Whitworth to Launch School of Health Sciences to Meet Growing Demand

Friday, March 10, 2023

In April, Whitworth University will form the School of Health Sciences to house Whitworth’s undergraduate health sciences department, doctoral programs in occupational and physical therapy, Master of Science in Athletic Training program, and pre-nursing program. Whitworth is launching the school with the desire to best prepare graduates to serve people and communities in a variety of health and wellness careers and to enhance the university’s ability to respond to employers’ emerging needs.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment in healthcare occupations is projected to grow 13 percent in the next decade, much faster than the average for all occupations; this increase is expected to result in about 2 million new jobs. Whitworth seeks to help fulfill that need. 

Mike Ediger, D.H.Sc., will serve as founding dean of the Whitworth School of Health Sciences. A  Whitworth faculty member since 1999, Ediger has guided the curriculum of the undergraduate health sciences program and was instrumental in the creation of the university’s doctoral programs in occupational therapy and physical therapy, which welcomed their inaugural student cohorts this academic year. 

“Over the last decade, Whitworth has strategically invested in undergraduate and graduate health science programs with academic and clinical synergies, growing student demand, and a demonstrated community need,” Ediger says. “We have created programs of excellence that are mission-driven and are positioned to serve our communities into the future.”  

Students in Whitworth’s health sciences programs explore their disciplines through the study of natural and social sciences, engaging in evidence-based study of the human body, social communities, and connections to holistic health and wellness.

John Pell, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, says the School of Health Sciences will provide great benefits to many undergraduate programs on campus, in addition to graduate programs. 

“With health science doctoral students on campus working alongside world-class faculty on cutting-edge research, undergraduate students get a clear illustration of what is possible professionally as a result of their education and hard work,” Pell says. “Since the new school will provide leadership to our undergraduate health sciences programs, the College of Arts & Sciences can refocus its efforts to pursue new programs that elevate the liberal arts and humanities while also exploring partnerships with the new school. This will support students’ character formation and leadership development – the hallmarks of Whitworth’s Christian liberal arts education.” 

The undergraduate department of health sciences was created in 2009. It offers a bachelor of science degree in health science, one of the most popular undergraduate majors at Whitworth; a bachelor of arts degree in community health; and a pre-nursing program that leads to a bachelor of science in nursing through a long-standing partnership with the Washington State University College of Nursing.  

“As founding partners in the WSU College of Nursing, Whitworth and Washington State University have a more than 55-year history of collaboration,” Ediger says. “We look forward to strengthening our relationship with future undergraduate and graduate health science alliances.” 

At the graduate level, Whitworth’s Master of Science in Athletic Training program has the highest national certification pass rate in the Pacific Northwest and continually places in the top 10 percent in the nation. This program has seen a 100 percent graduate job placement rate for the past four years. With more than 25 local and regional clinical partners, MSAT students have a wide pool from which to choose and have a great deal of input into their clinical placements.

In spring 2022, the university’s Doctor of Occupational Therapy program was granted candidacy status for accreditation by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education. Evaluators identified several strengths of the program including faculty with community and clinical experience, an on-site clinic to support training, and faith integration that supports faculty and student growth. The university already has 188 contracted clinical sites with agreements in 21 states. 

Last summer, the university’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program was granted candidacy status for accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. This program currently has 137 clinical sites with agreements in 20 states. Community partners include companies like Apex Physical Therapy, BenchMark Physical Therapy, Providence and St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Medical Center.

Whitworth has hired 20 accomplished and respected faculty members from throughout the country with degrees from universities like Marquette, Regis and Washington State universities helping to make Whitworth the first choice for students seeking a career in these fields. 

“Whitworth’s School of Health Sciences will solidify Whitworth’s role as a leader in health sciences in the Spokane region, where the healthcare and social assistance sector is the No. 1 industry,” says Gregor Thuswaldner, Whitworth’s provost & executive vice president. 

The Whitworth School of Health Sciences will be based in the new Dornsife Health Sciences Building. Made possible by a generous $10 million donation from Dana and David Dornsife, the 38,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art building includes a motion analysis research lab, exercise physiology and human performance lab, anatomy lab, simulation lab, and dedicated classroom and functional clinical lab spaces specifically designed to support the needs of graduate health sciences students.

To learn more about Whitworth’s new School of Health Sciences, click here

About Whitworth University:

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian church. The university, which has an enrollment of about 2,500 students, offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.