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School of Health Professions celebrates largest graduating class

by Kristen Hensley

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The School of Health Professions at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston celebrated its largest graduating class, with 315 students, at its Aug. 15 commencement ceremony.

Health professionals include key groups, such as laboratory personnel, physician assistants, physical, occupational and respiratory therapists, among others. They represent 60 percent of the Texas health care work force.

2014 SHP Commencement

Elizabeth Protas, vice president and dean of the School of Health Professions, officiated the 2 p.m. graduation at Moody Gardens Convention Center, One Hope Blvd., in Galveston.

Dr. Danny O. Jacobs, UTMB executive vice president, provost and dean of the School of Medicine, conferred the degrees, which include Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in clinical laboratory sciences; Bachelor of Science degrees in respiratory care; Master of Science degrees in occupational therapy, health professions and physician assistant studies; and doctoral degrees in physical therapy.

Cecilia Graham was the featured commencement speaker. She earned her bachelor's degree in physical therapy from UTMB in 1978, a Master of Medical Science degree in physical therapy from Emory University in 1987, and a doctorate in adult education from Texas A&M University in 1994. Graham is currently an associate professor and Bergman/Pinkston Endowed Professor in the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

She has 25 years of experience in physical therapy education and has held leadership positions at several institutions, including the American Physical Therapy Association. She currently serves on the APTA Nominating Committee. She has also served on the editorial board of the Journal of Physical Therapy Education and as an on-site team leader for the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. Graham was recently named the 2015 recipient of the APTA's Education Section Cerasoli Lectureship Award.

"These graduates represent an outstanding group of students, and I want to extend my heartfelt congratulations to them all," said Protas. "They will fill a vital role in the nation's changing health care landscape."

As the Texas population grows and ages, serious chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, stroke, heart disease, chronic lung disease and arthritis, will increase dramatically. According to the American Medical Association, there will be an avalanche of need for health providers to care for these conditions.

Established in 1968, the UTMB School Health Professions has educated more than 7,000 professionals who serve in the nation's health care workforce.