Explore UAB

Programs News Kevin Storr July 24, 2023

The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Health Professions recently launched a new undergraduate degree in disability studies and rehabilitation science. The new program is already accepting applications.

“There aren’t that many undergraduate disability studies and rehabilitation science programs in the United States, and many are focused on vocational rehabilitation, whereas we wanted to tailor our program around the intersection of physical activity and health,” said Christopher Hurt, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Physical Therapy and director of the B.S. in Disability Studies and Rehabilitation Science program. “We’ll be the only one in the state specific to disability, community mobility and research.”

The new four-year degree will focus on disability inclusion science, prevention, health promotion and wellness integrated across the entire curriculum. And it will prepare graduates to be advocates for individuals with disability and chronic conditions. The new program highlights UAB’s continuous prioritization of disability health and their expansion of offerings in the growing field of inclusion science.

The degree’s curriculum will prepare students for careers in rehabilitation-related professions, such as therapeutic recreation, health promotion rehabilitation or community health. It will also serve as a launching pad for students pursuing advanced degrees in physical or occupational therapy or rehabilitation science research.

Classes in the curriculum include “environmental and community considerations of mobility” and “adapted mobility and exercise,” plus, “living with a disability” – a course which Hurt said will be taught by faculty with disability.

“We are fortunate at UAB to have individuals, such as Jereme Wilroy, (associate professor, Heersink School of Medicine) who is not only a great researcher, but can also really speak to the heart of the class and provide students with a valuable perspective,” Hurt said. “I see a lot of collaboration as we move forward.”

In addition, each student will complete a senior capstone research project that will involve community engagement with the disability community or a research project involving individuals with disabilities.

“We see this inventive program as the beginning of a ‘continuum of knowledge’ in the field of rehabilitation sciences at UAB, because our school now offers degrees from the undergraduate through doctoral levels in this critical area of care and research,” said UAB School of Health Professions Dean Andrew Butler. “This is the type of program that can positively impact an entire school with the students it attracts and the courses that it offers, and I’m encouraged by what this all means for the future of health care.”

“I have a lot of individuals, from Dr. James Rimmer (director of SHP Research Collaborative, CEDHARS, and NCHPAD) and Dr. Wilroy, to the Chair of the Physical Therapy Department, Dr. David Morris, around me who certainly will help make this major reach the highest potential it can, which I think is exceptionally high,” Hurt said.

Original reporting and research by Stephen Lanzi, Communication Specialist, SHP Research Collaborative.

More News

  • Chapleau becomes first person from the SHP to win the UAB Outstanding Advisor Award for an Advising Administrator

    Read more
  • Lia Puzzo Earns DEP Outstanding Graduate Award

    Read more