As a result of strong growth in health-related programs, the William Carey University Board of Trustees recently approved the creation of the College of Health Sciences.
The new academic unit will include several existing programs at the university, including the School of Nursing, the Department of Physical Therapy, the health information management program and the health education and administration program. Dr. Janet Williams, dean of Carey's nursing school, will serve as dean of the new college.
The establishment of the new college comes on the heels of strong enrollment growth in the nursing school and the establishment of the doctoral program in physical therapy in 2014. The School of Nursing has seen an enrollment increase of 18 percent since 2010 on the Mississippi campuses, located in Hattiesburg and Biloxi, with a continued increase expected for fall 2015. A satellite location in Slidell, La., is also seeing positive enrollment numbers.
In 2012, the nursing school introduced the administration and education doctoral program following the Washington, D.C.-based Institute of Medicine's recommendation that universities double the number of nurses with a doctorate by 2020. Two years later, Carey graduated 21 doctoral nursing students, a number more than triple the six doctoral nursing graduates throughout Mississippi in the previous year.
There are currently 72 students enrolled in the doctoral program, with 27 anticipated to graduate this year and another 40 in 2016. The health information management program, which started in 2014 and offers a bachelor's degree, will also graduate its first class of 26 students in 2015. Another new program started in 2014, the Master of Business Administration/Master of Science in nursing dual degree, is also seeing growth.
Carey is also readying the physical therapy doctoral program for its first students. The program was established by the Carey Board of Trustees in 2014 and is seeking accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. Fundraising is currently underway to provide for startup costs, including renovation of the program's classrooms in Thomas Business Building. A total of $1 million has been raised out of a projected need of $1.5 million.
Students will be eligible to begin pre-physical therapy studies in the fall. The first doctoral class consisting of 30 students is expected to be admitted in fall 2016. The physical therapy program will be the second of its kind in the state at a time when the need for physical therapists is growing at a rapid rate. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently predicted the job growth in the near future in physical therapy to be 36 percent compared to a predicted increase of 20 percent for other medical fields.
Carey's new programs are designed to meet needs around the state, said Dr. Williams.
"We are interested in providing for students educationally sound and innovative methods to increase the educational level of health care workers in our state, which will subsequently have a positive effect on health care available to the citizens of our state," she said.
Carey has a rich history of providing for medical needs in Mississippi and neighboring states. In 1969, Carey acquired the Mather School of Nursing in New Orleans and was approved to offer the bachelor's degree in nursing for the first time at the Hattiesburg campus. The degree soon expanded to Carey's then-Gulf Coast campus in Gulfport, which was relocated to the Tradition Planned Community near Biloxi following Hurricane Katrina. The master's degree in nursing was added in 2003. In 2007, the Carey Board of Trustees authorized construction of a College of Osteopathic Medicine, the second medical school in the state. The medical college opened in 2010 and graduated its first class of students in 2014.
With consistent growth and the founding of the College of Health Sciences, the future seems bright for Carey's health-related programs, especially as another new program looms on the horizon. Carey administrators and the Office for Advancement are currently working to raise funds for a school of pharmacy at the Tradition campus. The proposed pharmacy school would be the second of its kind in the state and would help combat a critical shortage of pharmacists in Mississippi. Administrators anticipate a need for $4 million in startup costs along with an additional $12-15 million in construction funds for facilities for the school.
The largest gift in Carey history, $1.1 million, was given to the institution by Joe F. Sanderson Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of Sanderson Farms, and his wife Kathy, with $1 million of the gift benefitting the pharmacy school and $100,000 applied to the physical therapy program. Additional gifts, including a $125,000 gift from the Leo W. Seal Family Foundation, have also been received for the pharmacy school.
A master's degree is also being planned for the health administration and education program, which helps health care workers who are licensed, registered or certified increase their educational level for teaching or becoming administrators.
"As a university, Carey is dedicated to meet the needs of those around us," said Dr. Williams. "We are very fortunate because we have a visionary president who encourages us to be innovative and meet those needs."
For more information about Carey's health-related programs, visit www.wmcarey.edu
or call (601) 318-6478. To contribute to fundraising efforts for the pharmacy and physical therapy programs, visit www.wmcarey.edu/advancement
or call (601) 318-6542.