Masters Programs Fold

Academic programs in many healthcare professions have been unintended casualties of the past decade's Managed Care experiment. P&O is so small in numbers that the hit in our niche of rehabilitation has been particularly devastating. Declining levels of reimbursement over many years have decreased the available funds to support academic endeavors, which are rarely self-supporting. When the economic future of a profession becomes uncertain, less students are willing to take the risk to enter the field. This translates into a smaller pool of candidates for existing programs, and makes it even more difficult to advance the standards in the field.

Despite these negative forces, a handful of universities are trying to establish fledgling Masters level programs in our field. In my view, it is critical that we develop a small cadre of Masters and Doctoral level CPOs now, so that they can drive the research that will determine the progress of our profession in future decades.

Unfortunately, both the Rutgers University and the St. Ambrose University programs have announced suspension of their programs recently, due to financial considerations. Programs offering an entry-level Masters degree are currently under development at the Eastern Michigan University and Georgia Institute of Technology, and the University of Connecticut's Masters of Science curriculum designed to allow practicing CPOs to further their academic education is still viable.

The most widely utilized program offering an advanced degree in P&O is at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland. Strathclyde offers both Masters and Doctoral degrees, and has attracted outstanding students from across the globe. It's too bad that US practitioners who want to earn a Doctoral degree in the field have no choice but to study overseas. But, today's myopic focus on short-term cost containment in healthcare leaves no room to build a better future for the profession, or for the patients we serve.

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