Passion for physical therapy drives Trine’s new PTA director

Matthew AustinFORT WAYNE — Matthew Austin, PT, DPT, OCS, MTC, was early into a high school teaching career when he became “captivated” with physical therapy.

The interest changed the course of his life, leading to a successful physical therapy career and now the opportunity to share that passion as director for Trine University’s developing physical therapy assistant (PTA) program.

Austin had completed his undergraduate degree in English education at Michigan State University and finished his first year teaching at a Nevada high school when he returned to MSU to start a master’s in English literature. While there, he began volunteering at Lansing, Michigan’s Sparrow Hospital and was impressed with the work of the physical therapists he saw there.

“It was a combination of things,” he recalled. “There was a room full of people who experienced injuries of various kinds and as a result couldn’t move well enough to walk, reach or lean without help. In that same room were other people working to help those with the deficits. They were encouraging and motivating. They strained and pushed and pulled with their patients to improve movement. They were working together for a common goal. There was a sense of hope because despite whatever the personal tragedy or setback, it could be better.”

Austin changed his education and career path, earning a Master of Science in physical therapy from Central Michigan University and working for 18 years in outpatient orthopedics. In recent years, he also served as a lecturer in the University of Michigan’s physical therapy program and earned a transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from the University of St. Augustine in Florida.

His experience and love for the profession will be key assets as Trine prepares to launch its new PTA program, announced in December.

“We are privileged and excited to have Dr. Austin joining us. His degrees and expertise in both physical therapy and education make him uniquely qualified to lead the development of a first-class physical therapist assistant program,” said Max Baumgartner, Ph.D., PT, dean of the Rinker-Ross School of Health Sciences. “His values of educational excellence and high professional integrity are shared with our other faculty and staff and will enable effective collaboration. Physical Therapist Assistants are important members of health care teams, and we believe Trine graduates will be exceptionally well-prepared and in high demand.”

Trine’s PTA program will be based in the newly renovated, state-of-the-art Health Sciences Education Center on Parkview Hospital’s Randallia campus, alongside and integrated with the university’s recently accredited Doctor of Physical Therapy program. Trine University will begin taking applications for the program in 2019 to enroll students, pending approval from the accrediting body, for fall 2020.

Exceptional students in Trine’s bachelor of exercise science program will have the opportunity to simultaneously complete a Physical Therapist Assistant associate’s degree during the final two years of their baccalaureate program. This combined course of study will enable students interested in exercise science and rehabilitation to achieve a level of preparation superior to the two-year preparation for physical therapy assistants found at most other schools.

“Upon graduation, students will have the ability to work in one of fastest-growing fields and pursue their passion for helping others through physical rehabilitation,” said Austin. “The PTA program at Trine University will be special in that graduates will not only have a bachelor’s degree in exercise science, they will have the opportunity to work in the classroom with their future Doctor of Physical Therapy colleagues. Graduates of Trine University’s PTA program will have the knowledge, competence and commitment to professional service to be leaders among their peers.”

Graduation from a physical therapist assistant education program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), 1111 North Fairfax Street, Alexandria, VA 22314; phone; 703-706-3245; accreditation@apta.org is necessary for eligibility to sit for the licensure examination, which is required in all states.

Trine University is seeking accreditation of a new physical therapist assistant education program from CAPTE. The program is planning to submit an Application for Candidacy, which is the formal application required in the pre-accreditation stage, on Dec. 1, 2019. Submission of this document does not assure that the program will be granted Candidate for Accreditation status. Achievement of Candidate for Accreditation status is required prior to implementation of the technical phase of the program; therefore, no students may be enrolled in technical courses until Candidate for Accreditation status has been achieved. Further, though achievement of Candidate for Accreditation status signifies satisfactory progress toward accreditation, it does not assure that the program will be granted accreditation.