Defining Underrepresented Minorities and Promoting Holistic Review Admission Strategies in Physical Therapist Education

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Background and Purpose.Given the changing demographics of the United States, it is important for Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) education programs to address how best to recruit and retain students who will be able to provide culturally competent and sensitive care. Compared with the general population, the racial and ethnic diversity of professional membership in the American Physical Therapy Association and applications to and acceptance in professional physical therapist education programs has remained relatively static and does not mirror the diversity of the population at large.Position and Rationale.To best determine effective recruitment and retention strategies to address this shortfall in PT education, it is necessary to have (1) a unifying definition of underrepresented minorities (URMs) in physical therapy education and (2) an understanding of what is currently being done to promote a diverse student body. The American Council of Academic Physical Therapy empaneled its Diversity Task Force in January 2013 to address these two issues. This position paper reports on the efforts of the Diversity Task Force in developing a working definition of URMs in physical therapy education that reaches beyond traditional racial and ethnic descriptors, along with supporting information from a survey of entry-level DPT program directors on barriers to increasing diversity within the professional PT student population and strategies currently in place to overcome them.Discussion and Conclusion.Based on a uniform definition of URMs and the current status of recruitment/retention policies and practices designed to foster a diverse student population, we conclude that ongoing work is needed to increase diversity within DPT education and that utilization of a holistic application review process for admissions is one method to increase diversity.

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