Academic Program Review SUMMARY*


Department under review: Physical Therapy Program 

Date self-study received in Dean’s office : January 30, 2008

Date of external consultant’s review : May 13, 2008

Date APR received report : December 3, 2008



APR’S summary of self-study (first two boxes must be completed)

APR’s summary of how the academic program attempts to reach its goals and objectives and the extent to which those goals and objectives have been achieved.

The Doctoral of Physical Therapy (DPT) Program is one of five fully-accredited programs in the Department of Health Professions, under the College of Science and Health at UW-L. This doctoral program is part of a consortium with the UW-Milwaukee. The final approval for this consortium to offer a DPT program was granted by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System on September 9, 2005. UW-L admitted the first DPT cohort during the summer of 2005.


The mission of the University of Wisconsin Physical Therapy Consortium is to produce physical therapists who are autonomous practitioners and leaders in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of movement dysfunction, and who enhance the health and functional abilities of the Wisconsin public.


The following are specific goals of the DPT program that are based on its stated mission:

  • Recruitment and matriculation of the most qualified and diverse students, challenging and supporting them to completion of the program
  • Development of the generalist practitioners who are prepared to assume the roles of clinician, educator, administrator and consultant, and whose practice is shaped by research evidence.
  • Development of physical therapists who display the core values of professionalism and generic abilities consistent with expectations of a doctoring professional.
  • Recruitment and retention of diverse faculty who exemplify excellence in teaching and who serve as professional role models.
  • Contribution to evidence-based practice through faculty and student scholarly activity.
  • Facilitation of life-long learning within the physical therapy community.


In the few years that the DPT program has been offered, it has managed to achieve the majority of the goals stated above. Admission to this program is now highly competitive, receiving six times the number of students they can admit each year. As a result, the students who are admitted to the program are among the most qualified. These students are then subject to a rigorous academic curriculum during the first 22 months followed by a 12-month clinical education (internship) at different partner clinics around the nation.


The external review, conducted by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education - American Physical Therapy Association, noted that the academic curriculum of the DPT program of UW-L is above and beyond the level of peer institutions. Last year, all the graduates of this program passed the board exam in their first try. This is strong evidence of the success of the program in training students. This is also evidence of the effectiveness of the faculty in teaching their students. Based on the number of peer-reviewed publications and other scholarly activities of faculty members, the program has excelled in making contributions to evidence-based practice.


This program is still relatively new and is still compiling data about the success of their graduates as PT professionals. However, employers of graduates of the MSPT curriculum, as well as clinical education faculty of DPT students, consistently report that UW-L students “hit the ground running,” displaying stronger clinical, professional, and critical thinking skills than their peers from other institutions. Such evidence demonstrates the level at which the program is achieving several facets of its mission.


APR’s comments including:

Notable Strengths

The DPT program has several notable strengths:

·         Exceptional Facilities – A number of students indicated that they selected UW-L because of its exceptional facilities and equipment housed in the state-of-the-art Health Science Center built in 2000.

·         Outstanding Students – Admission to the program is highly competitive and accepted students are well-qualified.

·         Intensive and Rigorous Curriculum – The program has a curriculum that is above the level of peer institutions.

·         National Partnerships – Every year, the program sends an entire cohort group (of about 40) to different clinics around the nation for a 9 month internship program as part of their clinical education.

·         Outstanding Faculty – The faculty members of the program are actively doing research with students and publish numerous papers in peer-reviewed journals.

·         Positive Relationships – The program director and faculty members have positive relationships with their students. Students have agreed to pay the differential tuition in order to sustain the program.


Notable Weaknesses

·         None. The only potential barrier to the growth of this program involves limitations of funding. According to the director of the program, another increase in differential tuition is needed in order for the program to be sustainable in the next 5 years.


