Students from the first cohort of the Physical Therapy Doctoral Program pose for a photo along with Dr. Gale Starich, Dean of the College of Health Sciences, left, Dr. Kathye Light, Chair of the Department of Physical Therapy, second from left, and Georgia State Senator Butch Miller, center, at the Brenau University Downtown Center on Friday, April 1, 2016. Senator Miller presented a resolution recognizing the Department of Physical Therapy at Brenau University that he introduced and adopted during the Georgia General Assembly. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)
Georgia State Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, poses with faculty and students from Brenau University's Department of Physical Therapy after presenting a resolution to President Ed Schrader on April 1.

State Senator Conveys Honor for Brenau Physical Therapy to Trustees and Administrators

Apr 3, 2016
Brenau Staff

Georgia State Sen. Butch Miller, R–Gainesville, presented a proclamation to the Brenau University Board of Trustees Friday, April 1, praising the school’s new physical therapy doctoral program for its contribution to the betterment of health care and economic development in the region.

Miller authored the resolution during the 2016 session of the Georgia General Assembly, which concluded its work March 24. He also said that he will provide copies of the resolution to each of the 39 students who are completing the first year of the three-year doctoral program as part of its inaugural class.

“When those students come from other parts of the country and they’re educated here, they tend to stay here,” he said. “They tend to marry here, they tend to settle down here, they tend to buy homes here, they tend to get involved in our community here.”

Miller said that the physical therapy program as well as occupational therapy and nursing doctorates, clinical psychology and other health care professional graduate and undergraduate degree tracks are greatly improving quality of life standards throughout northeast Georgia.

“Every day in my Senate experience, it is pointed out to me how critical these needs are for the well-being of our community,” he said. “I am very grateful Brenau is making the mark on this community.”

Miller handed a framed copy of the resolution to Brenau President Ed Schrader on the theater stage in the Brenau Downtown Center in Gainesville where the trustees gathered for their spring session. The building also houses the Physical Therapy Department classrooms, laboratories and clinics. More than a dozen physical therapy faculty and students broke from preparation for final examinations to attend Miller’s presentation.

In June, that first class will be joined by the second wave of physical therapy doctoral candidates. As of Friday, 51 had paid deposits on tuition for their three-year cycle, which begins in June. Next year, another cohort of about 40 students enroll, bringing the program to its full complement of about 120 students cycling through it.

Miller said he is “taken aback” by the progress the physical therapy program has made in just one year’s time toward its goal of becoming one of the premier physical therapy programs in the country that helps students “reach their highest potentials.” Kathye Light, director of the program, said that with only two weeks’ lead time Brenau attracted 125 applicants for the 40 available seats in the inaugural class. About 80 percent of those applicants were from Georgia. However, for the June 2016 class there were 586 applicants, and about 40 percent were from somewhere else in the country.

The Department of Physical Therapy is already deeply ingrained in the local community, with DPT students providing services at Northeast Georgia Health System under the department’s early mobility program.

“The students gain real world experience that helps them better understand classroom learning and acquire skill in working as a part of the collaborative interdisciplinary model that is so important in health care,” said NGHS Director of Rehabilitation Services Kevin Gohman, “and it supports our efforts in providing early mobility for our patients, which greatly improves our patients’ well-being and outcomes.”

The department’s impact on the community will get even bigger with a new physical therapy clinic set to open at the Brenau University Downtown Center later this month.

In addition to improving health outcomes for the region, Miller said Brenau’s programs could also provide an economic boon to the district by attracting top-level professionals on faculty and among the doctoral candidates on a year-around basis to the heart of the city.

Brenau launched its effort to establish a top-ranked physical therapy school when the not-for-profit private institution acquired the long-term lease from the city of Gainesville for the public-owned, but outdated, convention facility that was regularly losing money. The university thus far has invested more than $6 million for renovations, staffing and other improvements to the former Georgia Mountains Center.

Although Miller said that he certainly was aware of the potential impact of the redevelopment, he said he looked at it deeper  – and subsequently decided to introduce the resolution  – after a constituent, whose son is enrolled in the program, began singing its praises to him.

“I knew it was good,” he said. “But I was astounded to discover just how good it really is. It’s amazing, and I’m proud it’s in my city.”