If you ask anyone in healthcare to name their No. 1 operational challenge, their answer will likely be, “Finding people.” Thankfully, Spalding University is busy helping people find those people.

Under the leadership of President Tori Murden McClure, Spalding recently announced that it is launching a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program that will hold its first classes in the fall of 2022, making a bold move in the market to address the growing need for health professionals through education and workforce development.

And true to form, the University’s aggressive commitment is demonstrated by the recruitment of experienced PT educator and Health Enterprises Network Fellow Dr. Elisa Zuber, as DPT program director and the first chair of a new School of Physical Therapy.  The investment in the facility to house the new PT school is one of the largest capital projects in Spalding’s century-long history in downtown Louisville.

As part of an expanding campus corridor of health sciences and health professions buildings on South Third Street, Spalding University is transforming the 21,500-square-foot former V.V. Cooke Chevrolet showroom into a modern, technologically advanced physical therapy academic facility.

The space 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. These labs enable students to learn experientially by training with industry-specific equipment and furnishings unique to the training and curriculum program goals.  Throughout the building, student collaboration space will be provided, including a highly visible, engaging lobby space and atrium fronting Third Street, providing a vibrant glimpse into the building’s activities.  Spalding’s Republic Bank Academic Center, which houses the schools of nursing and social work, is next door, and the Kosair Charities College of Health and Natural Sciences building (occupational therapy, athletic training and natural science) is down the street, one block north.

Lessons learned over the last year during the COVID-19 pandemic have been incorporated into the design of the new facility, enhancing safety and learning.  For example, Spalding’s new PT building will feature a highly efficient variable refrigerant flow (VRF) HVAC system with a high attention to exhaust and makeup air, ensuring excellent indoor air quality. There will also be touch-free restroom fixtures and water bottle fillers, plus classroom spaces with a high level of flexibility in function, technology and occupancy.

Spalding chose the design-build delivery method, which is founded in collaboration by key stakeholders. Spalding engaged long-time construction partner Schaefer General Contracting and architecture firm Schmidt Associates, which has expertise in higher education planning and design, to work with the university’s faculty and administrators.

Spalding’s plans will help meet what has been a growing need for well-prepared physical therapists regionally and nationally.

The new School of Physical Therapy will offer an entry-level DPT track for aspiring physical therapists as well as an online post-professional DPT for practicing physical therapists seeking a doctorate. The application period for the fall of 2022 begins in June. More information is available at spalding.edu/physical-therapy

-Janet Lively, Schmidt Associates