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VC's Physical Therapist Assistant program receives accreditation, graduates first class

May 10, 2012 at 12:10 a.m.

Sam Suggett

Victoria College will graduate its first class of physical therapy assistants this year.

Three years ago, Victoria College announced the development of a physical therapist assistant program to meet the region's demand.

This month, the program received its accreditation from the American Physical Therapy Association.

"VC's PTA faculty has done an outstanding job of working to obtain VC's accreditation for this program so quickly," said college President Tom Butler. "Their hard work and dedication is definitely a representation of the quality of instruction at VC."

Butler also congratulated the first class of PTA graduates, recognizing their participation in helping establish the program for future students.

The college admitted 17 students into the program in the fall of 2010.

Physical therapist assistants help people with medical problems or other health-related conditions that limit their ability to move and perform daily activities. The curriculum includes academic prerequisites along with specialized classes and clinical rotations.

Students in the college's first class have worked in the nearby physical therapy clinics to fulfill their requirements, and many intend to continue working in the region after graduation. Students graduating from the two-year program will now take the state-mandated licensure exam.

Two PTA students graduating this month, Chelsea Harjes and Rachel Baker, have already been hired by Bruce Ryan of Crossroads Physical Therapy.

"Across the board, VC's students from this first class are above average and well-prepared for licensure," said Ryan. "I think VC's instructors are really exceptional and the facilities are by far top in the country."

Harjes credits PTA Program Director Laura Crandall and Clinical Education Coordinator Sam Suggett for the success of the program.

"I would definitely say the instructors are what make VC's program exceptional,"

Harjes said. "During these first two years, they have both been very flexible and have always been there for us."

Baker attributes her success to the individual attention she received in the program.

"The personal relationship between instructors and students has made a big difference for me," Baker said. "Because this program is small, we have gotten a lot of one-on-one time, and the instructors are very dedicated to the program."

Ryan said Crandall and Suggett's work to get the college's program accredited has been crucial in filling the community's demand for physical therapist assistants.

Meeting the region's demands for physical therapist assistants is what makes soon-to-graduate Stephen Rubio most proud. Rubio was hired in the physical therapy department at Citizens Medical Center.

"I'm proud to have been one of only 17 students to be the first to complete this flagship program that is so vital in our community," Rubio said.

"I worked hard to get here, and it is definitely an honor to have been a part of the first class."

"Before VC's program, Victoria was in a void between Wharton and Corpus Christi," Ryan said. "And this program couldn't come at a better time as our local medical community will need to grow in response to new business and industry coming into our area."

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