Physical Therapy — Ph.D.

Program director
Everett B. Lohman III

The Department of Physical Therapy offers the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in physical therapy. This research-oriented program for physical therapists emphasizes pain and movement sciences as well as lifestyle health and wellness, preparing graduates for research, teaching, and administration. Successful completion of a comprehensive written examination, written dissertation, and an oral defense of the dissertation are required. The diploma will be awarded upon completion of the curriculum and recommendation by the School of Allied Health Professions in conjunction with the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

Program description

Designed for the working professional, the Ph.D. in physical therapy resonates with the University's Motto, "To Make Man Whole." Physical therapists who are currently treating or teaching will benefit from a modern, evidence-based curriculum aimed at caring for the whole person. Face-to-face classes, two evenings a week, facilitate the balance of work and study. Aligned closely with our core values, this program provides physical therapy graduates with the skills and experience necessary to pursue careers as researchers and educators.

It is the goal of the program to prepare graduates with:

  • Skills to design and conduct novel, original research; provide evidence of an understanding of research design, and the ability to formulate and develop methodologies; collect and reduce data; interpret results; draw defensible conclusions; and effectively disseminate research findings.
  • Qualities of lifelong learning and commitment to scholarship following graduation.
  • Skills to add to the body of knowledge in physical therapy research literature through publications and presentations.
  • Ability to demonstrate a commitment to conducting research in neurology, orthopaedics, pain science, movement science, or lifestyle health and wellness.
  • Ability to demonstrate a commitment to providing whole-person care.
  • Skills to serve as an educator in entry-level, postprofessional, and graduate-level physical therapy programs.
  • Ability to demonstrate personal and group leadership skills at institutional, professional, national, and global levels.

Program learning outcomes

In addition to the stated institutional student learning outcomes, by the end of this program, the graduate should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate a commitment to discovery.
  2. Demonstrate a commitment to the dissemination of knowledge through publications and presentations.
  3. Demonstrate a commitment to developing treatment plans that follow current evidence-based and best practice guidelines.

Technology requirement

Students are required to have iPads for courses in the orthopaedic and neurology tracks, as well as for testing activities in all courses. It is highly recommended that students have access to personal computers (minimum: 800 MHz multimedia) with Internet access (minimum: 56 k.b.p.s. [connected at 44+ k.b.p.s.]). A $65 technology fee is charged in years one and two.

Research funding

Each student will be required to conduct one or more research projects in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy degree in physical therapy. Typical costs for student research projects range from $2,500 to $10,000. The physical therapy department will cover the first $2,500 of approved research expenses. The student and/or sponsor will be required to cover research-related expenses over this amount. When necessary, the program director and dissertation chair will assist the student in attempting to secure funding for unmet research expenses. Additional financial support may be awarded by application for seed-grant funding through the SAHP Research Committee.

General requirements

For more information about program requirements and practices for graduate students, the student should consult the Policies and General Regulations in Section II and the School of Allied Health Professions in Section III of this CATALOG. The student should also consult the Doctor of Philosophy's 26 elements for program-specific requirements. These elements can be found at

In addition to Loma Linda University and School of Allied Health Professions admissions requirements, the applicant must also complete the following requirements:

  • Bachelors of Science degree in Physical Therapy plus a master’s degree, a Masters of Physical Therapy degree, or a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from an accredited program, or equivalency.
  • Minimum grade point average of 3.3 in academic and professional coursework.
  • Proof of physical licensure in the U.S. or equivalency in the country of training.

Must also submit:

  • At least one example of written work (e.g., personal essay, term paper, publication, master’s thesis or project).
  • Curriculum vitae, including work history, formal education, continuing education, licensure and certification, professional organizations, honors, awards, publications, presentations, and grants.
  • A formal letter outlining research interests.
  • A structured oral interview.

Required units:

