About Us

picture of student in two rows outside

Physical Therapy Class of 1972


The UCA Physical Therapy Program is the oldest in the state, established in 1969, it fulfilled an immediate need for physical therapists in Arkansas, which at that time had approximately 35 to 40 licensed physical therapists and a population around 1.9 million people. Mr. Joe Finnell, a physical therapist and assistant professor of physical therapy at Baylor University in Dallas, Texas, began investigating a possible program in 1968 after an invitation from Arkansas Baptist Medical Center in Little Rock (now Baptist Health).  State College of Arkansas (now UCA) and Dr. Jefferson Farris, Dean of the College of Fine Arts and Applied Sciences, agreed to the new school in physical therapy to be located in Little Rock as a joint venture and hired Mr. Finnell as its first director.
The first PT class of sixteen students began the 15-month professional program on June 7, 1971 with candidates earning a Bachelor’s degree upon graduation in August of 1972.  The program received full accreditation in September of 1972. The class size grew over the years and eventually moved to the UCA campus in Conway in 1987. UCA also offered an A.A.S. degree in Physical Therapist Assisting from 1986 to 1999.  Graduates of UCA earned the Masters of Science degree in PT from 1991 to 2001.  In 2000, UCA admitted the first students to the new Doctor of Physical Therapy and PhD in Physical Therapy degree programs.  UCA is the only program in the state to offer both the DPT and PhD in Physical Therapy degrees.

Students in lab coats and gloves at anatomy table

DPT Students in Gross Anatomy Lab

Today, UCA Physical Therapy is the largest program in the state and recognized nationally with over 2,500 alumni.  Programs offered include the PhD in Physical Therapy, an accredited Pediatric Physical Therapy Residency program that began in 2009 and the DPT degree with 60 students admitted each year.  Clinical partners number approximately 325. The faculty comprises 15 full-time members among whom 10 hold a PhD and 11 are board certified clinical specialists in a variety of areas including pediatrics (4), neurologic physical therapy (3), orthopedics, sports, women’s health and wound care. Eight faculty members in the Department hold tenure.

Mr. Finnell, the first Chairperson from 1969 to 1979, was followed by Patricia Grantham from 1979 to 1980. Dr. Venita Lovelace-Chandler chaired the program for 23 years beginning in 1980.  Dr. Nancy Berryman Reese chaired the program from 2003 to 2020. Housed in the College of Health and Behavioral Sciences under the leadership of Dean Nancy Berryman Reese, PhD, the Department of Physical Therapy is chaired today by Kevin Garrison, PT, PhD, and associate professor of physical therapy.


Picture of front of Physical Therapy Center building

Physical Therapy Center

UCA is located in Conway, Arkansas (25 miles north of Little Rock) with a population around 67,000.  The Department of Physical Therapy is a member of the College of Health and Behavioral Sciences which also provides programs in psychology, nursing, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, dietetics, and athletic training.  The PT Department is housed in the Physical Therapy Center built in 2001 and includes over 40,000 square feet of teaching, lab and research space located on Bruce Street between the Prince Center and Estes Stadium (see campus map below).  The building emergency plan (PTC Emergency Procedures) is provided below.  Contact the Department of Physical Therapy directly at (501) 450-3611 or email at pt@uca.edu.

PTC Emergency Procedures

UCA Campus Map