When Dr. Stanley Paris began teaching continuing professional education (CPE) courses and seminars to physical therapists in 1966, he didn’t anticipate that the foundation of a new university was being formed through his efforts to advance the field of manual therapy. These courses carried continuing education units (CEUs) which are helpful in both maintaining and developing professional competency and, in an increasing number of states, for maintaining professional licensure.
In 1979 the University formally known as the Institute of Physical Therapy (the Institute) was founded. The State of Georgia granted authority to offer a clinically based, post-professional (advanced) Master of Science in Physical Therapy (MScPT) degree. Thus, the Institute became the first independent, proprietary school in physical therapy able to confer a graduate degree.
In 1981, the Institute began a certification process in manual therapy wherein candidates, after taking a series of courses, were examined in their written, oral, and practical abilities. Successful candidates were awarded a Certificate of Competency. There are two certifications available including Manual Therapy and Cranio-Facial.
In 1991, the Institute relocated to St. Augustine, Florida. Soon thereafter, the Institute achieved accreditation for its MScPT degree This degree is no longer offered at the University. from the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC).
The current University’s milestones of campus and programmatic development include the following:
- In 1994, the Institute commenced a first professional degree in physical therapy—the Master of Physical Therapy (MPT). This program was accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy (CAPTE) in October 1996 and reaccredited in 2001, 2011 and 2022.
- In 1996, the Institute of Occupational Therapy was founded to offer a Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) degree, a first-professional (entry-level) program. The MOT program was accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) in April 1999 and was reaccredited in April 2009.
- On March 4, 1997, the organization formally became the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences. Also, in 1996–97, the University entered into contracts to purchase a small private hospital and an adjoining 26 acres of land at the Flagler Health Park Campus in St. Augustine, thus creating the University’s current St. Augustine, Florida, campus.
- In 1999, the State Board of Independent Colleges and Universities (SBICU) authorized USAHS to award the transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy (tDPT) degree, to restructure its MScPT to a Master of Health Science (MHS) degree and to implement a Doctor of Health Sciences (DHSc) degree.
- In 2000, the University began the dual degree option whereby a student could earn a Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) degree and a Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) degree concurrently.
- In 2001, the University was given authorization by the Florida Commission for Independent Education for the Department of Education (CIE) to award the entry-level Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT). This replaced the entry-level Master of Physical Therapy (MPT). Also approved were the transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy (tDPT) and the transitional Doctor of Occupational Therapy (tOTD), both post-professional degrees.
- In 2003, the University began to offer the Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapy Fellowship, initially accredited in 2002 and reaccredited in 2013 by the American Board of Physical Therapy Residency and Fellowship Education (ABPTRFE).
- In 2004, the University’s Flexible Doctor of Physical Therapy (Flex DPT) program was granted accreditation by CAPTE and launched in 2005 in Boca Raton, Florida. The Flex program combines online learning with face-to-face, hands-on instruction during select weekends. The Flex DPT program was moved from Boca Raton, Florida, to the St. Augustine campus in 2010.
- In June 2006, the University broke ground on a 98,000 square foot academic and clinic building at the St. Augustine campus. The building was completed in August 2007. Amenities include labs, multiple classrooms, separate wet and dry anatomy labs, a fitness center, and a physical therapy clinic.
- In 2007, the University received approval from the California Bureau for Private, Postsecondary, and Vocational Education and accreditation from CAPTE to begin a DPT program in San Diego, California. This campus officially opened on August 29, 2007. The San Diego Flex DPT program was accredited by CAPTE in October 2008.
- Dr. Stanley Paris, the founding President, retired on August 4, 2007, and Dr. Michael Hillyard, DPA, was inaugurated as the second President of the University. In 2009 Dr. Hillyard resigned and Dr. Paris resumed the presidency of the University.
- In January 2009, the San Diego campus moved to a 76,000 square foot, three-building corporate center in San Marcos, California. The University received “developing program accreditation status” from ACOTE for the San Marcos MOT program, which allowed the inaugural class to begin in Fall 2009. The dual-degree MOT/DPT option also began in Fall 2009.
- The University received approvals in 2009 to begin to offer the Doctor of Education (EdD) degree.
- In 2010, the University received approval from CIE to restructure the Doctor of Health Science (DHSc) degree. The Distance Education Accrediting Commission approved the accreditation of the DHSc degree in 2010.
- The University’s Clinical Orthopaedic Residency was granted initial accreditation in 2010 and reaccreditation in 2016 by ABPTRFE.
- As a provider of continuing professional education, the University was granted initial accreditation in 2010 and reaccreditation in 2020 by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET).
