ECU to offer physical therapy program at UNCP

UNCP Chancellor Kyle Carter, left, and ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard signed a memorandum of understanding on Wednesday to establish a satellite doctor of physical therapy program at UNCP by 2019.

PEMBROKE — In the next year, The University of North Carolina at Pembroke will lay the foundations for what could evolve into the school’s first independent doctoral program.

An agreement signed Wednesday by East Carolina University Chancellor Steve Ballard and UNCP Chancellor Kyle Carter will establish a satellite of ECU’s Department of Physical Therapy doctoral program at the Pembroke campus.

In a new pilot program for the 2016-2017 academic year, ECU will reserve four places in its incoming doctoral class for UNCP undergraduates. Once the pilot program is admitting at least eight qualified UNCP undergraduates each year — estimated to occur by 2019 — it will transition to a satellite program. At that time, students will attend class on ECU’s campus for their first and final semesters, but will spend the other semesters of the three-year program at UNCP.

All clinical experiences for the satellite students will take place in the clinics and hospitals surrounding UNCP. The program is expected to grow to approximately 10 students per year.

The collaboration will also lead to the addition of a pre-physical therapy club and pre-physical therapy advisers at UNCP.

“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,” Ballard said on Wednesday.

“My hope is that we train a lot more health professionals in both areas: at Pembroke and ECU. We know these people will get good paying jobs.”

Phyllis Horns, vice chancellor for ECU’s Division of Health Sciences, said this collaboration could also increase the diversity of the region’s health care workforce.

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

The satellite program could evolve into an independent UNCP doctor of physical therapy program by 2022, provided that it continues to admit at least eight students a year — from the pool of UNCP undergraduates and from qualified applicants living in the school’s service area — and the program is approved by UNC General Administration.

Accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education, ECU’s Department of Physical Therapy has advanced the education of physical therapists since 1970.

“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).”

McMillan said she hopes this partnership will lead to more applications from students in the southeast region of North Carolina and from Robeson County, in particular.

ECU’s Doctorate of Physical Therapy is one of the most competitive programs offered by the university. It accepts North Carolina residents only and the average undergraduate GPA for this year’s incoming class was 3.75. The program frequently sees more than 300 applicants for 30 admission slots.

For information about the program, visit