From the Managing Editor

As you may recall, my topic last issue was the recognition of professional doctoral degrees for faculty rank. The results were in as of July 1, 2007, and showed that of 78 votes, 83% were for, 14% against, and 3% unsure.

Clearly, of those who read the IJAHSP and were kind enough to cast a vote, the professional degree wins out. Of course, we had over 15000 visitors and we have no idea of the degree held by those who voted, but I have a fairly good suspicion. So this poll is hardly scientific.

But, this will be a continuing debate. In the United States, professional degrees are far more common than anywhere else in the world. Yet, we have many institutions of higher education who do not recognize these degrees for faculty rank.

Professional degrees tend to embody advanced practice knowledge, or at least they are supposed to. If they do not, then examination of the program is necessary. For instance, it is expected that the DPT (doctor of physical therapy) will have more advanced knowledge upon graduation than the masters level therapist at graduation. The purpose of the DPT is to educate and treat patients, not to conduct clinical trials, though many are involved in research.

The PhD is a research degree, not a practice degree. These are the people who discover, who investigate. These are the individuals who give those who practice the evidence for specific therapeutic methods. And, those in practice give the PhD the information they need to conduct their data analysis. It is a symbiotic relationship. Both are needed, and both have value.

Many of the PhDs working in allied health programs do not have their PhD in that particular profession (though this is changing). As a matter of fact, I would wager that most allied health professionals with a PhD have this degree in education, business, science, or a discipline somewhat related to their field of practice. So does this mean that the bachelors level physical therapist with a PhD in music should be able to rise to professor in an allied health department? I have seen it happen. Does this mean that the Masters Level Audiologist with a PhD in conflict resolution holds more value to the audiology department than the AuD? Your decision.

Before I jump past this argument, yes, there are PhD's in occupational therapy and physical therapy as well as psychology, but these broke the mold. They are advanced practice degrees with a research major and a dissertation.

So where does this leave us. I believe that universities must realize that an MD or DO is a professional degree. But, in all of the universities I have worked, they can raise in rank to professor or clinical professor. Why is that? Why do we as allied health professionals hold MDs and DOs in higher esteem than allied health professionals with a doctorate? Why should we not raise the AuD (doctor of audiology), PharmD (doctor of pharmacy) or OD (doctor of optometry) to professor rank? Is it because they do not have the historical importance of the MD or DO?

I am an allied health professional with a doctoral degree in education that was modeled after the PhD curriculum with research and a dissertation. There are no doctoral degrees in my allied health profession, nor will there ever be. I would not change my doctorate now, but at the time, it was not a matter of choice. The EdD was the degree that was available 15 years ago that worked with my full time schedule and family, and would help in my education career. I am a full professor now. I have held academic and administrative appointments in allopathic, osteopathic and allied health programs. I have been the assistant director of family medicine, the director of research for a large hospital system, and worked with some of the brightest non-PhD practitioners / non-PhD researchers around. I also had the PhDs who were phenomenal researchers and patient care providers.

I believe everyone who reads this journal should begin to look at their programs and professions and ask themselves, who truly teaches allied health students in professional programs to care for patients? Who has the clinical experience to teach what works, not just what the statistics say? And who (PhD) gives us the evidence to practice appropriately? Again, we all work together. One cannot do without the other. The AuD in audiology and the PhD in hearing science, not unlike the bachelors level physiotherapist and the PhD in kinesiology, are a team either in the clinic, the research institute, or the educational program.

I will leave you with that thought. Cheers


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