The Oregon Institute of Technology, “Oregon Tech,” has received approval from the Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) for its Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program, to be offered in partnership with Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU). The program is Oregon Tech’s first doctoral degree. A timely investment of $200,000 from Sky Lakes Medical Center is helping to accelerate the program’s launch.

The approval of the DPT was catalyzed by the strategic partnership agreement signed in 2017 between Oregon Tech, OHSU and Sky Lakes Medical Center to promote and accelerate rural health initiatives.

“We have sensed a genuine interest in and a strong need for such a program in the communities we serve. This is in response to that interest and need,” said Oregon Tech President Dr. Nagi Naganathan. “Oregon Tech’s experiential, applied degree programs and innovative education strategies guarantee career-ready professionals at graduation, who, in turn, ensure high-quality patient care. Our university’s established reputation as a center for excellence for nurturing health care professionals, together with our strong partnership with OHSU and Sky Lakes Medical Center, makes Oregon Tech an ideal home for this collaborative DPT program.”

“OHSU has a long history of collaborating with Oregon Tech and Sky Lakes to educate and train the next-generation of health professionals in service to rural and underserved communities,” said OHSU President Danny Jacobs, M.D., M.P.H, FACS. “The Doctor of Physical Therapy program will strengthen our statewide efforts to ensure Oregonians who live outside the Portland-metro area have access to critical health services close to home.”

All three institutions have strong track records in fulfilling their respective missions. The program highlights the commitment of the three partner institutions to address the shortage of physical therapists in Oregon, with an emphasis on service to the community, particularly for the state’s rural and underserved populations.

 

Sky Lakes Makes Key Investment

Providing immediate investment in the initiative, Sky Lakes recently announced a generous gift of $200,000 to Oregon Tech in support of the DPT program.

“The new Doctor of Physical Therapy program will help broaden the rural health care workforce to provide access to critical physical therapy care for underserved populations of the state,” said Paul Stewart, Sky Lakes Medical Center’s president and chief executive officer. “This collaboration will provide professional experiences for graduates who will be working with patients from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds and conditions, and will provide much needed proactive care for serious issues that impact people around the state. Sky Lakes Medical Center is pleased to extend our strong support through our contributions and engagement.”

Sky Lakes Medical Center, the region’s largest health care provider, is dedicated to providing health care solutions to rural populations and will serve as a dynamic training resource in the DPT program, welcoming graduates as the need for licensed physical therapists grows.

The unmet demand for rural health practitioners in Oregon is exacerbated by the lack of affordable educational options available in rural areas. Oregon currently has two physical therapy doctoral programs, both offered at private institutions near the Portland-metro area, with none currently focused on serving rural communities. Only four percent of our nation’s DPT programs are located in the Pacific Northwest.

Approval by HECC allows the university to apply for approval to offer the degree from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) and accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), which is the last procedural step. Funding has been secured by Oregon Tech to hire a program director and a potential clinical coordinator has been identified at OHSU; all of these positions would be in place for Year One of the program. Two core faculty are expected to be added in Year Two, with the possible addition of two to three core faculty during the subsequent program rollout. Oregon Tech will also be raising funds and in-kind donations of equipment through a variety of sources private individuals, foundations, health care organizations and medical equipment providers. The first cohort of students is expected to enroll for the 2021-22 academic year.

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