University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences
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History of the University

The mission of the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences is the development of professional health care practitioners through innovative, individualized, and quality classroom, clinical, and distance education.


Stanley V. Paris, PT, Ph.D., in 1966 began teaching continuing professional education courses to physical therapists. These courses carry 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 Graduate Health Sciences 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 Certification of Competency, which is now a necessary step to attaining our clinically oriented post-professional (advanced) degrees. There are now four certifications; Manual Therapy, Sports Physical Therapy, Primary Care and Cranio-mandibular, Head, Neck and Facial Pain. The University’s continuing education programs (CPE) extend to such distance destinations as Japan and Chile.

In 1991, the Institute moved to St. Augustine, Florida, and became established at the Flagler Health Park campus.

In 1992, the Institute started an advanced standing (post-professional) Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program. This was a nationwide program that enabled therapists to study in a selected clinical area. The first student graduated from this program in the spring of 1995. (It was replaced in the year 2000 by the Doctor of Health Sciences (DHSc) degree.)

In 1994, the Institute commenced a first professional degree in physical therapy - the Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) - for those individuals who had achieved a baccalaureate degree with the necessary prerequisite natural and social science courses. This MPT degree was the first to be offered by an independent and proprietary school of physical therapy. This program was accredited by CAPTE in October 1996 and reaccredited in 2001 and 2011.

In 1996, the Institute of Occupational Therapy was founded to offer a Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) degree. The MOT degree program commenced September 1997. The program provides a series of entry-level courses for the first professional degree of occupational therapy. The MOT program was accredited with no deficiencies 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.  This was a milestone in the University’s development. Also in 1996-97, the University entered into contracts to purchase a small private hospital and an adjoining twenty-six acres of land at the Flagler Health Park Campus in St. Augustine, thus creating the University’s current St. Augustine, FL physical campus.

In July 1999, the University was given authorization by the State Board of Independent Colleges and Universities (SBICU) to award the transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree, to restructure the current MScPT degree to a Master of Health Sciences (MHSc) degree, and to implement a Doctor of Health Sciences (DHSc) degree. These changes were effective January 1, 2000. Also in 1999, we began the dual degree option whereby a student may earn a Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) in six trimesters and then add an additional four trimesters to achieve a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT).

In 2001, the University was given authorization by the Commission for Independent Education to award the first professional Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) and Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD), and the Transitional Doctor of Occupational Therapy (tOTD).

In 2003, the University began to offer the manual physical therapy fellowship which was approved by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) as a accredited fellowship in orthopaedic manual physical therapy in 2003 and re-accredited in 2008.

The University received accreditation and licensure in 2004 to begin a Flexible Doctor of Physical Therapy program in Boca Raton, Florida. The Flexible Doctor of Physical Therapy program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy (CAPTE). It is an expansion of the full-time program in St. Augustine and takes twelve trimesters consisting of online education and weekend labs to complete. The Flexible Doctor of Physical Therapy program was moved from Boca Raton, FL to the St. Augustine, FL 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 seven classrooms, separate wet and dry anatomy labs, fitness center, physical therapy clinic, CPE classroom, and 3rd floor heritage lounge.

The University received approval from the Bureau for Private, Postsecondary and Vocational Education and Commission for the Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education to begin an expansion DPT program in San Diego, CA in 2007. This campus officially opened August 29, 2007. The San Diego campus began offering the Flexible Doctor of Physical Therapy program in September 2008.

Dr. Stanley Paris, Founding President and Chancellor, retired on August 4, 2007, and Dr. Michael Hillyard, DPA was inaugurated as the 2nd President of the University. The university celebrated the opening of the academic and clinic building along with the retirement of Dr. Paris and the inauguration of Dr. Hillyard. In 2009, Dr. Hillyard resigned and Dr. Paris resumed the Presidency of the University.

The San Diego campus moved to a 76,000 square foot 3-building corporate center in San Marcos, CA in January 2009. The university received developing program status from ACOTE for the San Marcos MOT program which allowed the Inaugural Class to begin in fall 2009. The dual degree option also began in fall 2009.

The University received accreditation and licensure in 2009 to begin to offer the Doctor of Education (EdD) degree. The EdD degree is licensed by the Commission for Independent Education.

In 2010, the University received approval from the Commission for Independent Education to restructure the Doctor of Health Science (DHSc) degree.

Professional Licensure
Graduates of the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences Master of Orthopaedic Assistant Program are not eligible for licensure as an Orthopaedic Physician Assistant or as an Orthopaedic Assistant in the state of Florida (nor have they ever).

Students will not be eligible to participate in clinical experiences as an Orthopaedic Physician Assistant in Florida.

Practicing with an Orthopaedic Physician Assistant’s designation in Florida is considered by the Florida Board of Medicine to be the practice of medicine without a license and citations are issued.

On April 16, 2011, Dr. Wanda Nitsch was inaugurated as the 4th President of the University.

In September 2011 the University was approved by the Texas Workforce Commission to offer the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree in Austin, Texas commencing the fall of 2012. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board gave approval in October 2011. Construction on the Austin campus commenced in February 2012 and opened with its inaugural DPT class in August 2012.

The Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) in May 2012 gave approval to the University to begin to offer the Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) degree in a flexible online and weekend format over ten trimesters commencing in January 2013.

In November 2013, the University became part of the Laureate International Universities network. Laureate is one of the world’s largest providers of postsecondary programs in the health sciences. Overall, the Laureate network of more than 70 campus-based and online universities offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs to over 1 million students in 25 countries throughout the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

In the last several years, the University has been growing at a healthy pace, adding programs, faculty, and facilities to meet the needs of rehabilitation 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 therapists and consumers require.

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