STEVENS POINT — The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point is a step closer to offering a doctor of physical therapy after receiving authorization from the UW System Board of Regents.

Regent approval, given on Dec. 7, is a key step needed to launch this program, the only one in the northern half of Wisconsin, according to a UWSP news release. The proposed program will help address regional and rural needs in the state:

  • Northcentral Wisconsin’s population is older than the southern Wisconsin population, with a greater incidence of heart, pain-related and cerebrovascular diseases.
  • Northcentral Wisconsin has 72 licensed physical therapists per 100,000 residents compared to 131 per 100,000 in southern Wisconsin.
  • The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development projects a 15 percent increase in employment for physical therapists statewide.

Two additional accreditations are needed before students can begin enrolling. Board of Regents’ approval allows the additional accreditation process to proceed.

The doctor of physical therapy would be among several health-related degree programs — nursing, athletic training, clinical laboratory sciences, dietetics, audiology and communication sciences and disorders.

“The physical therapy program is being developed in partnership with local health care providers and has the specific intent of graduating physical therapists ready to collaborate and serve the evolving and diverse needs of rural communities,” said Kathryn Zalewski, physical therapist, physical therapy educator and consultant with the College of Professional Studies, in the news release.

The majority who enroll in the DPT program are expected to be Wisconsin residents.

“Our local clinical partners have many unfilled openings throughout their health care workforce and adding the doctor of physical therapy helps all of us meet an important regional need,” said Marty Loy, dean of the College of Professional Studies, in the news release. “We will grow on the strength of our existing undergraduate degrees and expand programs where need exists.”

When fully implemented, the DPT program will generate enough tuition revenue to cover its costs. UW-Stevens Point would be the fourth UW to offer a doctor of physical therapy. Others are at UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee and UW-La Crosse.

Photo courtesy UWSP.