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Degree Integrates Physical Therapy, Engineering

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September 22, 2008 | by Marla Paul
CHICAGO -- How can healthcare give back what disease, injury or disorder has taken away? How can we better compensate for the loss of function following stroke, trauma or complications related to degenerative diseases like Parkinson's or multiple sclerosis?

With a new joint program, the Feinberg School of Medicine is offering an educational complement to meet this challenge. With the departments of biomedical engineering, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering and computer science at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, the Feinberg School's department of physical therapy and human movement sciences has developed a new program that will award students a doctorate of physical therapy (DPT) and a PhD in engineering. The program became an offering of The Graduate School in September.

The program, the first of its kind in the nation, is an integration of engineering and physical therapy. Through the leadership of Julius Dewald and Matthew Glucksberg, the program combines two specialty fields with one great intersection: movement disorders.

Dewald is chair of the department of physical therapy and human movement sciences at Feinberg and associate professor of biomedical engineering at the McCormick School. Glucksberg is chair of the biomedical engineering department at McCormick.

This program builds upon the quantification and understanding of movement disorders to improve the delivery of physical therapy -- from research, through patient care and back again. As described by Dewald, the joint degree curriculum will train a "new professional with a strong background in engineering and physical therapy."

Through recent design revolutions, physical therapy relevant technologies have become smaller and less expensive, leading to their greater acceptance and usage in the field. Now, through fundamental engineering research, student scientists are developing instrumented measurement and treatment approaches that will remove much of the trial and error that often must be undertaken to determine a proper care regimen in rehabilitation. By questioning issues that have never been examined before, the students will lead research and clinical efforts for patients with debilitating diseases and conditions.

The program will provide seven years of training for students -- in the classroom, movement and rehabilitation laboratories and academic physical therapy clinics.

The Feinberg School will fully finance the three years of DPT education for two new DPT/PhD students. Once the program is fully active, the medical school will support six students in the program at one time.
Topics: University