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WSSU's Doctor of Physical Therapy program exceeds diversity goals

A unique approach to recruiting students has helped Winston-Salem State University’s Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program become one of the most diverse in the nation.

The Department of Physical Therapy used a holistic admissions process to recruit a more diverse student body. The process involves assessing an applicant’s unique experiences like military service, supervisory work experience, or even being a student-athlete, in addition to traditional methods like GPA and GRE scores. The National Institutes of Health said 67% of health professions schools have adopted this process.

Since making the shift, Dr. Judy Foxworth, Chair of the Department of Physical Therapy, says the program has increasingly diversified its population from 10% to 57%. “We are very proud that our recruitment efforts have paid off, but there is still more work to be done,” Foxworth said.

Group of Diverse DPT Students
WSSU's DPT program has increasingly diversified its population from 10% to 57%.

According to the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), there is a severe lack of diversity in the physical therapy workforce. For example, only about 3% of physical therapists identify as Black. “The goal is to diversify the workforce to better reflect the population to ultimately address the health inequities in the medically underserved,” Foxworth said.

Beyond learning in a diverse classroom, Foxworth says students accepted into the WSSU DPT program get the benefit of receiving an education from highly trained professors in a variety of specialties. “We have said for years that [the] WSSU DPT program is the best-kept secret. Our faculty is highly trained with 88% being board certified in some part of physical therapy specialty practice,” Foxworth said. Program graduates stay true to the university's motto, “Enter to Learn, Depart to Serve.” In the past year 70% of graduates remained in North Carolina to begin their careers.

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