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ODU Gets State Approval for New Kinesiology Ph.D. Program

Old Dominion University's College of Health Sciences recently received state approval for a Ph.D. program in kinesiology and rehabilitation. The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia gave the degree request the go-ahead and student applications are currently being accepted. The program also received accreditation from The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

"This degree brings together scholars in kinesiology and the rehabilitation professions to find efficient and effective treatments and approaches to movement constraint," said Chandra De Silva, ODU's interim provost and vice president of academic affairs at ODU.

The inter-professional program will prepare students who have an educational background in kinesiology, exercise science, biology or a clinical health profession to advance the body of knowledge of their respective profession, and to assume the role of educator and mentor in an academic, clinical or industrial setting.

"About six years ago, we looked at the highest ranked physical therapy programs in the nation. We found that while our academic program matched up very well, the top 10 programs had two things we didn't offer: close association with an on-campus physical therapy clinic, and close association with a Ph.D. program," said Martha Walker, an associate professor with the School of Physical Therapy and Athletic Training.

"We opened ODU Monarch Physical Therapy last year, a great resource for the campus and surrounding community. The Ph.D. in kinesiology and rehabilitation completes the foundation for a powerhouse of education, clinical service and research in physical therapy, with each component strengthening the others."

The new degree will not only benefit the physical therapy and athletic training programs, but also enhance the speech and language pathology program and add yet another attraction for high-quality Ph.D. students. There are only three other kinesiology-related Ph.D. programs in the state, according to the National Academy of Kinesiology. Those programs are offered at the University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia Tech.

"The Ph.D. in kinesiology and rehabilitation will have a big role in supporting the College of Health Sciences 2015-2020 strategic plan to advance new knowledge, enhance academic excellence and create an inter-professional education and practice culture," said Dean Shelley Mishoe. "This Ph.D. program presents multiple opportunities for collaboration within the College of Health Sciences and across other colleges and universities. Special thanks to Richardean Benjamin, Martha Walker, Jeanie Kline and all those involved for leading this initiative to achieve SCHEV approval."

Kinesiology deals with the study of muscular movement and the mechanics of human motion. The science can be used to treat a wide range of conditions such as pain, stress and confusion, depression, fatigue, back problems, nervous disorders, sports injuries, and respiratory issues. Such a degree could include research on people following a stroke, people with multiple sclerosis, people following orthopedic injury or surgery, children with developmental difficulties, and people with language and communication difficulties.

"The program will produce faculty experts who will be able to conduct research and teach within programs in athletic training, physical therapy, motor control, speech and language pathology and kinesiology," said Bonnie Van Lunen, chair of the School of Physical Therapy and Athletic Training. "More importantly, these individuals will be leaders within the research areas of injury prevention and surveillance, motor performance and movement and application of clinical research within the field of health care." Faculty from the areas of athletic training, kinesiology, physical therapy and speech/language pathology collaborated to create the program, which allows students to retain their professional/clinical identities while learning to conduct meaningful research in kinesiology.

The program will capitalize on ODU's very strong clinical programs: advanced preparation master's degree in athletic training, advanced preparation master's degree in education, speech/language pathology emphasis; entry level doctoral degree in physical therapy, as well as the students emerging from the human movement sciences master's degree program with strong exercise science backgrounds.

"External reviewers were quite enthusiastic in their analysis of the program" De Silva said. "As reported by one: 'The national need for Ph.D.-level scientists who are clinically trained and prepared to address applied research questions regarding the prevention, assessment, treatment, outcomes, and social and economic implications of injury and disease is rapidly increasing.' ODU will meet this need for a number of students."

Stacie Raymer, professor and chair for the School of Communication Disorders & Special Education, said faculty members of the speech-language pathology program are excited to collaborate with the degree program.

"Students will learn to value the contributions that each discipline provides to the rehabilitation process, while gaining an understanding of the fundamental science of human movement and its disorders, whether in walking, talking, or swallowing," she said. "This degree program will foster research that spans disciplines and answers questions that must be addressed through the collaboration of multiple disciplines."

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