Southeast Satellite | Eastern North Carolina Now

    Publisher's note: The author of this post, Kathryn Kennedy, is a contributor to ECU News Services.

ECU, UNC Pembroke announce physical therapy partnership

    A new partnership between East Carolina University and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke aims to increase the number of physical therapists working in eastern North Carolina.

    ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard and UNCP Chancellor Kyle Carter signed a memorandum of understanding June 24 that will establish a satellite program for ECU's Department of Physical Therapy at UNCP.

    Under the agreement, ECU will first launch an "assurance program" for the 2016-17 school year, which reserves places for up to four UNCP students in each entering class of the doctoral program.

    Once there are approximately eight UNCP undergraduate students that meet the entrance requirements — estimated to occur by 2019 — the assurance program will transition to a full satellite program. At that time, all physical therapy students will attend class on ECU's campus for their first and final semesters, but will spend the other semesters of the three-year program at UNCP.

    All clinical experiences for the satellite students will take place in the clinics and hospitals surrounding UNCP. The program is expected to grow to approximately 10 UNCP students per year.

    "Helping other institutions, helping the whole region through workforce development and preparing our students for the future — those are three things we're committed to," Ballard told the officials assembled Wednesday.

UNCP Chancellor-Elect Robin Cummings interacts with second-year physical therapy students at ECU.
    "My hope is that we train a lot more health professionals in both areas — at Pembroke and ECU. We know these people will get good paying jobs."

    Dr. Phyllis Horns, vice chancellor for ECU's Division of Health Sciences, said this collaboration could also increase the diversity of the region's health care workforce. UNCP has long been committed to serving students of Native American heritage and other underrepresented minorities.

    "I retire on Tuesday, so Chancellor-Elect (Robin) Cummings has the opportunity to actually implement this very, very important program for UNC Pembroke," remarked Chancellor Carter. "I want to thank ECU. The personality (here) really is collaboration, it's regional engagement and they are great partners."

    Housed within the College of Allied Health Sciences, ECU's Department of Physical Therapy has advanced the education of physical therapists for North Carolina since 1970.

    "This college and the Department of Physical Therapy have a strong tradition of training health care providers for North Carolina and to work in rural, eastern North Carolina," said Dr. Amy Gross McMillan, associate chair of physical therapy at ECU. "We know that students who come from an area are more likely to stay in that area (to work)."

    Gross McMillan said she hopes this partnership will lead to more applications from students in the southeast region of North Carolina and from Robeson County, in particular.

    ECU's Doctorate of Physical Therapy is one of the most competitive programs offered by the university. They accept North Carolina residents only and the average undergraduate GPA for this year's incoming class was 3.75. Admission is limited to 30 students, and they often attract more than 300 applications for those slots.

    For more information about the ECU program, visit

    Other collaborations between UNCP and ECU include a community service learning center for ECU's School of Dental Medicine in Robeson County, and the UNC system's first massive open online course (or MOOC) via ECU's College of Business.

UNC Pembroke Chancellor Kyle Carter and East Carolina University Chancellor Steve Ballard sign a memorandum of understanding that will establish a satellite program for ECU's doctorate in physical therapy at UNCP. The agreement aims to prepare more physical therapists for eastern North Carolina. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

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