The Marshall University School of Physical Therapy was originally envisioned by the late Dr. Stephen J. Kopp who served as the President of Marshall University from 2005 until his untimely passing in 2014. Dr. Kopp’s vision and leadership forged a partnership with several local healthcare entities including St Mary’s Medical Center that laid the groundwork for what would become the School of Physical Therapy. The Marshall University Board of Governors (BOG) approved the “Intent to Plan” in January of 2009, which paved the way for the recruitment and hiring of Penny Kroll PT, PhD as the Founding Chair in August 2010. Dr. Kroll was the ideal individual to lead the program’s development, as she had previously served as a Physical Therapy Department Chair at Louisiana State University (LSU) Health Sciences Center in New Orleans and Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. While at LSU, Dr. Kroll led the program to a full 10-year reaccreditation.
Dr. Kroll quickly developed the necessary documents for the accreditation “Candidacy” application and the final BOG approval was obtained in April 2011. Dr. Kroll recruited and hired several founding faculty members over the next two years. Tamara Gravano PT, DPT, GCS, CEEAA was hired in January 2011 and serves as the Director of Clinical Education. Yi-Po Chiu PT, MHS, PhD, CEEAA was hired in January 2012 and serves as the Chair of the Admissions Committee. Both Dr. Gravano and Dr. Chiu served as faculty with Dr. Kroll at Louisiana State University. Neil Evans PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS was hired in May 2012 and serves as the Chair of the Curriculum Committee. Eric Arnold PhD (School of Kinesiology) and Robin O’Keefe (College of Science) were instrumental in launching the DPT curriculum by teaching foundational science courses. The contribution of these early founding faculty members cannot be overstated.
The Physical Therapy Program received an initial 5-year accreditation in May of 2015 by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). The ribbon cutting ceremony for the state-of-the-art physical therapy facilities (Marshall University School of Physical Therapy Ribbon Cutting Ceremony) was held on May 21, 2012 and was overseen by Michael Prewitt PhD, FCCP (Dean, College of Health Professions), Dr. Kopp, Dr. Kroll, and Eric Tarr PT, DPT, MBA, OCS (President of the West Virginia Chapter of the American Physical Therapy Association).
The first Doctor of Physical Therapy class matriculated in the summer of 2012 and graduated in May of 2015. The contribution of the first two student cohorts is noteworthy because these students elected to take a chance that the DPT program would eventually receive full accreditation. These students also set the bar high for future students through outstanding clinical education and Board scores.
Additional founding faculty members include Rose Rine PT, PhD; Rania Karim PT, DPT, GCS, CEEAA; Saurabh Mehta PT, PhD; Sujoy Bose PT, DPT, MHS, CCS; Gretchen Pfost PT, DPT, NCS; James Dauber DPT, DSc, OCS, SCS; Brad Profitt PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS, DC, CFCE; and Ashley Mason PT, DPT, ATC. As of July 2016, the program completed the recruitment of all core faculty positions and graduated two cohorts (2015, 2016) of DPT students.
Dr. Kroll’s original plan was to establish the program, oversee the initial CAPTE accreditation, and then retire to begin a new career as grandmother-in-chief. In July 2016, Dr. Kroll realized her dream of developing a high-quality physical therapy program in the heart of Appalachia where there is tremendous need. She retired leaving a remarkable legacy that will have a lasting impact on the profession, Marshall University, and countless students for many years to come.
Dr. Scott Davis PT, EdD, OCS was hired in August 2016 as Professor/Chair/Program Director to lead the exceptional faculty and outstanding student body on the next chapter of the Marshall University School of Physical Therapy. Dr. Davis’ vision for the Marshall University School of Physical Therapy is bold but with hard work, perseverance, and the pursuit of excellence by faculty, staff, and students, the next chapter will be as profound as the last. Long term goals include: 1) The Marshall University School of Physical Therapy will be ranked as one of the top 50 PT programs in the nation by 2025. 2) Continue to produce well-trained and professional Physical Therapists, who are highly sought after for employment; 3) Achieve a full 10-year CAPTE re-accreditation in 2020; 4) Partner with local physical therapy providers to develop post-professional residency training programs that promote advanced clinical practice and specialization; 5) Develop a vibrant faculty research agenda; 6) Explore opportunities to develop a complimentary PhD or ScD program in the rapidly growing area of Movement Science.
2023 and Beyond
In recent years, the Marshall School of Physical Therapy rose to 119th among 239 U.S. DPT programs as ranked by US News and World Report, placing it in the top 50%. The COVID-19 Pandemic posed challenges, but the exceptional efforts of SOPT faculty limited its impact on students. Valuable insights were gained about making traditional education more nimble through emerging pedagogical strategies.
The School of Physical Therapy revamped the DPT curriculum for the Class of 2024, maintaining strengths while enhancing with features like integrated clinical education, such as participation in the pro bono MUVIT clinic. Engagement in early integrated clinical education led to a 3-week reduction in the terminal internship. Key courses like Pain Science, Imaging, Primary Care PT, and Movement Integration were added. Health Promotion and Nutrition content shifted online during clinical rotations, and CASES courses were streamlined from seven to four, better preparing graduates for upcoming challenges.
Recent years also brought several special program features:
- Dual DPT/MBA Degree The MUSOPT offers a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree alongside a dual DPT/MBA degree in partnership with LCOB.
- Deceleration Pathway To boost graduation persistence, a four-year decelerated curricular pathway was introduced for select students facing early academic challenges.
- Academic Partnerships SOPT established academic partnerships with nine regional colleges and universities.
- Early Assurance Admissions Pathway The School launched the Early Assurance Program in 2021, conditionally accepting high school students applying for the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program, pending bachelor’s degree completion.
- Marshall Athletics Partnership In 2023, Dr. Angelini was hired as the first full-time clinical faculty member, dividing time between SOPT and providing therapy to Marshall Athletes via MU Athletics.
- Embedded Counselor Professional education’s academic challenges and stress spurred collaboration with the MU Counseling Center, addressing students’ mental health struggles.
Stay tuned as the MUSOPT continues to grow, innovate, and lead into the next decades.