White Coat Ceremony marks inaugural graduation by Radford University DPT students

Radford University's wardrobe of academic regalia added a new item – a white coat – on Friday as 11 Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) students were honored at the inaugural White Coat and Pinning ceremony on May 9 in Heth Hall.

Sarah Dunn, a 2010 graduate of RU's Exercise, Sport and Health Education program, was the first to don the white coat and be pinned as a graduate of the program, which began in 2009 and becomes RU's third doctoral program.

"It has been a three-year process with ups and downs and great experiences. It is exciting and overwhelming to help set a precedent," she said.

The ceremony marked the completion of an initiative led by Founding Chair Edward Swanson, who arrived in Radford in 2009 with the mandate to start a program to prepare physical therapists with the highest credentials in the field. The program joins the Doctor of Nursing Practice and Doctor of Psychology programs that graduated their first classes in 2013 and 2012 respectively.

"Thank you to all of you who were risk takers and who stuck with us and believed in our vision," he said to the more than 60 graduates, faculty, families and administrators who attended the ceremony and reception.

Swanson complimented and challenged the inaugural DPT class of 2014. "You really pushed the edge of the envelope and set high standards for those who follow. You can now affect someone's life every day. Your service will provide you such satisfaction. People will really appreciate it and remember you and the assistance you provided."

Only days before the event, Swanson and the DPT faculty and students received verbal confirmation from the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) of its successful completion of CAPTE's rigorous accreditation process. The graduates will now be able to sit for board certification tests and achieve state licensure by all 50 states and the District of Columbia.


Doctor of Physical Therapy graduates

"As a doctoral granting university, Radford University looks different now," said Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Bill Kennan, who keynoted the ceremony. "Dr. Swanson and his team have built this program from the ground up and today we are celebrating quite an accomplishment by talented, dedicated professionals and the university as a whole."

Samantha Giles '11 of Blairs was named the first-ever RU DPT Student of the Year. She was recognized by the DPT faculty for superior performance during clinical experiences, a superior academic record and her contributions to the community.

"We were told from day one we could start traditions that will carry forward," she said. "We had plenty of opportunity to provide feedback and mold the program to help us learn best."

Upon graduation, Giles will work in outpatient and home health settings with Martinsville's O & W Enterprises, one of her three clinical rotation sites. As a DPT student, she served as Vice President of the RU Student Physical Therapy Association and program liaison to the Virginia Physical Therapy Association. She volunteered for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, RU Autism Awareness 5k and at the Ronald McDonald House in Roanoke.

The three-year program includes instruction, anatomy coursework, clinical laboratory experiences and clinical internships in out-patient and in-patient care, as well as skilled nursing facilities. At its home on the eighth floor of the Jefferson College of Health Sciences, DPT students also develop original, evidence-based research with faculty to advance physical therapy practice.


Doctor of Physical Therapy and their families

May 13, 2014