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Samuel Merritt Responds to Need for More Doctors of Physical Therapy

From: Oakland Business Review
Published:

Since she was ten years old, Amanda Streeton has always known what she wanted to do in life.

"I wanted to find a career that would fit my personality, a lot of interaction with people and be a dynamic profession. I really want to be inspired by my career, in my career and by my patients. This is what led me to pursue a doctoral degree in physical therapy."

And when it came to picking the right school, Samuel Merritt College was at the top of her list.

"The physical therapy community is very small and when I would ask other PT's which school they would recommend, the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Program at Samuel Merritt College was a name that popped up a lot.

According to a study released last month by the Health Workforce Solutions, the employment demand for advance degree physical therapists in the state is expected to grow by 29 percent over the next several years.

That is no surprise to Sharon Gorman, PT, MS, GCS, Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Therapy, Samuel Merritt College. With today's population growing, the need for generalist physical therapists is great.

"Baby boomers are living longer and there will be a pile of them coming in the next ten years. We don't have nearly enough PT's to treat older people today," said Gorman. "We are also seeing a lot more people with war injuries that we haven't seen in a while."

Streeton credits the DPT program for preparing her to deal with the different groups coming in with chronic disorders.

"By my second semester as a first-year student at SMC, under faculty supervision (at SMC's outpatient free-clinic), I was working with patients who were suffering from neuromuscular disorders like arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, even preemies with cerebral palsy and brain injuries," said Streeton.

"In order to pursue both the academic and clinical doctorate degrees - to be a practitioner, to do research, to be an educator - you really have to go through that whole clinical and academic track to get all three tickets," said Gorman.

The PT program includes two full-time clinical experiences interspersed between semesters so that classroom learning is reinforced with clinical experience.

"It really brought everything we study in the classroom into focus," said Streeton. "We learn about different settings and patient care techniques. We also develop a closeness with the faculty."

Now the third-year student is polishing her resume as she prepares for her last hurdle of the 34-month course. For the next six-months, before graduating in May 2008, Streeton and the other 31 students in the PT program will be interning full-time at clinics across the country.

"The process of preparing a resume and having the opportunity to practice interviewing helps build confidence and reduces stress. These students are better prepared when they do graduate and look for that first full-time job," said Gorman.

Doctoral physical therapy students have traveled all over the country to work and practice, from Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland, to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, to Beth Israel in Boston.

"Samuel Merritt College faculty strives to make sure we get into a teaching clinic, and we are fortunate because some facilities in the Bay Area only take students from the College. In terms of neurology and rehabilitation, institutions know SMC graduates have the knowledge to handle special needs patients," said Streeton.

The relationship between PT and patients in a culturally diverse environment and the multiple roles of physical therapists in the health care system are areas addressed throughout the curriculum. Students begin the 34 month, full-time program each fall.

For more information on the DPT program, log onto www.samuelmerritt.edu or call 800-607-6377.

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