UB Approved to Offer First SUNY Ph.D. Program In Physical Therapy/Exercise Science

By Lois Baker

Release Date: November 3, 1995

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo will offer a Ph.D. program in the Department of Physical Therapy and Exercise Science beginning in Fall 1996, making it the only campus in the SUNY system approved to confer a doctor of philosophy degree in this field.

The Ph.D. program replaces the department’s highly-regarded Ed.D. program, which has been offered for several years.

The impetus for the change was a 1988 report from The National Academy of Sciences, which warned that 87 percent more physical therapists will be needed by the year 2000 to meet the demand for services, but that there aren't enough academic faculty available to train these professionals.

“If you are going to educate more students, you must have more qualified faculty,” said Frank Cerny, Ph.D., associate professor and director of graduate studies for the department. “Our program will prepare therapists to be college and university teachers and researchers who will, in turn, train more therapists to fill entry-level positions.”

The Ph.D. requires a greater emphasis on research -- an essential component of a program that trains faculty -- than the Ed.D.

Barry Eckert, Ph.D., interim dean of the School of Health Related Professions, which includes the Department of Physical Therapy and Exercise Science, said approval to offer a Ph.D. validates what the department has been doing for several years.

“We’ve dramatically increased our research activity, and this designation underscores our success,” he noted.

The research-oriented degree will attract students with a more intensive scientific background and specific research interests, Eckert said.

Department faculty currently are conducting research in exercise-induced skeletal muscle injury and repair; respiratory muscle function in health and disease; respiratory muscle mechanics; electrotherapy and edema control; neural control of the respiratory and cardiovascular systems, and neuromusculoskeletal control of human movement.

The department will admit its first Ph.D. students in Fall 1966, and hopes to confer one or two doctoral degrees a year. All current doctoral students enrolled in what was formerly the Ed.D. program will now earn the Ph.D, Eckert said.