Western University of Health Sciences is expanding its Lebanon presence.

WesternU opened the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific-Northwest (COMP-Northwest) on Mullins Drive in 2011. Building off the success of the medical school, WesternU announced Wednesday that it will welcome its first class of Doctor of Physical Therapy students to the Lebanon campus in 2022.

In order to meet accreditation requirements, medical school faculty must be in place 18 months before the program begins. WesternU’s College of Health Sciences began this process by appointing Associate Professor Chad Lairamore as the Department of Physical Therapy Education Oregon Chair. 

"It is a pleasure to welcome Dr. Chad Lairamore as chair of our new Oregon Physical Therapy program,” said WesternU President Daniel R. Wilson. “Not only does Dr. Lairamore have precisely the right professional background to lead this important new endeavor, he also has a natural affinity to the WesternU ethos of humanistic science.” 

The College of Health Sciences plans to have 12 faculty in Lebanon in addition to Lairamore, along with 60 students in the first class. The faculty will create a curriculum separate from the Doctor of Physical Therapy program in Pomona, California.

Jeff Keating, chief of community and governmental affairs for WesternU, said that Lairamore will have an office at the existing COMP-NW campus. No decisions have yet been made on the construction of additional facilities, Keating said.

College of Health Sciences Interim Dean Dee Schilling said part of the accreditation process is demonstrating a need for the new program. In this case, the explanation is simple.

“Per accreditation, we must have independent programs with independent chairs, and we must answer the question, ‘What is your niche? Why should we have another PT program?’” Schilling said. “The niche is really rural health and looking at what that means and how do we best serve this population.”

There are also plans in place to open an occupational therapy (OT) program in 2023.

“OT and PT traditionally are very much together on teams, especially in the rehabilitation world,” Lairamore said. “I see a lot of potential for collaboration there.” 

Five classes have completed their medical degrees at COMP-NW since its inception with 501 total graduates.

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