Colorado Mesa University students planning to extend their education beyond a four-year degree may not have to move. CMU is in the process of developing physician’s assistant (PA), physical therapy (PT), occupational therapy (OT) and athletic training programs at the graduate level.

The physician’s assistant program is further into its development than the other three programs.

“We have already hired a program director for that,” Jeremy Hawkins, head of the department of kinesiology, said. “The application for that program will be due in March, the site visit in June, with the intent of matriculating students in January of 2019 if the accreditation process goes well.”

Once CMU passes the accreditation process for PA, it can begin to enroll students. The process is similar for the other programs.

“We’re looking to transition our undergraduate athletic training program to a graduate athletic training program, as well as developing a doctor of physical therapy program and doctor of occupational therapy program,” Hawkins said.

PT and OT programs will be developed at the doctorate level because both fields have chosen to phase out masters level education.

While there is already an athletic training program at CMU, it is currently at the undergraduate level. CMU is no longer accepting new undergraduate athletic training students because the standards of athletic training have changed. Just as PT and OT are no longer accepted at the masters level, athletic trainers are no longer accepted at the undergraduate level.

“By 2022, all (athletic training) programs have to be at the masters level,” Hawkins said.

Each one of those programs has an application. CMU must fill out and go through the various steps of proving the university can provide a quality clinical education, not only on campus but also through clinical sites in order for those students to matriculate into becoming whatever profession they choose.

While CMU is optimistic about the programs, there are no specific timelines for the programs to go into effect. Until the accreditation process is complete, CMU will continue to say the four programs are under development.

CMU hopes the programs will increase the number of health professionals in the area.

“The lack of some of those professions out here…it is difficult for all of those professions to recruit to the western slope,” Hawkins said. “If you are educating your own, your own tend to stay. By educating students here, by giving them clinical experience here, part of that is hopefully we can increase the number of clinicians in the area.”

As the accreditation process continues, more information will become available. If the applications are accepted CMU, will have four new graduate level programs that can introduce new health professionals to the western slope.

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Chris DeLeon

Chris DeLeon is a certified personal trainer and military veteran. He is in his second year at CMU, working towards a bachelor of science degree in exercise science before going towards a doctorate in physical therapy . Chris began writing seven years ago, penning four published novels under the name Lee Daniel, but only recently brought his love of the written word to journalism. He joined the Criterion staff in the fall of 2016 and accepted the position of News Editor for the fall of 2017.

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