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For many years, the UAB Department of Physical Therapy has striven recruit students from underrepresented groups. These efforts have increased significantly in recent years. Examples include DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) education efforts for UAB faculty, staff and students, increased communication with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in Alabama and surrounding states, other recruitment activities directed towards students from underrepresented groups, close examination of department admissions policies and procedures, and participation in immersion/exposure programs to educate potential applicants from underrepresented groups. These efforts have resulted in modest positive changes yet more needs to be done.

Virtual Diversity Recruitment Event  

Illustration of a laptop displaying a Zoom meeting with 4 people attending.

In May 2021, faculty, staff, students and alumni from the UAB Departments of OT and PT held an eight-hour virtual recruitment event for undergraduate students from under-represented groups in Alabama and beyond.

Participants were recruited from UAB and HBCUs in Alabama and surrounding states. This was the first year that the program was offered and over 35 students participated. It was a huge success and plans are already under way to conduct the program in Spring 2022.  


Topics featured in the program Included:

  • Overview of recruitment program
  • Overview of OT and PT as a profession
  • Benefits of having a more diverse healthcare workforce 
  • Day in the life of an OT/PT clinician 
  •  Day in the life of an OT/PT student 
  • Living in Birmingham 
  • Improving your study skills 
  • OT and PT curriculum at UAB 
  • Applying to OT/PT programs 

UAB Summer Health Professions Education Program Illustration of a teacher writing on a white board with three students watching.

The UAB Summer Health Professions Education Program (SHPEP) is part of a nationwide summer immersion program, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, to introduce undergraduate students to health professions and encourage them to pursue these occupations as a career. It is a free six-week summer enrichment residential programs for first and second year college students, developed from a partnership between the UAB Heersink School of Medicine, School of Dentistry, School of Optometry, and School of Health Professions. The goal of the program is to increase diversity in health professions by recruiting and preparing underrepresented minority and disadvantaged students for successful educational experiences and careers in health care. 

In the 2021 cohort, 90 SHPEP Scholars engaged in educational opportunities in the following areas:

  • Instruction on health science topics, scientific writing and critical reasoning
  • Lectures on health disparities and determinants of health outside of clinical settings
  • Clinical exposure and shadowing
  • Community-based experiences, including primary health care in underserved populations
  • Career development activities with one-on-one sessions and mock interviews
  • Simulated patient care experiences in numerous fields
  • Workshops on study skills, life skills, time management skills, and financial literacy
  • Leadership development exercises and team-building skills 

The Department of Physical Therapy provided a variety of opportunities for the SHPEP Scholars including: 

  • Overview of physical therapy as a profession 
  • Anatomy/physiology prep course for SHPEP Scholars
  • Admissions process/application and interviewing tips 

There were 13 SHPEP Scholars who identified PT as their target profession. UAB DPT students were assigned to these participants to serve as mentors. In addition to meeting one-on-one, the students are held three group sessions addressing:

  1. life as a DPT student;
  2. examples of PT examination and intervention procedures; and
  3. tips for applying to/selecting a PT educational program.

The scholars had the opportunity to engage in teleshadowing experiences thanks to alumni of our DPT program.