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School of Rehabilitation Therapy marks 50th anniversary

Fifty years ago, Dr. David Symington proposed that Queen’s University establish the School of Rehabilitation Therapy in order to respond to shortages of occupational and physical therapists locally and nationally.

• Master’s program in Rehabilitation Science approved and accepts its first students, 1988.
• Director Malcolm Peat leads the creation of the International Centre for Advancement of Community Based Rehabilitation (ICACBR), 1991.
• Admission criteria for BSc programs change, requiring a minimum of one year of university education with specific prerequisites, 1997.
• The School of Medicine and the School of Rehabilitation Therapy were joined by the School of Nursing to become the current Faculty of Health Sciences, 1998.
• PhD program in Rehabilitation Science implemented, 2000.
• DSc in Rehabilitation and Health Leadership (DSc RHL), a professional doctorate program, receives approval in 2017 for implementation in 2018.

This year, the School celebrates a 50 year legacy of contributing to the everyday lives of individuals and communities across the globe through the work of its graduates, students, faculty, and staff.

“The initial request to establish the School was sent January 9, 1967 to Dean Edmund Harry Botterell,” says Marcia Finlayson (Director, School of Rehabilitation Therapy, Vice-Dean, Health Sciences). “The request was positively received, and it was decided to establish a School of Rehabilitation Therapy with two divisions - occupational therapy and physical therapy.”

By September of that same year, the school was accepting its first cohort of students into its three-year diploma programs in either occupational therapy or physical therapy.  When it launched, the school was located in Brockington House and Dr. Symington was its director.  Muriel Driver oversaw the occupational therapy program while Dr. Roy Walmsley oversaw the physical therapy program.

A lot has changed over 50 years. The School of Rehabilitation Therapy relocated to the Louise D. Acton Building in 1972, where it remains today. Incoming cohorts of occupational therapy and physical therapy students have grown from 20 to 148 students, and the credentials for each discipline have evolved from a three-year diploma, to a four-year Bachelor of Science (1972), to a Master of Science (2004).   

Additional programs have been developed and launched over the years including a Master of Science in Rehabilitation Science (1988), a PhD in Rehabilitation Science (2000), a Graduate Diploma and Master of Science in Aging and Health (2015), and a PhD in Aging and Health (2016). In 2017, the School received approval to launch a Doctor of Science in Rehabilitation and Health Leadership, commencing in May 2018. The student population of the School of Rehabilitation Therapy has grown to over 350 and, since inception, over 3,500 students have graduated from the School. 

“The growth and evolution of the School of Rehabilitation Therapy is a testament to the quality of our educational programs, the growing roles of occupational therapists and physical therapists across the health care system, and our commitment to research that informs and advances rehabilitation practice,” says Dr. Finlayson.

Over the anniversary year, members of the School of Rehabilitation Therapy, along with a committee of alumni, have been collaborating on a variety of celebratory activities in honour of this important milestone, culminating with a Gala taking place in Kingston on Saturday, September 23rd.

The Gala is an evening event with dinner and music that celebrates the School’s five decades of academic achievement.  Guests will be treated to a proclamation by Kingston’s Town Crier, Chris Wyman, musical entertainment, a retrospective slideshow and a collection of donated artifacts and memorabilia including the graduation gown worn by Muriel Driver when she received her BSc degree from Queen’s. In addition to alumni attendees from across the School’s 50 years, invitees will include current and former directors, faculty, and staff.

For more information on the School’s 50th Anniversary and the upcoming Gala dinner event, please visit the website.