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SFSU, UCSF team up to offer new joint doctoral program in physical therapy science and meet work force demand



Christina Holmes
SFSU Office of Public Affairs

(415) 338-1665


Press Release published by the Office of Public Affairs

SAN FRANCISCO, March 14, 2002 --- San Francisco State University and University of California, San Francisco, now offer a joint doctorate in physical therapy science, becoming the first public institutions in California to provide such an educational program.

The doctoral program will meet industry demands by preparing physical therapists as clinical researchers, patient care specialists and educators. The two universities now offer a master's degree in physical therapy and the program has been successful - U.S. News and World Report consistently ranks it as one of the top 15 in the country. Over the years professors saw a growing number of students who wanted to pursue a doctorate. Already the program is attracting applicants with a desire to earn a doctorate.

The Western Association of Schools and Colleges recently approved the joint doctoral program. Four students, comprised mostly of experienced clinicians already practicing in the field, are expected to begin classes next month.

"SFSU is now the only California State University campus with a doctoral program in physical therapy," said Marsha Melnick, SFSU's graduate program director. "We will be a model in establishing future physical therapy doctoral programs in the other state programs."

Nancy Byl, UCSF's director of the graduate physical therapy science program, is equally optimistic about the establishment of the joint doctorate program.

"This doctoral degree represents the only opportunity for California leaders in physical therapy to pursue doctoral studies in physical therapy within a public institution," Byl said. "This program is appropriate not only for experienced professionals in the field of physical therapy, but also for recent graduates with a master's degree who would like to pursue leadership in education, clinical practice and clinical research."

The program will take 27 to 36 months to complete depending on the applicant's education. Students will develop specialization in areas such as neuroscience, anatomy, gerontology, neurology, pediatrics, orthopedics, health policy and pathokinesiology.

The impact of the doctoral program will be far reaching, particularly in terms of research. Physical therapy science has long needed researchers to investigate clinical efficacy and provide evidence for the practice and SFSU/UCSF graduates are expected to fill those roles. Graduates are also likely to assume greater responsibility as academics, clinicians, clinical researchers and rehabilitation managers.

"We know there is a need for physical therapists holding a doctorate degree. Many physical therapy programs have openings for faculty and many teaching hospitals have physical therapists performing research," said Melnick. "We believe a number of our students will go into research."

In 1990, both schools partnered to provide an advanced degree in physical therapy, becoming the first joint master's degree program between the CSU and UC systems. As one program, jointly administered by the two systems, each institution plays a vital role in the academic process.

"SFSU is already involved in analysis of gross motor movements such as gait, turning, stair climbing and sitting balance while UCSF will concentrate on upper extremity movements such as writing and computer keyboarding," Melnick said.

The doctoral program will begin in April. Both campuses will house faculty, facilities and classrooms. State-of-the-art motion analysis equipment will be available as well as balance equipment for evaluation, research and treatment.

This is the second of two doctoral programs now offered at SFSU. The first joint doctorate degree, in special education, was established 35 years ago in collaboration with University of California, Berkeley.

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Marsha Melnick can be reached at (415) 338-2001 or Nancy Byl can be reached at (415) 476-6650 or

Student writer Fred H. Danfoura assisted in writing this release.

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Last modified April 24, 2007, by the Office of Public Affairs