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Brenaus first physical therapy students begin first semester
Ansley Faulk, Drew Huggins and Ryan Ahlenius in the new anatomy lab at the Brenau Downtown Center. - photo by Nick Dentamaro, Brenau University

Brenau University’s first class of physical therapy students are the state’s “hungriest, most hardworking” future doctors.

So reports Jim Lewis, associate professor in the university’s Department of Physical Therapy. The university’s first cohort of 40 physical therapy students began in May in the Brenau Downtown Center in Gainesville.

“We took a group of very special students in that many of these students had either been trying to get into other programs or had already tried to get into other programs when we opened,” Lewis said. “The requirements to get into physical therapy school are high. We hold also those high requirements, but many of these students were competing with students who had 4.0 GPAs and very high (test) scores.”

Lewis said those students who came to Brenau after being denied at other schools have perhaps the greatest passion to become physical therapists because they did not give up.

“These are the students that would bend over backward and do anything to become physical therapists,” he said.

Currently, the students are taking what Lewis called their base, or their core courses, including functional anatomy and kinesiology, human physiology, a basic clinical skills course and a professional issues course.

“I’m loving it,” student Hillary Hudgins said. “We’re all feeling excitement. It’s just great.”

Fellow student Aly Logan said anatomy lab, taught by Lewis, is her favorite course this year.

“The cadavers just take over and run the show in regards to driving the excitement,” Lewis said. “I’m just having fun along with them.”

Everything now is on site at the Brenau Downtown Center, but next semester the group of students, or cohort, will begin to travel as teams. Then they will get first-hand knowledge of the benefits of mobility in sick or elderly patients through a program with the Northeast Georgia Medical Center.

“They’ll be working with professionals, to observe them in regards to being in an early mobilization program,” Lewis said. “That’s a program designed to get people up and moving as quick as possible. Research has shown that those folks who are really sick, they go into hospitals and don’t do anything, don’t move around, and they don’t tend to get better faster.”

The next cohort will start in May 2016. Lewis said
interested students can contact the department for application information, or they can apply through the Physical Therapy Centralized Application Service. Each cohort will accept 40 students, meaning an eventual 120 students in the department at any given time.

As of now, the program has six faculty members. Lewis said as the student population in the program grows, the faculty will need to grow as well. They expect to hire six more faculty members by the time the third cohort begins and the program has a full student body.

“As each cohort comes in, it takes them to a different realm in regards to what they’re needing to learn,” he said. “So what we do from a hiring standpoint is try to find those individuals that specialize in teaching those courses.”

This year, however, the first 40 students are already immersed in a year’s worth of lessons to prepare them for a developing education over the next three years and for their careers thereafter.

“You can see their excitement,” Lewis said, “that they have this opportunity to work through three years of coursework to become physical therapists.”

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