The physical therapy program remains the only public higher education program in Massachusetts.
Joseph Dorsey, who had a desire to provide an opportunity to students who could not afford private tuition to enter a growing profession, developed the physical therapy program at the University in 1976.
The physical therapy program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell remains to this day the only public higher education program in Massachusetts. The first students were admitted in 1977 as freshmen in a baccalaureate program. The program received its initial accreditation and graduated its first undergraduate class of 22 students in 1981.
During this period of time, the profession was in the process of advancing its entry-level degree to a post-baccalaureate level. The program began planning for transitioning to the post-baccalaureate level by increasing its faculty base, facilities, equipment and clinical affiliations.
The proposal for the entry-level Master of Science in Physical Therapy (MSPT) Program was approved by 1989. The program entered its first entry-level graduate students in 1990 and received full accreditation in 1993. In conjunction with the expansion of the Physical Therapy program to Master’s level, and to serve as a Bachelor’s level of preparation for the graduate MSPT program, the first Bachelor of Science in Exercise Physiology class was admitted in the Fall of 1988. At its inception, the program was housed within the Department of Clinical Laboratory Sciences, but joined the Department of Physical Therapy in approximately 1991.
As the profession moved toward autonomous practice in the year 2000, the Department decided to transition the program to a Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. The DPT program was developed and subsequently approved by the University and Commonwealth of Massachusetts Board of Higher Education.
The proposed DPT program was reviewed and approved by CAPTE (Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education) during the 2001 accreditation and the first DPT class graduated in 2003.
The popularity of both the undergraduate and graduate programs increased during the 2000s. Following the department’s Academic Quality Assessment & Development (AQAD) report in 2014, a dedicated and continual effort began to include modern exercise science and strength and conditioning concepts into the curriculum, improve our facilities and equipment, expand our course and degree offerings, and increase our clinical partnerships.
In the Spring of 2018, the Department of Physical Therapy and undergraduate Exercise Physiology program underwent many significant changes. These included a Department and undergraduate degree name change. The newly formed Department of Physical Therapy and Kinesiology switched to an undergraduate Exercise Science program in order to reflect the diversity of the faculty, student interests and the trajectory of the program.