50th anniversary Penn State Mont Alto PTA grads stand together on a bridge

Penn State Mont Alto celebrates the 50th Anniversary of Physical Therapist Assistant graduates

Penn State Mont Alto’s PTA program will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the PTA profession on Oct. 7-9 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in The Mill Café. The campus community is invited to come learn about the profession, see wheelchair simulations, and receive giveaways. On Wednesday, Oct. 9, free cake will be available to celebrate the “birthday” of the profession.

Since the first PTA program was established in 1969, the occupation has become a recognized, well-established, and in-demand profession integral to health care. Today, it's hard to imagine the delivery of physical therapy without PTAs on the team.

Mont Alto’s PTA program began in 1986. Since, it has graduated about 15 to 30 PTAs a year. To date, more than 740 students.

Penn State Mont Alto's graduates are working in hospitals, private physical therapy clinics, nursing homes, and centers that serve people with special needs.

"I have always wanted to help others and be in the medical field, but nursing was not for me, no needles please. Becoming a PTA has given me that opportunity. I chose to become a PTA at the age of 32 and have no regrets,” said Lee Ann Derr ‘00

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) first began to consider the idea of a physical therapist assistant in the 1940s, when physical therapists were treating soldiers injured in World War II, just as a new polio outbreak emerged, according to the APTA website.

In 1974, APTA successfully petitioned the American Medical Association's Council on Medical Education to recognize the PTA as a health care occupation. That same year, "Physical Therapist Assistant" was added to the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration's Dictionary of Occupational Titles.

The future of the profession looks bright. Penn State Mont Alto’s program boasts 100 percent job placement. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that PTA employment will grow 31% between 2017 and 2026. The median PTA salary in 2017 is $57,430.

"It's a rigorous program, but we take a real, personal interest in our physical therapist assistant students," said Renee Borromeo, the program's coordinator and senior instructor.

Accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education, the Penn State Mont Alto curriculum prepares students to pass their national licensure exam.  The current average pass rate for the PTA licensure exam is 95.25%.

"I really fell in love with the physical therapy assistant program. All of the professors were really helpful and would go out of their way to help students. It was nice to have that support," said Renee Lawyer ‘17.

Susan Brubaker ’17 remembers her graduating class gathering for a celebratory meal after everyone passed the licensure exam, saying her classmates bonded as they mirrored the kindness shown to them by faculty.

"It gives you confidence this is the place for you. I feel honored I was able to go through the program," said Brubaker.