March 23, 2018
By Greg Peters
The School of Health Professions is joining a small but growing number of academic institutions across the country that are expanding their degree offerings to better meet the supervisory and managerial skills needed by today's health care practitioners.
Starting with the fall semester, the University of Kansas Medical Center Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science will be offering first-year Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) students the opportunity to enroll in a new four-year, dual-degree Doctor of Physical Therapy/Master of Business Administration (DPT/MBA) program. The DPT/MBA was designed with several types of students in mind, especially those who are thinking about starting their own practices one day or individuals who anticipate taking on an administrative or supervisory role within a clinic or hospital setting.
"Many of our graduates are promoted to manager/administrative positions within a few years of gradation, and they suddenly find themselves in charge of things they are not familiar with like making hiring decisions, developing marketing programs, and managing budgets," said Patricia Kluding, Ph.D., PT, chair of the Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science. "This program will teach them the skills they need while they are in school, so that they are fully prepared after graduation for these opportunities."
The DPT program normally takes three years to complete, so to add an MBA students will need to complete an extra year, which includes spending two semesters taking classes from the KU School of Business in Lawrence.
"The need for a combined DPT/MBA degree is something that the department had discussed in the past," said Lisa Stehno-Bittel, Ph.D., PT, the previous department chair. "Additional momentum was added when our dean listed joint business degrees as a goal for the School of Health Professions. In addition, the School of Business was very excited and supportive of a combined program."
Students in the DPT/MBA program begin their degree track alongside their fellow first-year DPT students starting with the summer session. They spend their first two years on the KU Medical Center campus working on the DPT curriculum. In the fall of their third year, DPT/MBA students begin taking classes in the School of Business on the Lawrence campus.
"The School of Business is looking forward to this relationship," Kluding said. "They are genuinely interested in bringing more health-care related issues into classroom discussions and projects."
Faculty from the PTRS program will help find students who will be a good fit for the DPT/MBA program, and Graduate Record Exams will be used by the Business School as a requirement for MBA admission. Much of the curriculum design will be based on work already created for the MD/MBA program, which began a few years ago.
"The cool thing about the partnership is that the DPT students will be working with MBA students from varied professional backgrounds," said Dee Steinle, director of the MBA and MSB programs for the KU School of Business, who is the point person for the program on the Lawrence campus. "In addition to business backgrounds and MDs, we also have law students, architecture students, health information management students and starting this fall, pharmacy students."
Steinle said with the influx of students from so many health care disciplines, the Business School plans to create a formalized health care track within its signature experience, the Kansas Impact Program (KIP), which is dedicated to solving business problems in the context of nonprofit, small business or health care (historically rural health care). "We're still working out the details, but we're very excited about creating mixed health care professional groups to work on health care issues."
In the summer after their two semesters in the School of Business, the DPT students will return to KU Medical Center where they will complete an independent study preparing them for their final year of clinical internships prior to graduation.
Kluding said three students have signed up for the joint-degree program, and they anticipate as many as five students will be involved in the program each year, although they have not set a cap on how many total students can be enrolled.
Because the joint degree involves two existing programs, the school did not need to seek approval from the Kansas Board of Regents. They did, however, need the Graduate Councils from both KU-Lawrence and KU Medical Center to give their OKs.
Prior to the creation of this dual-degree program, many DPTs wishing to add management and business expertise to their skillsets were stuck squeezing in MBA programs through evening classes after working a full day or via online offerings.
"The new DPT/MBA program allows the KU School of Health Professions to be a leader in addressing a growing need within the health-care provider community," said Abiodun Akinwuntan, Ph.D., MPH, MBA, dean of the School of Health Professions. "We look forward to a productive relationship with the School of Business that will ultimately benefit our students and the people of Kansas through improved health care."