Ph.D. Programs

The Department of Physical Therapy in cooperation with the other departments of the College of Health Professions, as well as the Schools of Education and Medicine, offer doctoral training programs to qualified physical therapists.

Objectives and goals

Although each program is unique in specific goals, these programs prepare physical therapy academicians who can contribute to the understanding and application of therapeutic procedures through basic and applied research and who can teach both clinical and didactic physical therapy on all academic levels with the goals of:

  • Obtaining and excelling in faculty positions in all academic levels,
  • Undertaking the research necessary to develop more scientific models of practice; including developing and testing theories at a basic science level,
  • Assuming leadership roles within the profession and
  • Advancing the development and delivery of clinical education.

» Research areas and labs of faculty involved in the Ph.D. Programs

he Doctor of Philosophy in Rehabilitation and Movement Science is a collaborative effort among faculty in the areas of Exercise Science, Physical Therapy and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

The purpose of the program is to prepare rehabilitation and movement science scholars through a rigorous academic program that focuses on the development of teaching and research expertise in the applied science disciplines.

This collaborative degree program uniquely addresses the multi-faceted nature of our current health care delivery system and prepares applied scientists to approach health and rehabilitation initiatives from an integrative rather than competitive perspective.

The program encourages applications from individuals in rehabilitation and movement science fields such as physical therapy, exercise physiology, sports medicine and physical medicine. To be considered for admission applicants must have completed at least one of: a master’s degree in a related area, 30 hours of post-baccalaureate work (e.g. course work at 500 level or greater) or a first-professional degree program (e.g., DPT, MD, etc)

Program Objectives – Graduates will be able to:

  • Analyze the multi-factorial elements of rehabilitation and human movement
  • Apply collaborative/interdisciplinary approaches to contemporary rehabilitation and movement issues
  • Develop and test theories and applications of normal and dysfunctional movement
  • Plan and implement sound instructional strategies in the preparation of rehabilitation and movement science professionals
  • Design, conduct and describe research that will advance knowledge in movement science and will improve rehabilitative practice
  • Evaluate relevant scientific literature and interpret results to improve health and human movement using a multidisciplinary approach
  • Contribute to the scientific literature through completion of a doctoral dissertation and other collaborative research endeavors


The course/credit requirements are based on the assumption that the incoming Ph.D. student has completed at least a master’s degree, or 30 hours of post-baccalaureate work (e.g. course work at = 500 level), or a first professional degree program (DPT, MD) in a field related to movement science.

The Doctor of Philosophy degree in Rehabilitation and Movement Science will require a minimum of 30 credit hours of coursework, three credit hours of research laboratory rotations, five credit hours of professional development coursework, and 12 credit hours of dissertation research.

Students will conduct a substantial original investigation under the direction of a primary advisor and advisory committee. A wide range of study opportunities are available with core and affiliate faculty using state of the art equipment in 6 laboratories. See faculty listing for specific areas of study.

Students focus their studies in one of two curricular tracks.

The Exercise Physiology Track prepares students to teach, conduct research and direct external funding initiatives in the area of Exercise Physiology, cardiopulmonary rehabilitation, and physiology particularly associated with metabolic and chronic disease states.

The Neuromusculoskeletal Dynamics Track prepares individuals for teaching, research and clinical initiatives associated with the identification and rehabilitation of movement disorders.

Coursework is interdisciplinary in nature and includes coursework options in biostatistics, the basic life sciences, epidemiology, and other relevant areas. Students will be required to complete:

  • 12 credit hours of research core courses comprised of a research design class, two classes in statistical application and an elective in the area of research design or statistics;
  • 18 credit hours in a concentration comprised of a focus on course work in a specific discipline formulated with the major advisor and approved by the Admissions Committee of the degree program;
  • three credit hours comprised of laboratory rotations in a minimum of two laboratories within the Rehabilitation and Movement Science program;
    • each credit hour requires a minimum of 50 contact hours in the laboratory selected;
  • five credit hours of professional development comprised of an interdisciplinary research/journal club seminar (0.5 credit hour repeated for 6 semesters), a teaching practicum (one credit hour) and a presentation delivered at a regional, national or international conference of a related discipline (one credit hour);
  • a minimum of 12 credit hours of dissertation research comprised of a focused line of research over a three-to-four-year period of doctoral work.

