Transforming Admissions in a Doctor of Physical Therapy Program through a Holistic Approach
Purpose: The Physical Therapy (PT) profession has long struggled with inequitable representation of members from diverse racial and ethnic groups. To address this issue, the Doctor of Physical Therapy-South Program at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey (RU-DPTS) has strived to create an inclusive environment that is welcoming to students from underrepresented minority groups with the goal of recruiting a qualified student body that reflects our regional and societal diversity. Our overarching goal is to contribute to the cultural and ethnic diversity of the PT workforce. Our purpose is to describe the strategies implemented by the RU-DPTS to meet this goal. Description: Admissions processes have long been based in meritocracy, focusing on applicants’ academic performance without consideration for societal biases that are known to impact equitability. The RU-DPTS Program has defined four strategic pillars designed to reduce inequitable meritocracy in the application process, and improve diversity in our applicant pool and student body: Exposure (i.e. early introduction to PT), Engagement (i.e. preparing applicants for success), Admission (i.e. using holistic, equitable criteria) and Support (i.e. supporting enrolled students). This presentation will describe the changes made within the Admissions pillar. Summary of Use: The RU-DPTS program implemented a holistic admissions procedure that includes the holistic review of both academic and non-academic elements to evaluate and compare the strengths of all applicants. The intent was to improve the equitability of criteria and to minimize the risks of bias throughout the process. Academic elements included college course grades and standardized test (i.e. Graduate Record Exam) scores. The non-academic elements were developed based on principles related to emotional intelligence (EI), as we perceive EI to be an appropriate analog for the seven core values stated in the APTA’s Code of Ethics for the Physical Therapist. One key change was a redistribution of the relative values of the academic and non-academic elements to create a better balance. Other improvements in the non-academic review process included blinding of race identifiers from the application in an attempt to remove any implicit bias during the application review, and the inclusion of alumni and adjunct faculty from underrepresented minority groups during the interview process. Importance to Members: In 2017, the American Physical Therapy Association’s House of Delegates passed a charge to implement best practice strategies to advance diversity and inclusion within the PT profession. Historically, PT educational programs, and the PT profession as a whole, have not reflected the diversity of the communities they serve. RU-DPTS program has recently revised our admissions procedures in an attempt to take on this charge and cultivate a more diverse student body, with the long-term goal of a more diverse PT workforce. We encourage other programs to implement a more holistic, equitable, and inclusive approach to their admissions processes.