Features Spring 2024

OBU Slated to Launch Four Hybrid Accelerated Graduate Programs in Healthcare

In an exciting development, OBU recently revealed plans to introduce four groundbreaking hybrid accelerated graduate degree programs in healthcare.

Pending accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission, these programs will include Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD), Master of Science in Speech Language Pathology (MS-SLP), and Master of Science in Physician Associate Studies (MS-PAS). Through a revolutionary approach to healthcare education, OBU is poised to offer students the opportunity to complete these programs in just two years or less.

The unique feature of these programs lies in their hybrid and accelerated education model, designed to make them accessible to aspiring healthcare professionals across Oklahoma and the entire nation. The majority of coursework will be delivered online, supplemented by hands-on lab immersion experiences on the OBU campus. Furthermore, each program will incorporate clinical and capstone requirements, ensuring graduates are well-prepared for the real-world challenges they’ll face in their careers. This accelerated hybrid model is geared toward launching graduates seamlessly into clinical practice and post-professional education programs.

The pressing need for healthcare professionals is widely acknowledged, and OBU’s partnership with Evidence in Motion (EIM), a leading learning solutions company, seeks to address this issue. The demand for healthcare graduates has reached critical levels, and these new programs are a testament to OBU’s commitment to meeting the needs of both local communities and the nation as a whole.

Dr. Heath A. Thomas, president of OBU, expressed his enthusiasm for the partnership with EIM, stating, “At OBU, we are focused on providing well-equipped, faith-forward professionals to meet the needs of our communities. With these degrees, we will be able to help our communities meet severe healthcare needs and address employee shortages we are experiencing in Oklahoma and throughout the nation.”

This partnership marks EIM’s ninth nationwide collaboration and its first university partnership in Oklahoma.

“It is important to forge partnerships that share our common vision and make an impact on our world,” said Pradeep Khandelwal, CEO of EIM. “OBU is exactly this type of partner, and it is a great feeling to welcome them to our innovative circle of existing universities, and we know that we will be offering meaningful value to their long-term goals for success.”

Each program will undergo programmatic and HLC accreditation. Pending approvals, the OTD program is expected to commence in January 2026, with applications opening in early 2025. The MS-SLP program is slated for a fall 2026 launch, followed by MS-PAS in early 2027 and DPT in fall 2027.

Dr. Larinee Dennis, co-provost and dean of business, health, science, and education at OBU, emphasized the benefits of the accelerated hybrid model, stating, “This model in graduate healthcare helps students reach their professional goals more quickly while training them with excellence in the field. OBU is excited to pursue this option for tomorrow’s future shapers in the allied health industry.”

Each of these programs has a specific timeline. The physical therapy, occupational therapy, and physician assistant programs will each span two years (six semesters), while the speech-language pathology program will cover 1.3 years (four semesters).

The outlook for graduates of these programs is incredibly promising. According to data from the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for physical therapists is projected to grow by 15 percent, resulting in a need for 37,300 new positions by 2032. Occupational therapists are also in high demand, with a 17 percent growth rate and 23,000 new job openings expected. Physician assistants are experiencing even greater demand, with a projected growth of 31 percent and 40,000 new job opportunities. Lastly, the field of speech-language pathology is set to grow by 29 percent, creating a demand for 45,000 new professionals.

Taking a closer look at the regional context, specifically in the Southern United States, which includes Oklahoma, it becomes evident that there is a significant gap in meeting the demand for speech-language pathologists and physical therapists. In this region, only 70 percent of the demand for speech-language pathologists is being met, and only 81 percent of the demand for physical therapists is being achieved.

The announcement to launch these four hybrid accelerated graduate healthcare programs is a momentous step toward addressing the critical shortage of healthcare professionals.

As the demand for healthcare professionals continues to rise, OBU is stepping up to meet this challenge head-on, shaping a brighter future for both its students and the healthcare industry as a whole.

“Through this partnership, OBU is leading important healthcare and educational transformation not only in their region, but across the national landscape,” Khandelwal said.

These innovative programs, which combine online education with hands-on experience, are poised to equip students with the skills and knowledge needed to excel in their healthcare careers. OBU’s commitment to faith-forward education and community service shines brightly through this initiative, and the impact is sure to be felt not only in Oklahoma but across the entire nation. For more information and updates, visit okbu.edu/programs/health-sciences.