The Schools of Allied Health and Nursing were established in a reorganization of the academic departments of the University of Kansas Medical Center in 1974. These two Schools along with the School of Medicine and the Office of Graduate Studies became the "College of Health Sciences." At the time of the reorganization, nine departments formed the School of Health Professions. Since then, the composition of the school has changed numerous times, with disciplines and departments having been added and others deleted. In 1990, the name "College of Health Sciences" was dropped and the three schools have existed as independent academic entities at the KU Medical Center campus without a binding college designation since that time.
The Early Years
Most of the academic programs in the School of Health Professions started as training based in KU Hospital or under the KU School of Medicine and were directed by practicing clinicians at the time. Often organized as a department in the hospital, the evoluation of these types of programs was similar across the country. Advancing technologies, clinical discoveries and the after-effects of the World Wars led to a new focus on health care specialty areas outside the traditional realms of medicine and nursing. Prior to the emergence of these new academic programs, many of these diagnostic procedures and therapies were performed by doctors, if provided at all.
The school's roots began to form during the Great Depression and the decade immediately following, as the University of Kansas was among the pioneers in providing education to students in specialty areas of laboratory medicine, physical therapy and nutrition. A hospital-based program, then known as medical technology, was launched in 1933 and a dietetic internship program was added in 1943. A year later, KU established one of the first physical therapy programs west of the Mississippi River, and was initially accredited in 1945 as a Bachelor of Science degree program. A Masters degree program in audiology and a certificate in cytotechnology began at the KU Medical Center in the mid 1950s
The 1960s were a time of significant expansion in health care disciplines offered by KU. Emergency Medical Training was added in 1962, along with the newly combined Internship/Master's program in dietetics and nutrition. Under the auspices of the Department of Anesthesiology, Nurse Anesthesia Education was initiated in 1966. By the end of 1968, the first students had been taking courses from the Department of Biometry and Respiratory Therapy, and the first three students were accepted to the medical record administration program in 1971.
A New School
In 1974, the total number of health care programs offered by KU in the hospital had exploded. It was at this time a new school was formed to better serve the needs of these emerging fields. Charter members of the KU School of Health Professions were: Biometry, Dietetics and Nutrition, Emergency Medical Training, Hearing and Speech, Medical Record Administration Education, Nurse Anesthesia Education, Physical Therapy Education, Respiratory Therapy Education and Special Education.
Unlike the expansion of the sheer number of programs during the previous decade, the 1970s saw a growth in the school's academic level of degrees awarded. The Physical Therapy Education program, once integrated with the KU Hospital Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, became a self-governing department in the school in 1977. Respiratory therapy became an undergraduate degree for the first time and a year later, the nurse anesthesia and medical record administration programs joined the School of Health Professions as they, too, began awarding Bachelor of Science degrees in place of certificates.
1980s: A Time of Change
The landscape of health care education began to change across the country in the 1980s, and consequently the School of Health Professions went through an almost annual change to its portfolio of academic programs. Several important new disciplines were added, some were dropped, while still others moved to or from the main KU campus in Lawrence.
The Department of Allied Health Sciences was established in the spring of 1981, accepting the first students in the fall of that year. As late as 1982, special education was listed among the departments in the School of Health Professions although it never administratively was a part of the School. Both programs would eventually leave, although special education would remain at KU as an academic unit of the School of Education in Lawrence.
The Nurse Anesthesia Education program was granted full departmental status (1982), and graduated its first bachelor’s degree students that same year. Two years later, the school began phasing out the undergraduate degree in Nurse Anesthesia in favor of the new Master of Science degree. Also in 1984, Clinical Laboratory Sciences (formerly Medical Technology) joined the school, after having been a hospital-based program for over 50 years.
With a relocation of the Department of Occupational Therapy and its undergraduate degree curriculum from the Lawrence campus (1985) to the medical center, and the addition of two graduate-level physical therapy programs(1988), KU experienced a significant increase in the number of students, faculty and advanced academic disciplines in the school.
The end of the decade saw a phasing out of several programs with Emergency Medical Training (1988) and the Department of Allied Health Sciences (1989) graduating their final classes. By spring of 1990, the undergraduate program in physical therapy was also discontinued, having been replaced by the new graduate-level offerings.
In keeping with the directives of its national association, respiratory therapy changed its name to the Department of Respiratory Care.
The Radiation Therapy Technology one-year certificate program, under the jurisdiction of the hospital’s Department of Diagnostic Radiology was closed May 1, 1997. Reasons included a lack of career opportunities for the graduates, decreasing numbers of applicants, insufficient faculty, and lack of administrative support. This program was transferred from the hospital to the School of Health Professions for its last academic year. Fourteen students graduated from the Class of ‘95.
Perhaps the most significant change in the decade occured not in the school but to the KU Medical Center campus as a whole during the reorganization of the KU Medical Center in 1998. Governed by the State of Kansas and the University of Kansas since its inception in 1905, the KU Hospital became The University of Kansas Hospital to be operated as an organization independent of the university.
In 1999 the Department of Occupational Therapy was approved to revise its curriculum to offer an entry-level Master of Occupational Therapy degree. As the decade came to a close, Deaf Education, a legacy program from the former special education department, ceased to exist as a School of Health Professions degree.
The new millenium has been one of relative stability to the School of Health Professions, although several new programs have continued the migration of health care education fields from hospital locations. Three certificate programs from the Department of Diagnostic Radiology moved from the hospital in late 2000: Nuclear Medicine Technology, Cardiovascular Interventional Technology (formerly Special Procedures), and Diagnostic Ultrasound Technology. A doctoral program in Therapeutic Science was added in 2000 to provide interdisciplinary opportunities for those interested in scholarship, research and academic options for their careers.
In 2003 the Cardiovascular Interventional Technology program was discontinued and a year later another certificate program was added in Diagnostic Cardiac Sonography. Also at this time the Master of Arts in Audiology began to be replaced with the new Doctor of Audiology degree, and a name change produced the Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science. The trend moving from Master of Science to entry-level doctoral degrees continued in 2004 with the first students in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program, thus signaling the end of the Master of Science degree in PT.
Most recently, the Department of Occupational Therapy released a new post-professional degree in 2007, the Doctor of Occupational Therapy, which offers an alternative post professional graduate option for those who wish to develop specialized skills for leadership in practice. Also, the Department of Biometry was closed in December 2007 with the statistical resources across campus consolidated into the new Center for Biostatistics and Advanced Informatics.