Hardin-Simmons University expands into new physical therapy building

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ABILENE, Texas (KRBC) — The preparation begins as Hardin-Simmons University’s department of physical therapy expands into a new building this fall.

The program is one of the best in country and now they will have the best facility to learn in.

Students, teachers and staff will be moving eight blocks south of campus. The new building does not have a name yet, but the department is hoping someone will become a donor for the school.

“I just never expected to see this program blossom and grow and develop the reputation that it has and that’s because of an outstanding faculty. It’s because of support from the university and the community,” said Dr. Janelle O’Connell, program director of department of physical therapy.

Which is making room for more students in the future.

“We are currently submitting our report to our crediting agency that will hopefully allow us to expand their program to 40 students a year. The earliest could happen would be fall of 2019,” Dr. O’Connell said.

The new building has rooms almost four times the size of the classrooms of Mabee Hall, which is where the current PT program is located.

“We have one of the shortest programs at 28 months in the country, therefore, we have phenomenal students who apply and those who get in are really the elite,” Dr. O’Connell said.

Training those elite students to share their special gift.

“We have a very strong focus on servant leadership and we are unapologetically Christian and so, we’re not afraid to tell our students that, if you come into this program, we are going to be praying together, we’re going to become a Christian family that’s supports each other,” Dr. O’Connell said.

Those values being taken to Peru, where the students setting forth on a mission trip called “Wheels for the World”, earlier this month.

“We customize wheelchairs for individuals who have had no mobility and pretty much been spending their lives in bed,” Dr. O’Connell said.

“I’ve never felt so appreciated for something so small, or what I felt was so small, but to them, it really is a life-changing thing to be able to have mobility that they haven’t had in the past,” PT student Ariel Day said.

Within just nine days, providing 163 wheelchairs and having 146 people proclaim their love for Christ for the first time.

“I think seeing the community of Peru and the way they live and the way we live in the United States is just a drastic change that it really makes you think about your privilege here and how much you have and how much you don’t really need,” Day said.

Dr. O’Connell says the program has 100 percent placement of their students since the program started in 1997. She was part of that class of 12 students.

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