17 school year.

“Helping other institutions, helping the whole region through workforce development and preparing our students for the future – those are three things we’re committed to,” said Ballard.

The “assurance program” will reserve four spots for UNCP students in the entering class.

It is estimated that by 2019 there will be eight students meeting the entrance requirements, at which time the program will transition into a full satellite program.

In the satellite program model, physical therapy students will attend classes on ECU’s campus in their first and final semesters.

The rest of the three-year doctoral program will be spent at UNCP, including clinical experiences in hospitals surrounding UNCP.

The program is estimated to grow by about 10 UNCP students per year.

“This college and the Department of Physical Therapy have a strong tradition of training health care providers for North Carolina and to work in rural, eastern North Carolina,” said Amy Gross McMillan, associate chair of physical therapy at ECU. “We know that students who come from an area are more likely to stay in that area [to work].”

The Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT) is one of the most competitive programs offered by ECU. The program only admits 30 students, but typically receives more than 300 applications. The average undergraduate GPA for this year’s incoming class was 3.75.

The DPT is a three-year, 106 credit hour program with 32 weeks of clinical experiences.

The program only admits North Carolina residents.

Gross McMillan said she hopes by starting this partnership more students from the southeast region of North Carolina will apply, as well as students from Robeson County where UNCP is located.

“I retire on Tuesday, so Chancellor-Elect (Robin) Cummings has the opportunity to actually implement this very, very important program for UNC Pembroke,” said Carter. “I want to thank ECU. The personality (here) really is collaboration, it’s regional engagement and they are great partners.”

Other partnerships with UNCP include a community service learning center in Robeson County for the School of Dental Medicine, and a massive open online course via ECU’s College of Business.