Western University of Health Sciences will welcome its first class of Doctor of Physical Therapy students to its WesternU Oregon campus in Lebanon, Oregon in 2022.

WesternU’s College of Health Sciences (CHS) is assembling the Department of Physical Therapy Education (DPTE) team that will make this a reality, led by CHS Interim Dean Dee Schilling, PT, PhD, FNAP, and DPTE Oregon Chair and Associate Professor Chad Lairamore, PT, PhD, FNAP.

“It is a pleasure to welcome Dr. Chad Lairamore as Chair of our new Oregon Physical Therapy program,” said WesternU President Daniel R. Wilson, MD, PhD. “Not only does Dr. Lairamore have precisely the right professional background to lead this important new endeavor, he also has a natural affinity to the WesternU ethos of humanistic science.”

Faculty must be in place 18 months before the program starts, per accreditation requirements. CHS plans to have 12 faculty in Lebanon in addition to Lairamore, along with 60 students in the first class. The faculty will create a curriculum separate from the DPT program in Pomona, California.

“Per accreditation, we must have independent programs with independent chairs, and we must answer the question, ‘What is your niche? Why should we have another PT program?’” Schilling said. “The niche is really rural health and looking at what that means and how do we best serve this population.”

“We are looking at rural health and potentially telemedicine to better serve that population, especially when they are hard to reach,” Lairamore said. “The other thing we are looking into is creating a blended learning curriculum that incorporates online and web-based education with in-class active learning. My vision is to have less lecture and more hands-on doing during in-class activities.”

CHS is also planning to introduce an occupational therapy (OT) program in 2023.

“OT and PT traditionally are very much together on teams, especially in the rehabilitation world,” Lairamore said. “I see a lot of potential for collaboration there.”

Two members of CHS’s Pomona team will move to WesternU Oregon. Assistant Professor Lindsey Liggan, PT, DPT ’13, WCS, PRPC, is a Women’s Health Certified Specialist (WCS).

“I thought it was an amazing opportunity to build and grow something new,” Liggan said. “And women’s health and public health is an area of need in that area. It will be a different change of pace and an opportunity to do different things than what I’m doing here. Plus, Oregon is beautiful. Who doesn’t want to live there?”

DPTE Manager Carrie Rogers, MS, will become director of operations and assistant dean of student affairs for the program in Lebanon.

“I’m very passionate about students, and that’s why serving as assistant dean of student affairs is important to me,” Rogers said. “I think the importance of students always should be our top priority, so I’m an advocate for them whenever I can be and whenever I need to be.”

Rogers has wanted to move to Oregon as soon as she heard the opportunity was available.

“It’s going to be fun. We get to develop the curriculum. We get to help students grow and develop something from scratch,” Rogers said. “We have a culture in this college and Lindsey and I going to the Oregon campus brings that culture with us. This is who we are and this is who we want to be.”

“And then you have Dr. Lairamore coming in with a new perspective,” Schilling said. “It really is this beautiful blending of minds and worlds and creativity. It’s very fun to have people who are visionary and who are passionate. I have no concerns about where this is going to go and how it’s going to end because I am just so confident in this team. I’m excited about their future, the opportunity for future students and the future of WesternU and this program as it is definitely going to be groundbreaking.”

Left to right: Chad Lairamore, PT, PhD, FNAP, Carrie Rogers, MS, Dee Schilling, PT, PhD, FNAP, and Lindsey Liggan, PT, DPT ’13, WCS, PRPC. (Alyssa Estersohn, WesternU)