Physical therapy education in the United States Army has a long and proud tradition of excellence beginning as physiotherapy Reconstruction Aides during World War I. Their 120 day training was completed in civilian education institutions. In 1922, the Army began a formalized course of instruction at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The program was accredited in 1928 and graduates worked as civilians in military hospitals. Beginning in 1942, graduates were commissioned as officers.
During World War II, increased demand resulted in programs being offered at four different locations with a new class starting every quarter. After the war, training was suspended but those therapists on active duty became part of the newly established Women’s Army Specialist Corps, which became the Army Medical Specialist Corps in 1955. Resumed in 1948, students were commissioned as second lieutenants, and the program was moved to its current location at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, TX.
In 1971, the program partnered with Baylor University to offer a Master’s of Physical Therapy degree. Prior to the early 1970s, physical therapists worked in a prescriptive environment. However, after the Vietnam War, due to a physician shortage, Army Physical Therapists took on the role of “physician extender” or direct access and were credentialed to evaluate and treat patients with neuromuscular-skeletal conditions, without physician referral. Army physical therapists have been functioning in a direct access setting since that time. The curriculum has evolved to support that important role and also emphasizes research and evidence based practice.
The program transitioned to a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree in 2003. The program has Army, Navy, Air Force and Public Health Corps students. The U.S. Army-Baylor University Doctoral Program in Physical Therapy has a national reputation for excellence. The program was ranked fifth among all U.S. Physical Therapy schools by U.S. News & World Report in 2008. Graduates of the program have been and continue to be leaders in the profession and are well respected for their expertise, teaching, and research.
Baylor University offered a Transition Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program for Army Baylor MPT graduates from 2006-2010. Eight cohorts/125 Baylor MPT graduates took advantage of this unique continuing education degree program.
After 10 years of informal alumni activity, the Alumni Association-US Army Entry Level Programs for the Physical Therapist became a formal organization in June 1983 with the adoption of by-laws and election of officers and directors. Articles of Incorporation were signed on 24 April 1987. Graduates of all US Army entry level programs for the physical therapist since 1918 as well as graduates of any of the Army Physical Therapist education programs, including the DSc degrees in Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, are eligible for Regular Membership. There is also an Associate Membership category for those who have received their basic professional physical therapy education in other programs. The Association is recognized by the IRS as a 501 c(3) and 501 c (19). All donations are tax deductible.