Spalding University is set to build on its proud tradition of healthcare education in downtown Louisville with the launch of a Doctor of Physical Therapy program in the fall of 2022, along with the full-scale renovation of the campus building that will house it.

The entry-level Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program will be delivered in a hybrid, low-residency format of online lecture courses and in-person laboratory experiences, which will be held one week each month in the state-of-the-art facility that is currently being transformed on South Third Street.

The purchase and renovation of the 21,500-square-foot building at 961 S. Third – which was acquired by Spalding in 2019 and is well-known in Louisville as the former longtime home of the V.V. Cooke Chevrolet dealership – represent one of the largest capital projects in Spalding history, totaling about $7 million, while demonstrating the university’s commitment to investing in projects and activity downtown.

Construction is scheduled for completion in late 2021, enhancing a prominent section of Third Street and helping expand a Spalding health science corridor along Third that includes the Republic Bank Academic Center (home of nursing and social work programs) and the Kosair Charities College of Health and Natural Sciences Building (occupational therapy, athletic training, natural sciences).

The new Spalding School of Physical Therapy will offer the entry-level DPT track for aspiring physical therapists as well as an online post-professional track for practicing PTs who want to earn a doctorate.

The application period for Spalding’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program will open June 15, 2021, but students may learn about the program and request more information now at

In addition, to help fill a regional need for physical therapists with specialty training and board certification in pediatric physical therapy, the new Spalding School of Physical Therapy plans to create a post-doctoral residency and fellowship in pediatric PT. The School of Physical Therapy is also planning partnerships with pediatric clinicians to provide mentoring opportunities for practitioners who want to teach in a DPT program.

“Spalding’s mission is to meet the needs of the times, and for decades Spalding has been meeting a critical need in our community by preparing compassionate, skilled healthcare professionals and front-line workers,” Spalding President Tori Murden McClure said. “Spalding has pondered creating a physical therapy program for a decade, and over that time, the need and demand for physical therapists, including those skilled in working with children, have only increased. Our physical therapy program will help meet that need, and seeing this program become a reality is a proud achievement in the century-long history of our downtown campus.

“The transformed building on Third Street will be a beautiful addition to the south end of campus, a tremendous resource to our students and the latest example of our unwavering commitment to a thriving downtown Louisville.”

The DPT program has already been approved by the university’s regional accrediting body – the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) – and is seeking to become only the fourth DPT program in Kentucky to be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).

Spalding has appointed Dr. Elisa Zuber, who has more than 35 years of experience in physical therapy education with an expertise in developing new programs, to be the inaugural Chair of the new School of Physical Therapy as well as Director of the DPT program.

Zuber has been a faculty member, director of clinical education and program director at several PT and PT assistant programs. She also spent 11 years as Associate Director of the Department of Accreditation for the American Physical Therapy Association. She is a 2021 Fellow of Louisville’s Healthcare Enterprises Network.

“This program has been designed with the student in mind and caters both to students coming straight from college and nontraditional students who are already in PT practice,” Zuber said. “We have assembled a veteran faculty, and we are excited to begin forging partnerships with clinical sites regionally and nationally that will provide rich learning experiences for our students.”

Other program highlights:

  • The low-residency format of the entry-level track, in which students participate in online lecture courses for the majority of the semester and come to campus monthly for in-person lab experiences, means that out-of-town students will not need to move to Louisville to attend PT school. Students can continue to live anywhere in the country while traveling to Louisville each month for in-person labs.
  • The post-professional track of the DPT is fully online.
  • A bachelor’s degree is not required to enter the Spalding DPT program. Undergraduate students without a bachelor’s will spend their first year in the program working toward credits that will be applied to earning the degree of Bachelor of Science in Health Science from Spalding.
  • Spalding expects to enroll about 40 students each fall in the entry-level track of the DPT and about 10 per year for the post-professional track.

“Physical therapy continues to be a growing field, and Spalding’s DPT program will be an appealing option for students locally, including our own undergraduates, and nationally, given our campus’ ideal location in the heart of Louisville and near all the city’s major healthcare centers,” Spalding Provost Dr. John Burden said. “We continue to add excellent, experienced faculty, including multiple instructors who are board-certified in pediatric physical therapy. The positive impact this program will have on our community will be significant.”

More building details:

The renovated, two-story building at 961 S. Third St. will be the home of the School of Physical Therapy and its faculty. The building will feature three skills labs for on-site laboratory instruction as well as an anatomy education center with an anatomy wet lab and accompanying dry lab featuring models and technology for virtual anatomy instruction.

An atrium with natural light coming through the tall windows along Third Street will provide collaborative and lounge space for students. Another student lounge will be upstairs.

Schaefer Construction is the general contractor for the project. Schmidt Associates is the architecture partner.

Spalding is currently fundraising to cover the costs of work on the building, which has not been named. The Gheens Foundation has contributed a lead gift of $200,000. Those interested in supporting Spalding may contact or visit

“This forward-thinking, technology-rich facility will be a gem for physical therapy and overall healthcare education in downtown Louisville for years to come, and this project is evidence of how committed Spalding is to helping prepare compassionate, skilled therapists and healthcare professionals to go out in the world and help those in need,” Chief Advancement Officer Caroline Heine said. “We are grateful for those who are providing financial support for this project, and we welcome others to come forward and support this important work.”

Added Spalding Dean of Graduate Education Dr. Kurt Jefferson: “This learning space will foster interdisciplinary and interprofessional collaboration among students and faculty across our health science and health professions programs and will be a site of innovation and inspiration. Consistent with the Spalding mission, we will instill in our students a commitment to diversity, justice and equity and the need to care for underserved populations.”