Physical therapy top choice among Exercise Science grads at SUNY Fredonia

Roger Coda
faculty member works with students on treadmill

Dr. Todd Backes (far right) demonstrates the use of equipment with students in an Exercise Science lab.

Six newly minted or recent graduates who earned B.S. degrees in Exercise Science at SUNY Fredonia will continue their education in Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) programs – the most popular choice among over a dozen Fredonians accepted at health professions schools across the country.

The Exercise Science program attracts a lot of students who are interested in science but don’t have a specific interest in medicine but who want to work with people in a health-care setting, according to Department of Biology Associate Professor Todd Backes, and seek a more human focus that’s found in Exercise Science.

Physical therapy is typically the most common profession of choice among Exercise Science students, followed by occupational therapy and chiropractic programs, both tied for second place, followed by physician assistant and athletic training programs. “It’s a growing program,” Dr. Backes said, with more than 50 enrolled students.

SUNY Fredonia’s Exercise Science program, which is housed in the Department of Biology, draws students interested in some sort of allied health or other professional program, as an alternative to medical school, explained Backes, program coordinator. It also picks up students within the department who transfer from other science majors.

These DPT-bound students, their graduation year, hometown and respective professional school are: John Arnold, ‘21, of Hamburg, High Point University, North Carolina; Sara Corwin, ’22, Mayville, Gannon University, Pennsylvania; Ava Knapp, ’21, East Amherst, Pacific University, Oregon; Elyse Markham, ’22, Brocton, Daemen College, Buffalo; Patrick Walsh, graduate student in Biology, ’19, Jamestown, University of Vermont, Vermont; and Brittany Whitcomb, ’21, Westfield, Medaille College, Buffalo.

“There were a handful of schools that we had really good success of getting students into,” Backes said, such as Daemen and D’Youville. “Now, we’re getting students into UB [University at Buffalo], Nazareth [College] and Gannon – all the local PT programs,” Backes noted, plus additional schools located across the country.

“A lot of students are looking outside of the immediate area, picking other schools and getting into them,” Backes said. “And for a lot of these students, these schools are their first choice.”

Some recent graduates entering physical therapy programs took a year off after graduation due to the coronavirus pandemic, preferring not to start their studies in a virtual instructional format, Backes noted. DPT programs, including clinical rotations, typically take two to three years to complete.

Students interested in physical therapy pursue undergraduate degrees in Exercise Science to prepare for advanced study that will put them on a path to enter a profession where employment is expected to increase 21 percent between 2020 and 2030 – with about 15,600 openings projected each year, on average, over that decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Additional Fredonia graduates enrolled in Department of Biology programs and accepted in other health professions school doctorate programs include: Alex Bogosian, ’22, Silver Creek, Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, New York City; Christopher Buchanan, ’22, Fredonia, D’Youville Chiropractic Center, D’Youville College, Buffalo; Hope Catanese, ’21, Stockton, Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Michigan; and Hannah Rubinrott, ’22, Caledonia, The Ohio State University College of Optometry, Ohio. Mr. Buchanan also majored in Exercise Science.

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