About the Doctorate in Physical Therapy Program: A Historical Perspective


Stony Brook Hospital Stony Brook Medicine is Long Island’s only comprehensive academic health sciences center. Stony Brook Medicine includes the Schools of Health Technology and Management, Dental Medicine, Social Welfare, Medicine and Nursing. The Department of Physical Therapy is a division within the School of Health Technology and Management.

Stony Brook University graduated its first class of physical therapists in 1973 with baccalaureate degrees. Since then, the program has graduated more than 1800 innovative clinicians with exceptional leadership skills who maintain strong ties to the academic program and profession. Graduates of this program can be found working throughout the United States in a variety of clinical practice settings. A large number have assumed leadership positions in their practice setting, administration, research, education, and within professional associations. Many graduates continue their relationship with the program assisting in student recruitment, interviews during the admissions process, as lab assistants in the classroom, and as clinical instructors throughout the curriculum.

The scope of practice of the physical therapist has changed significantly since the early days of the profession. New graduates must meet the health care challenges of the 21st century, including functioning as independent practitioners. Since 2001, the degree earned through the Stony Brook University program is an entry-level Doctorate in Physical Therapy (DPT). A bachelor’s degree is required prior to matriculation and provides the applicant with greater depth and breadth of preparation in foundational sciences as well as the liberal arts. The current three-year entry-level graduate program focuses on the acquisition, integration and application of profession-specific theory and knowledge, fundamental skills, and evidence-based clinical decision-making for effecting desired patient outcomes.

Stony Brook’s physical therapy program has access to the largest tertiary care hospital in Suffolk County (University Hospital) and the Long Island State Veterans Home. Both facilities are on the Stony Brook Campus and only a short walk from the physical therapy program. Clinical staff from both facilities, residents from the Veterans Home and patients from University Hospital participate in demonstrations and case study integrative weeks. The close relationship with these facilities as well as Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson, Huntingon Hospital, Southampton Hospital, Peconic Landing in Greenport, and Riverhead Care Center provides an environment for sharing clinical expertise between clinicians, educators and students.

The Department of Physical Therapy includes the Rehabilitation Research and Movement Performance (RRAMP) Laboratory at the Research and Development Park in Stony Brook. It is a one-of-a-kind, 7,000 square-foot laboratory dedicated to helping individuals with disabilities, assessing athletic performance and aiding recovery after disease or injury through the use of a state-of-the-art motion analysis system.  The laboratory houses talented faculty from the SHTM and the PhD Program in Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. The RRAMP laboratory also includes a locomotor training center, a motor control/motor learning laboratory to probe motor recovery, a musculoskeletal laboratory currently using ultrasound diagnostic equipment to assess and train muscle control of the spine and pelvic floor, and a body composition laboratory to explore physical changes of muscle, fat and bone. Plans are being made to add a Community Fitness and Wellness Center for people with disability to be housed adjacent to the RRAMP lab. This facility places the physical therapy program in an ideal position to develop and participate in research teams that investigate important educational, clinical, and management questions in health care.

As technology and science contribute to an ever-changing environment for the practice of physical therapy and all health care, educating new professionals to serve the public and the health care system remains our greatest priority. We welcome the next generation of Stony Brook physical therapy colleagues!