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Before move to new building, physical therapy program to celebrate its 75th anniversary

The 75th anniversary of Duke’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program will be marked by a three-part celebration in mid-September and a new building. The celebration will include a gala, a leadership seminar and a book detailing the physical therapy program’s history. 

Michel Landry, chief of the doctor of physical therapy division, said the week will kick off on Sept. 13 with faculty and alumni celebrating in downtown Durham. The next day, the program will offer continuing education for visiting alumni in the morning, followed by a gathering for both current students and alumni in the evening. On Sept. 15, the program will host a leadership seminar and then a gala at Washington Duke Inn, where the anniversary book will be released. 

“This will be the first time in our entire history where we have a full gathering of our alumni and students,” Landry said. “There’ll be a huge amount of partnership and mentorship established and developed.” 

The physical therapy program was established at Duke in 1943, with just four participants. After 75 years, the program has grown to include 85 students per year, and has switched to offering doctorate degree—becoming one of the first programs to do so.

“Duke’s physical therapy program has been a leader in the push to make physical therapy a doctorate degree, which is something Duke’s program prides itself on,” said Cody Davis, president of the program's class of 2019 student government. “Even in the last few years, we've seen the first faculty residency program. We’ve seen the program grow, bringing in more residents to build more faculty members.”

Before moving to Erwin Square in 2008, the physical therapy division resided in the basement of Duke Hospital. In 2020, the program will relocate to a new, larger building on the medical campus, stationed behind the nursing school. The $61 million, 102,000 square-foot building was approved by the Board of Trustees in December and will also house the School of Nursing and offices for department of orthopedic surgery throughout its five floors.

Davis said the new building will have a larger lab and a classroom that emphasizes the team-based learning aspects of the curriculum.

“In our current spot, we have two wings,” he said. “Classrooms are in Wing A, where we sit for most of the day, but there’s a separate wing on the other side where most of the faculty and administration is. The new building will create an area where administration and faculty can be together so everyone is not so spread out.” 

Duke’s physical therapy doctorate program is currently ranked 10th in the nation by U.S. News and World Report. Landry said he expects the greater focus on interdisciplinary team development to further improve the program. 

Other upcoming changes to the program include an expanded class size and an increased emphasis on practicing outside of the classroom.

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