APR comments on any/all of the six specific components of the self-study  (if applicable)


Self Study: Purposes


On top of the goals stated in the first part of this report, the DPT program also aims to recruit students from various under-represented groups. The external review has noted that the program has some improvements to be made in this regard. Data from the 2008-2009 admissions cycle showed that acceptance letters were offered to 6.7% students from varied ethnic groups and 2.1% to international students, which fall below the 12% target outcome. From 2006 – 2008 UW-L’s undergraduate profile averaged 8.2% students from varied ethnic groups and 2.1% were international students. According to the program director, the PT program has decided to retain the 12% goal, expanding the operational definition “diversity” to include out-of-state students (excluding MN students). The rationale is that students from various other geographical regions bring a different type of diversity to each cohort based on their cultural backgrounds. If this definition of diversity is used, the program easily meets the 12% standard (20% this recent cycle). If the out-of-state students are excluded from statistics, the program remains below the 12% target, currently having three diverse students as defined by race and ethnicity in the program. The PT program continues to work on the action plan that was developed last year to recruit more “diverse” students, clarifying how “diverse” is defined. In addition, a formal diversity recruitment plan has been designed with timelines for implementation and assessment. Also, UW-L has hired an additional multi-cultural recruiter.


As stated above, the program has been highly successful in achieving its purposes.

Self Study: Curriculum


The academic curriculum of the DPT program was noted to be rigorous and above the level of peer institution by the external accreditation reviewer. The curriculum is informed by the contemporary practice of physical therapy, clear standards of practice, and current literature in the profession.


 Self Study: Assessment of Student Learning & Degree of Program Success


Both the DPT Consortium and the UW-L PT Program engage in an ongoing formal assessment process that is based on the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education’s (CAPTE) evaluative criterion. The core faculty meets annually to assess the effectiveness of the program. The comprehensive assessment process takes place at the consortium and program level and includes the clinical component.


Self Study: Previous Academic Program Review and New Program Initiatives


None. This is a new program.


Self Study: Personnel


The program has an outstanding group of faculty members who are actively engaged in research and scholarly activities with their students. They publish extensively in peer-reviewed journals and are involved in mentoring students. However, it was noted by the external reviewer that, during the external review process, some of the faculty members had workloads that are higher than the recommended workloads identified in the faculty handbook. But this issue has been resolved as the program was able to add a 1.5 FTE to the core faculty. Another issue that was noted in the external review was the fact that the program director was not a senior faculty and was not in a tenure-track position. This issue has also been resolved as Dr. Michele Thorman has been promoted to associate clinical professor in spring of 2009. Dr. Thorman may be considered for promotion to clinical professor after completion of 10 semesters of instruction at UW-L in 2012. If found to be qualified for promotion to clinical professor, Dr. Thorman will enjoy the rights and privileges of the most senior IAS rank at UW-L, which is considered parallel to full professor in faculty tenure rank.


Self Study: Support for Achieving Academic Program Goals (Resources)


External Reviewer Recommendations

APR’s Comments on External Reviewer (if applicable)


The external review was completed by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education – American Physical Therapy Association. The on-site visit was conducted on April 13 – 16, 2008. The first report raised questions about personnel and workload issues as well as diversity (as related to the mission goal of recruiting diverse students). All three concerns had been addressed, and as a result, the UW-L DPT program was granted a 10-year accreditation period, the longest accreditation period possible.


Department’s response to the Reviewer Recommendations

APR’s Comments on the Department’s Response (if applicable)

In a progress report, the PT Program addressed UW-L’s Instructional Academic Staff Workload Policy, articulated a Diversity Recruitment Plan, and addressed other personnel issues to the satisfaction of external reviewers.


Dean’s Letter

APR’s Comments on Dean’s Letter (if applicable)

Interim Dean Riley affirms that the Physical Therapy Program complies with the evaluation criteria for accreditation of education programs for the preparation of physical therapists, and recommends that the program follow its usual process for its next academic program review.

APR’s Recommendations (must be completed)


1.    Continue to make progress toward achieving the specific goals of the DPT program.

2.    Maintain high level of contributions to evidence-based practice through faculty and student scholarly activity.

3.    Continue to advocate for differential tuition increases as necessary to maintain appropriate levels of funding.

4.    Follow the recommended format for self study reports when submitting materials for the next APR review.


X  No serious areas to address – review in 7 years

□  Some areas to address – review in 7 years

□  Some areas to address – department should submit short report on progress to Fac  

      Senate/Provost’s Office in 3 years

*  APR’s report to faculty senate will consist of this completed form in electronic form.