While Chapman University’s
Crean College of Health and Behavioral Sciences
is technically only two years old, the physical therapy program it houses enjoys the title of the oldest continually accredited program in California. Since 1928, Chapman’s Department of Physical Therapy (PT) is one of the longest running PT programs in the United States. All of the faculty are licensed practitioners with advanced degrees, and the student-to-faculty ratio is 12:1, providing a highly personalized education. In 2016, the program received 1,439 applicants for a coveted 80 openings.

The graduate program offers two degrees: the
Doctor of Physical Therapy
degree for students interested in becoming a physical therapy professional; and the
Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy
degree for physical therapists with baccalaureate or master degrees seeking to further their education to achieve the Doctor of Physical Therapy degree.

“With our brand new, state-of-the-art health science campus, our students have access to top-of-the-line labs and physical therapy equipment, including a traditional motion analysis lab and anti-gravity treadmill. In spring 2017, the program will take delivery of a state-of-the-art 180 degree Virtual Reality (VR) Gait Real-time Analysis Interactive Lab (GRAIL) by Motekforce. The VR motion analysis laboratory comes with a dual-belted instrumented treadmill with a self paced option and 6-degrees of freedom, integrated 10 camera and EMG systems. When fully installed, the GRAIL will provide the DPT program faculty instrumentation to conduct cutting edge human movement system intervention studies.” said
Emmanuel John
, PT, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the Department of Physical Therapy at Chapman University. “Further, our first-time licensure pass rate for PT graduates in 2016 was 100 percent, in addition to our overall pass rate for the past five years also being 100 percent, making our PT program one that aggressively prepares our graduates for success in the work force.”


Physical therapy students doing clinical work

Instruction Outside the Classroom

The doctorate in PT program involves clinical education at a variety of centers to allow students to practice and apply what they are learning in the classroom. There is even an international internship program where students spend 12 weeks in Costa Rica, which also includes language instruction and cultural activities.

Chapman’s PT program has also hosted a “Stroke Boot Camp” for the past four years, which has become so popular such that starting in 2017, there will now be two boot camps per year. At the two-week camp, stroke survivors – across a spectrum of abilities – come to Chapman each day for 10 differently-themed days and do therapy with the students, who are supervised by licensed PTs in the community. The camp is free and has had a waiting list since the beginning.

Research is also a key element of the graduate program, where students do active research with faculty members based on their interests and talents.

Historic Beginnings

The PT program traces its roots to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles in the early 1900s, where a program was started there by Lucile Grunewald, a physical educator, who was among the first women to offer therapeutic applications of exercise for persons recovering from diseases or injuries. She admitted students who already had a degree in some related field, usually physical education. PT knowledge was added to their existing knowledge base and graduates received a certificate to practice physical therapy. When the program affiliated with Chapman University, the Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) was the degree awarded to graduates. This program has always been offered as a post-baccalaureate program, a rarity in physical therapy educational programs of long standing. Chapman University wanted the historic program to continue with enduring quality and value. The program sought and achieved accreditation for the DPT degree in May of 2001, one of the first 25 percent of programs to accomplish that feat. Chapman’s first DPT degrees were awarded in 2004.

Records at the American Physical Therapy Association indicate that a physical therapy program existed at Children’s Hospital in 1926. That year was the first year that records were kept, and five programs were listed. The start dates of some of those five programs are known and were operating during or after World War I. Historic records allow us to conclude that the program now at Chapman is either the nation’s longest, continuous program or one of two programs started at approximately the same time. The earliest accreditation was granted in 1928, and the current program at Chapman is one of the only two programs from the initial accreditation that survives to current time. When programs could no longer be based in hospitals, Chapman responded by affiliating with the Children’s Hospital. That affiliation began in 1985, and the program moved to Chapman’s Orange campus in 1993.

About Chapman University

Consistently ranked among the top universities in the West, Chapman University attracts highly qualified students from around the globe. Its programs are designed to encourage leadership in innovation, creativity and collaboration, and are increasingly recognized for providing an extraordinary educational experience. The university excels in the sciences and humanities, business and economics, educational studies, film and media arts, performing arts, and law. Student enrollment in graduate and undergraduate programs is approaching 8,000 and Chapman University alumni are found throughout the world. Visit us at

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