Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy: 30 Years

Since their inception, the Departments of Physical Therapy (PT) and Occupational Therapy (OT) have developed and grown into well-recognized programs with a focus on graduating therapists who are equipped to serve the health complexities of individuals in rural and medically underserved communities.

Both the PT and OT departments started operations in 1991. At that time, PT had five full-time faculty members, while the OT department employed three. Initially, both departments operated out of various locations; an inconvenience ameliorated in 2008, when they moved into the Lee Medical Building. Today, the departments are located in the Sanford Coyote Sports Center, joining kinesiology and sport science. The first students were admitted in 1991 and graduated in 1993, the year both became accredited. Both started out as master’s programs and transitioned into doctoral programs, PT in 2005 and OT in 2016.

Today, each program accepts 32 students per year, and the departments cumulatively consist of 18 faculty members, many of whom are graduates of the programs. Other alumni serve as adjunct faculty, fieldwork educators, authors, guest lecturers and employers of program graduates.

To date, the USD OT Program has graduated 618 students, whereas physical therapy has 736 alumni across the U.S.

Occupational therapy celebrated its anniversary in September with a 5K fun run, department tours, networking and an evening social.

Physical therapy celebrated the milestone with a breakfast social, building and simulation center tours and an evening social.

Medical Laboratory Science: 75 Years

Medical laboratory science is one of the School of Health Sciences’ oldest programs, originating in the 1940s as medical technology, a Bachelor of Science degree offered within the school of medicine. In 2009, the name of the major was changed to clinical laboratory science to align with the profession’s title change. When two primary governing bodies of laboratory personnel certification unified, the professional title was updated, and USD followed suit, becoming medical laboratory science (MLS) in 2011.

MLS then joined the School of Health Scienses and was designated as a university department in 2017. Throughout these changes, the department maintained its longstanding mission of preparing quality laboratorians to respond to workforce needs, graduating bachelor-prepared medical laboratory personnel for over 75 years. While most alumni stay in South Dakota and the surrounding MLS 75 years region, graduates of the program can be found throughout the country, covering 40 states including Alaska and Hawaii as well as internationally, reaching as far as England and Australia.

“The strength of this program and its long history of excellence is what drew me to USD as a student and brought me back as an educator,” said Kari Potter, chair of the MLS program. “I feel privileged to continue the tradition and explore unique ways to provide our students with a high-quality education, ultimately producing exceptional medical laboratory scientists to serve the state, region and beyond.”

The first documented graduate of the program was in 1948. The MLS department, to-date, claims around 530 total graduates.

MLS will host a 75th anniversary celebration event in the spring of 2024.


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