U of S School of Physical Therapy celebrates 50th anniversary

SASKATOON - The first class of 20 physical therapists from the University of Saskatchewan crossed the stage to receive their degrees in 1967. This weekend, hundreds of alumni, students and faculty members—both former and current—in the School of Physical Therapy will come together to celebrate the program's 50th anniversary.

During its half-century history, the school has doubled its enrolment to 40 students each year, undergone progressions in curriculum and evolved from a diploma program to its current model as a master's program.

Liz Harrison, the associate dean of physical therapy and rehabilitation sciences, sees the celebrations in a broader light—one that shines on the growth of the program, the changing landscape in Saskatchewan's health care, and the expanding research in the field of physiotherapy.

"Fifty years ago we were primarily very medically oriented—drugs, doctors and dentists," said Harrison. "We were mainly dealing with keeping people alive, acute care mostly, and there wasn't much in the community in terms of health professionals—the rural doctor was often the only provider, and often didn't have a nurse or pharmacist to help."

Harrison thinks that may be one of the most important changes the school has helped to encourage—not only an improvement in expanded health care, but an adaptation to the fact people are living significantly longer now than when the school first opened, and require more preventative care as a result.

"We have more needs and expectations now than 50 years ago because we're living longer and dealing with a number of chronic diseases that impact quality of life," Harrison continued. "Now we have people living (to) 95 to 100, and many individuals are still retiring at 65. That knee that was sore 50 years ago for a decade is now actually going to be sore for 30 years and they want to keep golfing, playing with grandkids and, in some cases, working in the community. So all those services to reduce pain and improve quality of life is the real difference in the last 50 years."

The ability of School of Physical Therapy graduates to meet the rehabilitation needs of Saskatchewanians is a direct result of the clinical and research-based education provided by the faculty and community clinicians affiliated with the school. An impressive 80 per cent of grads remain in the province following graduation, which is helping to provide care to an aging population.

"Fifty years ago there was a serious need for physical therapy professionals and researchers to be a part of the health professional teams to help improve health care for Saskatchewan citizens—that was the incentive," Harrison said.

Activities during the weekend include a full day professional development conference, including well-known physical therapists from across the country, followed by a welcome reception in St. Andrews College—currently home to the school. Saturday features a gala dinner and silent auction, with proceeds supporting scholarships for Masters of Physical Therapy students.


For more information, contact:
Laura Herman
Communications Officer
College of Medicine
University of Saskatchewan
(306) 966-6059
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