Required research courses for the program, both tracks: 9 credit hours

Required research courses for the program, both tracks: 9 credit hours

  • STAT 543 Statistical Methods I – 3 cr
  • STAT 544 Statistical Methods II – 3 cr
  • ALHP 761 Health Related Sciences Research design – 3 cr
    (or other approved course in research design)

Examples of approved research design alternatives:

  • HADM 761 Health Services Research Methods I – 3 cr
  • SOCY 602 Applications of Advanced Research Methods – 3 cr
  • EDUS 710 Educational Research Design – 3 cr

Examples of elective research courses for the program, both tracks: 3 credit hours

  • BIOS 531 Clinical Epidemiology – 3 cr
  • BIOS 553-554 Applied Statistics – 3 cr
  • BIOS 571 Clinical Trials – 3 cr
  • BIOS 572 Statistical Analysis of Biomedical Data – 3 cr
  • BIOS 655 Quantitative Epidemiology – 3 cr
  • ALHP 716 Grant Writing and Project Management in Health Related Sciences (or elective research course in consultation with advisor)

Required concentration courses for the Ph.D. program tracks

Exercise Physiology track: 19 credit hours

  • PHIS Cardiovascular Exercise Physiology – 3 cr
  • PHIS 604 Cell Physiology – 4 cr
  • PHIS 612 Cardiovascular Physiology – 3 cr
  • REMS 701 – Advanced Exercise Physiology I
  • REMS/HEMS 610 Laboratory Techniques in Rehabilitation and Movement Science – 3 cr
  • REMS 702 – Advanced Exercise Physiology II – 3 cr

Neuromusculoskeletal dynamics track: 18 credit hours

  • REMS/HEMS 611 Biomechanics of Human Motion – 3 cr
  • REMS/HEMS 660 Neuromuscular Performance – 3 cr
  • REMS 665 Instrumentation in Motion Analysis – 3 cr
  • PHTY 602 Advanced Biomechanics – 3 cr
  • PHTY 608 Advanced Musculoskeletal Sciences – 3 cr
  • REMS/HEMS 692 Independent Study or elective course – 3 cr

Laboratory rotations: 3 credit hours – both tracks

  • REMS 710 Research Techniques in Rehabilitation and Movement Science – 1-3 cr

Professional development core: 5 credit hours

  • REMS 690 Research Seminar in Rehabilitation and Movement Science – 3 cr (0.5 cr repeated for 6 semesters)
  • REMS 793 Teaching Practicum in Higher Education – 1 cr
  • REMS 794 Research Presentation Seminar – 1 cr

Research in rehabilitation and movement science: Minimum 12 credit hours – both tracks

  • REMS 798 Research in Rehabilitation and Movement Science – 12 cr

Admission Requirements

Applications received prior to Jan. 9 will be given priority consideration. Applications received following the deadline may be considered if space and resources are available.

A completed application for the Ph.D. in Rehabilitation and Movement Sciences consists of the following components:

  • Personal Statement
  • GRE Test Scores
  • 3 Letters of Reference
  • Undergraduate Transcripts
  • Graduate transcripts
  • Vitae

Current research areas:

  • Development of trunk and head control in infancy
  • Efficacy of Physical Therapy Interventions for Infants born Preterm
  • Orthopaedic physical therapy
  • Sports medicine
  • Diagnostic accuracy
  • Effectiveness of treatment programs
  • Biomechanics and motor control aspects of human motion in sports medicine
  • Pediatrics and elite performance settings
  • The quantitative assessment and design of therapeutic interventions in orthopedic treatment settings
  • The design and construction of specialized research equipment

Current physical therapy faculty and their research areas can be found on their individual faculty pages:

  • Ben Darter
  • Sheryl Finucane
  • Peter Pidcoe
  • Mary Shall
  • Dan Riddle
  • James Thomas

More information

Please contact Drs. Finucane or Evans (below) for more information about admission criteria, general curriculum and track information.

Dr. Sheryl Finucane
Director of Graduate Studies
Department of Physical Therapy
Virginia Commonwealth University
P.O. Box 980224
Richmond, Virginia 23298-0224
Phone: (804) 828-0234


R Lee Franco
Department of Kinesiology and Health Sciences

The Doctoral (Ph.D.) Program in Health Related Sciences will provide experienced health professionals with advanced knowledge and skills so that they may assume positions in teaching, research and administration upon graduation. It offers a curriculum with an interdisciplinary core of courses with specialty tracks in Clinical Laboratory Sciences, Gerontology, Health Administration, Nurse Anesthesia, Occupational Therapy, Patient Counseling, Physical Therapy, Radiation Sciences and Rehabilitation Leadership. The program emphasizes use of distance learning technologies combined with traditional didactic methods. The curriculum is relevant, timely and meaningful to a multidisciplinary cohort of students.

The Department of Physical Therapy welcomes highly qualified physical therapists to apply to the Doctoral Program in Health Related Sciences. We have a strong academic record of producing highly credible and clinically relevant science for this program in the areas of health services and musculoskeletal research. We encourage applicants to explore the Department of Physical Therapy website for further information about our faculty and department, and the link below for more information about the Doctoral Program in Health Related Sciences.

Program website