To help alleviate clinical shortages in the state and better fulfill its mission to educate the next generation of health professionals, the West Virginia University School of Medicine has expanded the size of the Department of Physical Therapy, beginning with the Class of 2013, to 40 students. Previous classes have had 30 students.

“We saw a need and grabbed at the opportunity,” MaryBeth Mandich,., professor and chair of the WVU Department of Physical Therapy, said of the expansion.

To accommodate the larger class, construction is currently under way to expand existing laboratory and clinical practice areas. This construction should be completed by mid-July. Dr. Mandich anticipates the cost of expanding the program, including construction, new equipment and additional faculty, to be around $225,000.

The WVU Department of Physical Therapy began in 1970 as a division of the Department of Neurology. At that time, students graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree. In the late 1990s, the program joined with the divisions of Exercise Physiology and Occupational Therapy to form the Department of Human Performance and Exercise Science. During that time, the program transitioned to a Master of Physical Therapy degree.

To again respond to the national changes in the physical therapy profession, the program began offering a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree in 2005. The first doctoral class graduated in 2008. All physical therapy students participate in rural health rotations in conjunction with the Rural Health Education Partnership Program.

For the second year, the program is using the Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service, which has greatly increased the number of applicants. “We received 348 applications and actually processed 151 of them,” Mandich said. “We had the highest qualified applicant pool ever this year.”

As a result of the PTCAS system, the program is now receiving applications from all over the country. “Even though we’re expanding, the overall character of the class and the predominant residency of the class is West Virginia,” Mandich said. “We still retain a very state-based identity.”

Mandich says that prospective students are attracted here by the reputation of WVU and the progressive Morgantown community. She says they are also drawn to the WVU physical therapy program because all of its classes are taught by faculty members and the program boasts a 100 percent first-time National Board Examination pass rate. All faculty members are highly credentialed with terminal doctoral degrees, and many hold board certification in specialty areas of physical therapy practice.

To ensure that students are prepared for the exam, second-year students take comprehensive written and practical examinations that simulate the board exam and undergo a review course prior to graduation.

In any given year, 40 to 60 percent of the graduating class practices in West Virginia. Mandich said the biggest employers for WVU physical therapy graduates are outpatient clinics and hospitals, although an increasing number of graduates are practicing in skilled nursing and rehabilitation facilities.

For more information on the WVU Department of Physical Therapy, see



CONTACT: Angela Jones, HSC News Service

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