CCAC’s Physical Therapist Assistant program to celebrate 30 years of academic excellence and career training

Article by: CCAC Public Relations

PITTSBURGH-The Community College of Allegheny County's Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) program is recognizing 30 years of academic excellence, career training, civic engagement and service learning. The anniversary will be celebrated on Thursday, November 15, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the program's 22nd Annual Alumni Poster Night hosted by the PTA Class of 2019. The hallmark event will be held in the Performance and Lecture Hall Lobby located in the South Wing of CCAC Boyce Campus.

The PTA program, housed at Boyce Campus, began in the fall of 1987, when Dr. Norman L. Johnson was hired under a Perkins Vocational Education development grant to investigate the need for a training program in the area. At that time, the University of Pittsburgh offered the only other physical therapy education program in Western Pennsylvania. Johnson began teaching students in the fall of 1988 and has served as program coordinator ever since. In 1989, Dr. Stephen Bannister was hired as the academic coordinator of clinical education. The first class of 27 students graduated in June 1990; the program was also granted accreditation status that year, becoming the first accredited PTA program west of Harrisburg.

Over the past 30 years, CCAC's PTA Program has graduated 772 students, with an average class size of 28. Other impressive statistics include a 93 percent pass rate on the licensure examination, a 95 percent employment rate and a 75 percent graduation rate. One of the strengths of the program is the longevity of the faculty. Six of the graduates have returned to the program as adjuncts, providing excellent role models for current students, according to Johnson, who is gratified by the program's continued success after 30 years.

"It's a significant milestone," said Johnson. "In my personal philosophy, education creates opportunity, and we've seen so many people who were struggling-single parents, veterans and individuals who were laid off-who now have a whole new career."

The program has enjoyed significant student academic recognitions, including the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) Mary McMillan Scholarship that recognizes students who exhibit superior scholastic ability and potential for future professional contribution. Five program students have received the national award, which includes a $3,000 scholarship. At the state level, six program students have received the Pennsylvania Physical Therapy Association Student Leadership Award.

Professional achievements of the PTA program faculty include the 2010 President's Innovation Award and the League of Innovation in the Community College Innovation of the Year Award in 2010-2011. In addition, Johnson is a 2018 recipient of a mini-grant from the Association of American Colleges & Universities to develop and incorporate health care advocacy in the PTA program courses. Johnson also received the APTA's F.A. Davis Outstanding Physical Therapy Educator Award in 2007 and the PPTA Service Award in 2017. 

The program has a strong history of community service and engagement. This year marks the sixth anniversary of the "Help Give Thanks" service learning project, a collaboration between PTA program students and the Churchill Wilkins Rotary. Through the project, 50 complete Thanksgiving dinners that will feed more than 300 people will be donated for distribution to Rainbow Kitchen Community Services in Homestead. PTA program signature service learning projects also benefit disadvantaged students, service men and women, and victims of natural disasters.

PTA Alumni Poster Night serves as an opportunity for second-year PTA students to showcase their academic work through individual portfolios and a group poster presentation, as well as a means of program assessment through feedback from graduates. Posters and portfolios are voted on, and winners receive a certificate to include in their professional portfolios. This year's event will include the announcement of the first recipient of the PTA program Alumni Endowed Scholarship, which was established through the CCAC Educational Foundation in 2016.

For more information about the CCAC PTA program or the Annual Alumni Poster Night event, email njohnson@ccac.edu or call 724.325.6663. CCAC Boyce Campus is located at 595 Beatty Road, Monroeville, PA 15146.

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