published Friday, June 22nd, 2012

UTC nearer to having an occupational therapy program

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    Mary Tanner dean of the College of Health, Education and Professional Studies at UTC

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ABOUT THE PROGRAM

• About 24 students will be selected each year for three years of sustained study: five semesters of didactic study, two semesters of clinical fieldwork and one 16-week internship.

• Siskin Hospital for Physical Rehabilitation provide a recurring $50,000 a year, clinical instructors and classroom space, training equipment, clinical educators, and access to the hospital.

• Initial cost is estimated at $524,892 for the first year and to increase to $809,970 by year five.

• The tuition revenues generated (based on in-state rates) are expected to be $288,927 in the first year and increase to $817,384 by year five.

Source: University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

ADMISSION CRITERIA

Some of the criteria to be admitted to the proposed Doctorate of Occupational Therapy program at UTC include:

• Applicants must meet the general UTC graduate school requirement of graduation from a regionally accredited college or university.

• Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university with a minimum 3.0 undergraduate grade point average.

• Prerequisite coursework includes biology, human anatomy and physiology, introduction to psychology, abnormal psychology, lifespan human development or developmental psychology, competence in medical terminology, statistics, physics, sociology or anthropology.

• A criminal background check will be required of all students.

• To stay in the program, students must successfully achieve a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or above in the doctoral program with no more than two grades below a "B."

Source: University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

FAST FACT

• 826,000 Tennesseans 25 and older have earned some college credits but not a degree.

Source: American Community Survey, UTC

KNOXVILLE -- UTC is closer to becoming the fifth university nationwide and the only public school in Tennessee to offer a doctorate in occupational therapy.

The University of Tennessee board of trustees approved the program Thursday during its annual June meeting. The proposal now goes to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission to be reviewed in a July 26 meeting.

"It's very important for us to bring the clinical doctorate and add it to the doctorate in physical therapy. It creates a very nice synergy on our campus," said Mary Tanner, dean of the College of Health, Education and Professional Studies at UTC.

If approved by the state commission, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga would enroll its first group of 24 students in the doctoral program in the fall of 2013.

The start-up cost of the program, which includes funds for equipment and staff, is projected to be about $525,000 for the first year, but school officials said that, by the third year, it would be self-supporting with revenues from tuition and fees.

Tuition and fees for graduate students is $8,350 per year, up from $7,792 last year. The board recently approved a 6 percent tuition increase for next year.

A unique aspect to the new doctoral program is a very close partnership with Siskin Hospital for Physical Rehabilitation. The hospital signed a memorandum of understanding with UTC, committing to $50,000 a year and the use of clinical instructors and classroom space.

Teresa Dinger, Siskin's director of marketing and planning, said demand for people with advanced degrees in occupational therapy has steadily increased. Siskin and UTC have a proven track record with the doctoral program in physical therapy, she said.

"This partnership will permit students to receive training in our state-of-the-art facility. Additionally, Siskin Hospital is pleased to be able to provide clinical expertise for physical therapy, nursing and now, occupational therapy," Dinger said.

Students in the program will also be taking some classes with physical therapy students, which is uncommon, Tanner said.

"They work together at hospitals but normally train separately," she said.

The trend in health care is interprofessional relationships, "everyone working together to provide the best care to the patient," said Susan McDonald, an occupational therapist for more than 30 years and an instructor at UTC.

The demand for occupational therapists is growing locally and nationally, McDonald said.

"We see it with the increase in our aging population, with the return of veterans," she said.

The projected number of new occupational therapist positions in Tennessee is growing at nearly twice the rate for all other occupations, according to materials UTC presented to the board of trustees.

Nationally, the demand also exceeds the number of projected graduates. Occupational therapists held about 105,000 positions in 2008, a number expected to rise dramatically by 2018, UTC wrote in its proposal, citing data from the U.S. Department of Labor.

And there are 64 open positions per 100 workers already in the field, according to SimplyHired.com.

There are four professional occupational therapy programs in Tennessee. The private Belmont University offers entry-level master's and entry-level doctoral degrees; Milligan College, Tennessee State University in Nashville and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center offer entry-level master's degrees.

Together these programs produce about 120 graduates per year against estimated annual position openings of 350 by the year 2020, according to UTC.

Nationally, there are only four entry-level doctoral programs in occupational therapy. Three are offered at private universities: Washington University in Missouri; Creighton University in Nebraska; and Belmont in Tennessee. The only public university offering the entry-level doctoral program is the University of Toledo in Ohio.

This would be UTC's fifth doctoral program, an addition to the doctorate in physical therapy, a Ph.D. in computation engineering, a doctorate of nursing practice and physical therapy and a doctoral program in learning and leadership.

But it's not just adding more doctorates, said Tanner, who will become UTC's interim provost in July. "They are very specifically shaped around professional needs," she said.

On Thursday, the board of trustees also approved UTC's proposal to offer a bachelor's degree in integrated studies that aims to reach students who want to study more than one discipline or those who want to return to school to complete a degree.

The program is projected to help UTC's retention and graduation rates, currently at 68 percent and 40 percent, respectively.

Enrollment in integrated studies is projected to grow from 20 students this upcoming fall to 105 in 2016-17, according to the proposal presented to the board. The number of graduates is projected to grow from five to 35 students between 2013 and 2017.

"Both programs have undergone intense development and approval by campus committees and external reviewers," said Betty Dandridge Johnson, assistant executive director for academic affairs for the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.

The bachelor's degree will assist the state increasing graduate completion rates as directed by the Complete College Act of 2010, she said, and the new doctorate will complement other health care doctoral programs at UTC.

about Perla Trevizo...

Perla Trevizo joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 2007 and covers immigration/diversity issues and higher education. She holds a master’s degree in newswire journalism from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, Spain, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Texas. In 2011 she participated in the Bringing Home the World international reporting fellowship program sponsored by the International Center for Journalists, producing a series on Guatemalan immigrants for which she ...

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