Four Graduate Programs in UTEP College of Health Sciences Receive Accreditation

The University of Texas at El Paso’s College of Health Sciences is pleased to announce that it recently earned national accreditation for its graduate programs in public health and social work and reaccreditation for its Doctor of Physical Therapy (D.P.T.) program and its master’s program in speech language pathology.

Graduates from an accredited program are qualified to sit for state licensure or professional certification examinations.

Although the initial accreditation process is both rigorous and lengthy, accreditation assures past, current and future UTEP graduates that their educational program has met all of the quality criteria designated by their chosen professional field and that their education is consistent with standards for entry to practice or advanced practice in each of their respective fields or disciplines, said Kathleen Curtis, Ph.D., dean of UTEP’s College of Health Sciences. 

“We are thrilled to receive the notice of accreditation and the affirmation of reaccreditation for each of these four graduate programs,” Curtis said. “The true beneficiary, however, is our community, which gains almost 100 well-prepared health professionals each year from these programs.”

UTEP’s Master of Public Health (MPH) program was approved for accreditation for five years by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) at its June meeting.

The program prepares public health practitioners that work to improve the health of communities through education, prevention and research of chronic and infectious diseases, such as diabetes and HIV-AIDS. 

“The major way that public health impacts health care in the community is that it helps prevent health problems before they occur,” said M. Margaret Weigel, Ph.D., M.P.H. program director.

Since its inception in 2008, the M.P.H. program has graduated 21 students. Graduates are eligible to take the national Certified in Public Health exam, administered by the National Board of Public Health Examiners.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), efforts to cut health care costs through health promotion and disease prevention have created a favorable employment outlook for public health practitioners. The BLS expects that job prospects will increase 37 percent by 2020.

Also in June, the Council on Social Work Education granted the Master of Social Work (M.S.W.) program a four-year accreditation.

Started in 2009, the M.S.W. program is the only one in the country that specializes in preparing social workers to practice in the U.S.-Mexico border region. To date, 60 students have earned their master’s degree in social work through the program.

Graduates are prepared to take the Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners licensing exam. More than 80 percent of the program’s graduates have remained in El Paso and are providing social work services in the community.

“Graduation from an accredited program is a requirement not only for licensure but also for many employers, particularly in a military setting,” said Candyce Berger, Ph.D., chair, professor and coordinator of the M.S.W. program. “Accreditation enables our graduates to be able to move to other states and be eligible for licensure. This is particularly relevant for students who are active duty in the military and family members of military personnel.”

The Doctor of Physical Therapy Program was reaccredited for eight years by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) in May. The program also was commended for the quality of its self-study report and for its curricular innovations in integrating Spanish and cultural competence into the program. 

Seventy-five students are currently enrolled in the program.

U.S. News and World Report ranked physical therapist No. 8 of the 100 Best Jobs of 2013.

“Physical therapy is a profession in demand as the U.S. population ages,” said Deborah S. Diaz, Ph.D., D.P.T. program director. “Without an accredited D.P.T. program at UTEP, the border region would suffer a shortage of highly trained professionals who are most appropriate for diagnosing, treating and preventing impairments in movement, function and health.”

The UTEP Physical Therapy Program started in 1993 as a cooperative program with The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB). Administrative control of the program was transferred to UTEP in 1997.  In 2010, The University of Texas System Board of Regents approved a new doctoral degree program in physical therapy at UTEP. In 2012, the first cohort of 21 graduates received their degrees.

In March, the Speech Language Pathology Program (SLP) at UTEP received reaccreditation for eight years by the Council of Academic Accreditation of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).

Speech-language pathologists diagnose and treat communication and swallowing disorders in patients.

Graduates from UTEP’s SLP program are eligible to pursue their Certificate of Clinical Competency, which then permits them to apply for a license to practice in Texas and throughout the United States.

“Accreditation indicates that our program is competitive with other programs around the country and we are producing competent speech-language pathologists,” said Anthony P. Salvatore, SLP program director. “A majority of our graduates stay in El Paso to work as speech-language pathologists.”

Since 2001, nearly 200 speech language pathologists have graduated from the program.