Students from Chaminade University in Honolulu, Hawaii, who want to become physical therapists or podiatric physicians now have a pipeline to making their dreams come true: Chaminade and Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, Calif. signed a linkage agreement on Friday, Oct. 14, 2011.

WesternU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific last year signed an agreement to help Chaminade students become doctors, and now students from the Hawaiian university will have the opportunity to become Doctors of Physical Therapy (DPT) and Doctors of Podiatric Medicine (DPM).

"The need for physical therapy on the islands is quite high, and they need more therapists there," said Dee Schilling, PT, PhD, chair and associate professor for the Department of Physical Therapy Education.

One of the reasons WesternU is taking part in the agreement is to train students so they can go home to underserved parts of the Pacific Islands. Students from Hawaii don’t have options on the island to learn podiatric medicine and physical therapy.

"This is very important, because right now students have to leave the island to get these degrees," said Patricia Lee-Robinson, Chaminade’s associate provost, office of student opportunities and associate professor of biology. "Students come from all over the Pacific, including from Samoa, Guam, Saipan and Micronesia, and I would love to see those students come here to WesternU and go back home."

Chaminade University, a private Catholic Marianist college, began teaching biology in 2003. Student interest in health care has steadily increased, and more than 60 freshmen are interested in science, up from about 15 in 2003.

Bro. Bernie Ploeger, SM, PhD, president of Chaminade, says Lee-Robinson was instrumental in obtaining the linkage with WesternU because she wanted Chaminade students to be better exposed to treating diabetes.

According to the Pacific Health Research & Education Institute (PHREI), diabetes is a major concern in the Pacific.

"Our intent is to show students the whole array of post-baccalaureate medical programs that are available, and try to find the right match for them. It’s an important choice that’s made available to our students," he said.

On Thursday, Oct. 27, Elizabeth Rega, PhD, assistant vice provost for academic development and associate professor of anatomy, and Gerald Thrush, PhD, professor and assistant department head of Basic Medical Sciences, will present the assortment of programs offered at WesternU to a large number of freshman, as well as to Chaminade’s upper class.

"WesternU is providing expanded opportunities for Chaminade students to complete health professions degrees," she said. "We welcome the opportunity to reach out to the Pacific Islands and in turn learn from them about better serving this community."