New York Medical College

School of Health Sciences and Practice

Doctor Of Physical Therapy DPT Philosophy, Mission and Goals


Seven fundamental assumptions and associated objectives form the basis of the curriculum plan.

First, professional education in physical therapy should include a strong emphasis on foundational sciences, which include Anatomy, Histology, Physiology, Applied Physiology, Pathophysiology, Behavioral Sciences, Biomechanics and Kinesiology, Neuroscience, Pathology, and Pharmacology. These courses are taught by the faculty of the Program in Physical Therapy, and by various faculty from the School of Medicine, the Graduate School of Basic Sciences, and the School of Health Sciences and Practice.

Second, physical therapy is a clinical science. Therefore, students must learn a systematic approach to physical therapy examination, evaluation, diagnosis, prognosis, and intervention. It cannot be assumed that these skills will be learned in clinical affiliations. Rather, they must be explicitly integrated into the academic curriculum.

Third, physical therapy examination, evaluation, diagnosis, prognosis, and intervention should be based on sound scientific principles and investigations of clinical efficacy. Therefore, students must learn clinical reasoning based on critical analysis of the scientific and clinical literature. Scientific investigation should be taught as an integral part of usual physical therapy practice, rather than as a specialized or separate activity.

Fourth, the teaching of the science of physical therapy should be organized around a Disablement Model that includes the concepts of pathology, impairment, functional limitation, and disability (i.e., the framework developed by the Guide to Physical Therapy Practice, Vol. II). Instead of presenting the curriculum in a systems-based model, e.g., into musculoskeletal, neurological, and cardiopulmonary components, the curriculum is organized in blocks of conventional course work for the foundational sciences and problem-based learning tutorials and laboratories for the clinical sciences.

Fifth, clinical reasoning and critical analysis in physical therapy are high-level skills that are best learned in a self-directed, learner-centered framework. Problem-based learning provides this framework by providing an opportunity for students to take responsibility for their learning and to integrate basic and clinical science, clinical reasoning, and critical analysis on a clinical problem. Learning is done primarily in small tutorial groups and through self-directed learning.

Sixth, the specific objectives and desired outcomes of the educational process should be assessed throughout the curriculum. Testing of student competencies is viewed as an integral part of the learning process. In the clinical science courses, testing is competency based. Expected levels of competency are defined at each stage of the curriculum. In addition to faculty testing of competencies, student self-assessment is emphasized. Curricular objectives are classified for purposes of testing as relating to (1) knowledge base (short-answer tests), (2) clinical skills (practical exams), (3) clinical reasoning and analysis (evaluation of group process, written exams, and assignments), and (4) professional behavior (evaluation of group process, written and oral communications).

Seventh, clinical education needs to be integrated with the academic curriculum. The didactic education of students will consistently include clinical cases. Students will have both variety and depth of experience in their clinical assignments. Current clinical practice patterns and student performance during clinical affiliations will be evaluated and used to make appropriate modifications in the curriculum, ensuring a contemporary and valid educational framework.

Mission of the Program in Physical Therapy

The Program in Physical Therapy is a doctoral degree program that provides entry-level professional education in physical therapy. The primary purposes of the program are to prepare competent and caring physical therapists who will be able to: 1) exam, evaluate, and refer patients to other health care providers within a direct access health care environment, 2) carry out evidence-based intervention in a variety of settings, and 3) adapt to changes in the health care system. In addition, the program is dedicated to serving as a resource for individuals and institutions in the region, and to conducting research and scholarship activities that contribute to the knowledge base and evidence upon which physical therapy is based. A predominant mission of the program is to instill within its graduates an appreciation of community service and the importance of addressing the health care needs of underserved populations.

Specific Goals of the Program

  • to prepare graduates for the professional practice of physical therapy who are able to integrate scientific inquiry, clinical reasoning, technical skill, and social responsibility.
  • to prepare graduates who will be able to examine, evaluate, establish a physical therapy diagnosis, and make appropriate referrals within a direct access system of health care.
  • to prepare graduates who will be able to work in a wide variety of settings and roles - as clinicians, consultants, educators, researchers, and administrators.
  • to prepare graduates who will focus on helping patients to achieve specific functional outcomes in order to live richer, happier, and more productive lives.
  • to prepare graduates who will be able to organize and carry out health promotion, wellness, and prevention programs in the community.
  • to prepare graduates who will enhance and extend the practice of physical therapy by developing new and better approaches to treating patient problems.
  • to prepare graduates who will be leaders not only in the clinical practice of physical therapy, but also in physical therapy education, research, and the development of public policy.
  • to prepare graduates who will be advocates for social change both within the health care system and in society as a whole, and who will be prepared to work in difficult and challenging environments with underserved patient populations.
  • to prepare graduates for a lifetime of self-directed learning and professional development.
  • to provide students an educational model in which academic and clinical education are truly integrated, and which is based on collaboration between clinical practitioners and full-time academic faculty.
  • to support and advance the practice of physical therapy through research and scholarly activities by the physical therapy faculty in collaboration with other professionals.
  • to evolve into a regional center for physical therapy education and research, able to act as a resource for clinicians, institutions, and patients in the community.