  • 89 – for students with a Bachelor of Science degree in physical therapy plus a Masters of Physical Therapy (M.P.T.) degree or another appropriate master's degree
  • 72 – for students with a Doctor of Physical Therapy (D.P.T.) degree
Domain 1: Core courses
PTGR 550Introduction to Psychoneuroimmunology: The Science of Whole Person Care3
PTGR 552Pain Science: Interactions of the Brain and Body3
PTGR 580Movement Science: Bio-control3
PTGR 591Biomechanics I3
PTGR 599Comprehensive Examination0
STAT 515Grant- and Contract-Proposal Writing3
Domain 2: Clinical and applied sciences 112-24
Select from the following: (12 units required for students with a prior D.P.T. degree and 24 units required for students with a prior M.S./M.P.T. degree) 2
Advanced Orthopaedic Specialty Tracks I
Advanced Orthopaedic Specialty Tracks II
Science and Biomechanics of the Fascia and the Art of Myofascial Release
Orthopaedic Intervention: Regional Interdependency of the Cervical Spine & Upper Extremities
Soft-Tissue Mobilization
Current Topics in Neurological Rehabilitation
Function-Based Rehabilitation
Neurologic Upper Extremity Management
Advanced Clinical Practice I: Orthopaedic Rehabilitation
Advanced Clinical Practice II
Advanced Clinical Practice III
Cardiopulmonary Approaches to Assessment, Wellness, and Disease
Movement Science of the Upper Quarter 3
Movement Science: Lower Quarter Biomechanical Relationships 3
Topics in Rehabilitation 4
Home Health Physical Therapy for the Post-Acute Patient
Cervical Spine
Lumbar Spine
Assessment and Management of the Knee
Advanced Neurological Rehabilitation
Women's Health Issues I
Integumentary and Lymphatic Systems: Evaluation and Intervention
Advanced Orthopaedic Procedures I
Advanced Orthopaedic Procedures II
Advanced Orthopaedic Procedures III
Sensory Integration Disorders
Sensory Integration Disorders II
Sensory Integration Disorders III
Clinical Translation of Pain Science
Advanced Physiology I: Neurobiology
Pathokinesiology of Gait
Pharmacology in Physical Therapy
Medical Screening for Physical Therapists
Clinical Imaging for Physical Therapist
Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Three-dimension Medical Imaging Quantitation
Biomechanics II
Domain 3: Lifestyle health and wellness3-6
Select from the following: (3 units required for students with a prior D.P.T. degree and 6 units required for students with a prior M.S./M.P.T. degree)
Lifestyle Health and Wholeness
Managing Stress
Therapeutic Humor in Health Care
Spirituality and Health: The Wholeness Connection
Mind-Body Interactions and Health Outcomes
Domain 4: Education, administration, and leadership9
Select from the following:
Educational Evaluation and Clinical Assessment
Transformational Teaching and Learning
Curriculum Development in Higher Education
Administration in Higher Education
Collaborative Learning in Higher Education
Professional Systems in Management I
Domain 5: Religion
One course from each area (RELE, RELR, & RELT) required:
RELR 540Wholeness and Health 73
Choose one course from the followings:3
Bioethics and Society
Ethics for Scientists
Ethical Issues in Public Health
Ethics and Health Disparities
World Religions and Bioethics
Bioethics and the Law
Philosophical Ethics
Choose one course from the followings:3
Biblical Hermeneutics
World Religions and Human Health
Theology of Human Suffering
Seminar in Religion and the Sciences
Domain 6: Research and statistics (24-26 units)
Not required of all students. See footnotes for details.0-3
AHRM 581Research and Statistics I3
AHRM 582Research and Statistics II3
PTGR 594Evidence-Based Practice in Physical Therapy 52
PTGR 693Research and Statistics III: Development and Approval of Research Topic and Questions3
PTGR 694Proposal Development and Institutional Review Board Approval3
PTGR 695Research and Statistics V: Data Collection (3) 66
PTGR 696Research and Statistics VI: Data Analysis3
PTGR 699Research and Statistics VII - Dissertation3
Total Units72-89

All courses will be focused toward research topic.


Courses to be selected in consultation with program director and dissertation chair to enhance the student's knowledge base in regards to their research topic.


PTGR 516 Movement Science of the Upper Quarter and/or PTGR 517 Movement Science: Lower Quarter Biomechanical Relationships (or equivalency) required for students who have not taken these courses in prior M.P.T. or D.P.T. program.


PTGR 518 Topics in Rehabilitation  are courses related to special topics in rehabilitation (e.g., Sports Medicine, Manual Therapy, Neurological).


Required for M.S./M.P.T.  Required for D.P.T. if course, or equivalent, not taken prior to entrance into the program.


Course to be taken twice – each registration (3 units) pertains to the data collection for one of the two required papers.


Fulfills service learning requirement

Comprehensive Examination
PTGR 599 Comprehensive Examination is designed to establish that the student has a broad understanding of physical therapy, research biostatistics and basic research methodology, education, bioethics, and professionalism. Since education is a component of the comprehensive exam, students are encouraged to select a minimum of 9 units of teaching/education-related courses from Domain 5. The written comprehensive examination will be administered after students have successfully completed the majority of required courses in Domains 1-6. The comprehensive examination will typically occur during the summer quarter of the student’s second year in the Ph.D. in Physical Therapy program.

Noncourse requirement

Advancement to Candidacy
The student may apply for advancement to candidacy after a) passing the comprehensive examination, b) securing support from their research guidance committee, and c) successfully defending their research topic and questions. The candidate’s capacity for original, independent investigation and scholarly achievements must be demonstrated by the presentation and oral defense of an acceptable dissertation in order to participate in the commencement ceremony. The candidate must submit a written dissertation to the Faculty of Graduate Studies. The candidate must also submit a minimum of two papers for publication. One paper must be accepted for publication to fulfill program completion requirements.

Normal time to complete the program

Four (4) years (16 academic quarters) — full-time enrollment required