Students and graduates serve in critical health care roles throughout the pandemic.
Innovation is in High Point University’s DNA.
The Congdon School of Health Sciences and Fred Wilson School of Pharmacy, housed in Congdon Hall, form the cornerstone for medical innovation on HPU’s campus.
If you ask the leaders of these schools about their mission, they’ll tell you it’s to prepare health care leaders for the world as it is going to be. And if you ask them what that means, they’ll tell you to look no further than the global pandemic.
In 2020, when both academic schools graduated their first classes of physical therapy and pharmacy students, the need for adaptable health care providers was more apparent than ever.
When the pandemic began, HPU’s own health care heroes persevered to help their community. Professors, students and soon-to-be graduates found ways to complete their education while they served others on the frontlines.
In the midst of the pandemic, HPU’s Fred Wilson School of Pharmacy, the Piedmont Triad’s only pharmacy school, achieved two milestones.
First, the school graduated its inaugural class in May 2020. Second, the school was awarded full accreditation status by the American Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE).
The pandemic made the year look different with the inaugural graduation ceremony becoming virtual. Even during a pandemic, however, graduates who have taken the pharmacy licensing exam have achieved a pass rate that surpasses the national average. Now, they’re practicing in community retail, hospital and long-term care settings. They’ve also been accepted to clinical pharmacy residencies or other graduate programs.
Take the Houpt twins, for example — two brothers, two 2020 graduates and two success stories.
Both were members of the inaugural pharmacy class.
Now, Chris Houpt is a first-year pharmacy resident at Novant Health-Forsyth Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and Alex Houpt is a pharmacist at Walgreens.
“HPU has done a fantastic job preparing their students for life after graduation,” says Chris Houpt. “The numerous opportunities for standardized client encounters, starting in my first year, strengthened my patient communication skills and my comfort with providing direct patient care as a member of Novant Health’s team.”
Like other pharmacy students, the Houpt brothers used their pharmacy skills to care for others through vaccination clinics, including COVID-19 vaccinations.
“During my time at HPU, I worked with Dr. Jordan Smith, who set up local influenza vaccination clinics,” says Alex Houpt. “This helped prepare me for my current role as an immunizing pharmacist administering the COVID-19 vaccine in long-term care facilities by providing me with hands-on experience.”
Smith, assistant professor of pharmacy clinical studies and co-curricular coordinator, has coached current students working on the frontlines during the pandemic, from administering tests to vaccines.
“We’ve got students at local hospitals drawing up and diluting the vaccines because this is a process,” says Smith. “They’re handing them off to nurses to be given. We’ve got students who are in their retail settings who are giving the COVID-19 vaccine.”
The Department of Physical Therapy also graduated its first class of doctoral students in 2020 — another milestone for HPU’s health care education programs.
Jesse Perry, from Syracuse, New York, joined HPU’s first PT cohort in 2017 to get hands-on experience in facilities like the Human Biomechanics and Physiology Lab alongside accomplished professors. Three years later, members of the class are now the pioneers of the program.
Perry was participating in his final clinical rotation in spring 2020. While the rotation only ended a week shy of its scheduled completion due to the pandemic, PT professors lined up standardized patients so students could finish their requirements.
The Class of 2020 went on to receive an ultimate pass rate of 100% on the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE), four points above the national average. The class also received a first-time pass rate of 93%, two points above the national average.
“This illustrates the diligence of our graduates and the tremendous effort of our faculty and staff to mentor our students and design and implement a curriculum that educates students for the licensure exam and beyond,” says Dr. Jeff Taylor, chair and associate professor of HPU’s Department of Physical Therapy.
At least 61% of the class is licensed to practice in the state of North Carolina, and Perry is a part of that statistic. He serves as a full-time physical therapist at O’Halloran Rehabilitation in Greensboro, North Carolina. He evaluates and treats individuals with musculoskeletal injuries.
“My primary patient population is high school and recreational athletes,” says Perry. “Every day, I am performing movement analyses to determine how I can devise a plan that will make my clients more efficient movers and ultimately better performers in whatever task they are required to complete.”
He and Kassidy Treadway are just a few examples of how the Class of 2020 had to adapt, pivot and pass the NPTE exam during challenging times. Treadway graduated with Perry and is currently a lead physical therapist at Calso Physical Therapy, also located in Greensboro, North Carolina.
“HPU more than prepared me for my current role,” says Treadway, originally from Anderson, South Carolina. “HPU taught me how to use the most evidence-based approach in treating multiple illnesses, diseases and injuries across a wide spectrum in order to provide the best care. I also learned to value the patient above all else; therefore, I feel that I have learned to use patient-centered care rather than just trying to do a job.”
Today, Sarah Winter is a physician assistant with Novant Health Urology in Winston- Salem, North Carolina, where she assesses, diagnoses and treats patients for urological issues in clinic and hospital settings.
In the spring of 2020, she was earning her master’s degree from HPU’s Physician Assistant Studies Program while completing a pediatrics clinical rotation. Then the pandemic began, halting many clinical rotation opportunities across the country.
In two weeks, the department’s clinical team developed a COVID-19 research elective and a telehealth elective to keep students on track to meet their educational requirements.
“HPU worked tirelessly to create a new remote curriculum that supplemented our learning opportunities until students could return to rotations,” says Winter. “The clinical team at HPU was determined that we would still receive a remarkable education, even during a pandemic.”
Their commitment to educating PA students paid off. The PA program’s Class of 2020 received a top score on the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE). The Program First-Time Taker Pass Rate for the Class of 2020 was 100%, which is five points higher than the national average.
The Class of 2020 was the fourth class to graduate from HPU’s PA program. Now, PA students like Winter are helping others in full-time roles across the nation. In fact, approximately half of the Class of 2020 is practicing in North Carolina, while the other half is practicing outside of the state.
“Our team of faculty, staff and students have exhibited a strong commitment to work together during this difficult and persistent time to achieve some truly remarkable outcomes,” says Dr. Kevin Ford, dean of HPU’s Congdon School of Health Sciences. “We are not only preparing our students for the future of health care, but our teachers, scholars, clinicians and leaders are helping to determine what our future will be.”
Recent graduates in High Point University’s Departments of Physical Therapy, Physician Assistant Studies and Athletic Training received 100% pass rates on the national exams.
The Department of Physical Therapy’s inaugural Class of 2020 received an ultimate pass rate of 100% on the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE), four points above the national average.
Class of 2020 graduates in the Department of Physician Assistant Studies received a top score on the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE). The Program First-Time Taker Pass Rate for the Class of 2020 was 100%, which is five points higher than the national average for First-Time Takers, on the PANCE for 2020.
The Master of Science in Athletic Training (MSAT) Class of 2021 scored a perfect pass rate on the National Board of Certification (BOC) examination. HPU’s 100% first time pass rate far exceeded the three-year aggregate national average of 72.33%.