- On April 16, 2011, Dr. Wanda Nitsch was inaugurated as the fourth President of USAHS. The University headquarters was moved to San Marcos, California.
- In September 2011, the University was approved by the Texas Workforce Commission to offer the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree in Austin, Texas, to commence in the fall of 2012. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board gave approval in October 2011. CAPTE granted accreditation in November 2011. Construction on the Austin campus commenced in February 2012 and opened with its inaugural DPT class in August 2012.
- In January 2013, the St. Augustine campus commenced the Master of Occupational Therapy degree in a flexible online and weekend format (Flex MOT) after receiving appropriate accreditation approval from the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE).
- In November 2013, the Flex DPT program in Austin, Texas, was granted accreditation by CAPTE and began a cohort of students in Fall 2014.
- In November 2013, the University became part of the Laureate International Universities network. At the time, the Laureate network consisted of more than 82 campus-based and online universities offering undergraduate and graduate degree programs to over 1 million students in 29 countries throughout the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
- In July 2014, the University was granted initial regional accreditation by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).
- In 2015, the MOT program in Austin, Texas, which began a cohort of students in Fall 2014, was granted accreditation by ACOTE. The University began the Master of Health Science Athletic Training (MHScAT) degree and opened the Miami, Florida, campus at its Dolphin Mall location. Approvals were gained for the Master of Health Administration (MHA) degree program.
- In 2016, the Miami campus DPT program was granted accreditation by CAPTE and accepted its inaugural class of DPT students. State licensure approvals were obtained to begin a DPT program on the Miami campus, an online Master of Science in Nursing program, and a Doctor of Nursing Practice program. The MHScAT program was redesigned to become the Master of Health Science (MHS) degree program.
- The University voluntarily resigned accreditation with the Distance Education Accrediting Commission on May 31, 2016, concluding a successful relationship of 23 years.
- In October 2017, the University’s Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program received initial accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
- In July 2018, The Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA) awarded candidacy to the University’s Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology (MS-SLP) program.
- In September 2018, the permanent Miami, Florida, campus opened in Coral Gables for the inaugural class of students, and the Miami OTD program began a cohort. In Fall 2018 the Austin campus welcomed its inaugural cohort of students in the MS-SLP program.
- In October 2018, the University’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and Post-Graduate Nursing Certificate (FNP specialization) programs received initial accreditation from CCNE.
- In December 2018, the OTD programs of the San Marcos, California, and Austin, Texas, campuses, which welcomed their first cohort of students in Spring 2017, were granted accreditation by ACOTE.
- In February 2019, the University was acquired by University of St. Augustine Acquisition Corp., which is affiliated with Altas Partners, an investment firm with a long-term orientation focused on acquiring significant interests in high-quality enterprises in partnership with outstanding management teams.
- In April 2019, the Miami MOT program, which welcomed its first cohort of students in Fall 2017, was granted accreditation by ACOTE, and the University opened the Dallas, Texas, campus in the Riverside Commons complex in Irving, Texas.
- In May 2019, the OTD program was launched in Dallas, Texas.
- In June 2019, the University was granted reaffirmation of institutional accreditation by WSCUC.
- In July 2019, the St. Augustine, Florida, OTD program, which welcomed its first cohort of students in the fall of 2018, was granted accreditation by ACOTE. Also in July 2019, CAA approved the addition of a satellite/branch campus in Dallas, Texas to the University’s MS-SLP program.
- In September 2019, the MS-SLP program was launched in Dallas, Texas.
- In March 2020, the Miami, Florida, OTD program was granted accreditation by ACOTE.
- In April 2020, CAPTE granted Candidate for Accreditation status to the Dallas, Texas DPT program.
- In 2020, the Accreditation Council on Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapy Education (ACOMPTE) granted accreditation to our Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapy Fellowship program.
- In February 2021, the University was granted accreditation as a provider of nursing continuing professional development by ANCC.
- In April 2021, ACOTE reaccredited the St. Augustine, Florida MOT program.
- In May 2022, CAPTE reaffirmed accreditation for the DPT and Flex DPT programs in San Marcos, St. Augustine, Miami (DPT only), and Austin for a period of 10 years.
- In July 2022, The Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA) awarded initial accreditation to the University’s Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology (MS-SLP) program.
- In August 2022, ACOTE reaccredited the Austin, Texas MOT program.
In the last several years, the University has been growing at a healthy pace, adding programs, faculty, and facilities to meet the needs of healthcare in this time of great change and challenge. The University will continue to be a leader in providing meaningful educational experiences in areas and directions that both healthcare providers and consumers require.