Physical therapy doctorate program crossing borders

October 03, 2013

Image with caption: Joseph Siu, Ph.D.

Joseph Siu, Ph.D.

Physical therapy, as a profession, is "a new health domain in China," said Ka-Chun (Joseph) Siu, Ph.D., assistant professor of physical therapy education in the School of Allied Health Professions and director of the Shanghai Sino-U.S. Health Science Initiative (SSUHSI) physical therapy doctorate program.

SSUHSI is a collaborative health science partnership that involves educational, clinical and research components. UNMC Chancellor Harold M. Maurer, M.D., and Gang Pei, Ph.D., president of Tongji University, were the chief architects of the partnership.

The agreement includes several aspects, but one of them is the training of health professionals at the doctoral level. Qualified students from China may earn specialty-specific degrees from UNMC. In addition to PT, the fields offered include dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy. The hope is that these students will then return to their country to help shape the future of China's health care.

The physical therapy program currently has two students from China enrolled in the program and is seeking more.

Many in China are unsure of what physical therapists do, Dr. Siu said. But these graduates will go back to China to establish programs, helping even physicians understand the importance of physical therapy and rehabilitation.

"Our program will help foster the entire profession," Dr. Siu said.

China's current medical model is full of specialists and specialty hospitals. The hope is that there will someday be a rehabilitation service in every specialty hospital, Dr. Siu said.

In conjunction with the SSUHSI partnership, two students from China each year per specialty are accepted into these health professions degree programs. The programs are under the auspices of the Asia Pacific Rim Development Program (APRDP).

"We're very proud that we were selected," Dr. Siu said. "But this is just the beginning for us."

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