Jun 14, 2024  
2024-2025 Graduate Catalog 
2024-2025 Graduate Catalog

Physical Therapy Department

Department Chairperson: Patti Berg-Poppe, PT, Ph.D.

Department of Physical Therapy
Sanford Coyote Sports Center, A385
Phone: 605-658-5999
Fax: 605-658-5637



Professors Emeritus:

Richard Ekstrom, PT, D.Sc., Rocky Mountain University.
Roy Osborn, PT, M.S., D.P.T., University of North Dakota.
Lana Svien, PT, Ph.D., University of Nebraska Medical Center.


Patti Berg-Poppe, Department Chairperson, MPT, Ph.D., University of South Dakota. Specialization: Motor Control and Motor Learning. 
Becca Jordre, D.P.T, Ph.D., GCS, Duke University - D.P.T., University of South Dakota - Ph.D. Specialization: Geriatrics.
Joy Karges, PT, Ed.D., University of South Dakota. Specialization: Clinical Education.

Associate Professor: 

Kory Zimney, D.P.T, Ph.D. Des Moines University - D.P.T., Nova Southwestern University - Ph.D. Specialization: Chronic Pain.

Assistant Professors:

Matthew Dewald, D.P.T, University of South Dakota. Specialization: Sports and Orthopedic Physical Therapy.
Jed Droge, D.P.T., University of Nebraska Medical Center. Specialization: Rural and Orthopedic Physical Therapy. 
Adam Ladwig, D.P.T, Ph.D., University of South Dakota. Specialization: Rural/General Practice.
Matthew Leedom, DPT, NCS, Creighton University. Specialization: Neuro Rehabilitation
Hsin-yi (Tanya) Liu, D.P.T., Ph.D. University of Pittsburg - Ph.D., Northeastern University - D.P.T. Specialization: Pediatric Physical Therapy and Assistive Technology.

Affiliate Professors:

Sarah Droge, D.P.T, University of Nebraska
Parker Joens, D.P.T, Creighton University


Doctor of Physical Therapy  

Doctor of Physical Therapy (D.P.T.)

Program Description

The University of South Dakota Physical Therapy Department offers a graduate level program for individuals seeking entry-level professional education. Physical therapy is concerned with the prevention of disability and the restoration of function following disease, injury, or loss of function. The goal of physical therapy is to help patients reach their maximum performance potential. Physical therapy, the science of healing and art of caring, involves evaluation, treatment planning, performance of tests and measures, client education, consultative services, and supervision of support personnel.

The American Physical Therapy Association Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education accredits the University of South Dakota Physical Therapy Department. The mission of the University of South Dakota Physical Therapy Department is to develop scholars, practitioners, and life-long learners who provide evidence based physical therapist services throughout the patient lifespan and demonstrate leadership within rural and medically underserved practice environments.

Application Deadline

Applications for admission are available through the Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS) a service of the American Physical Therapy Association. PTCAS will allow applicants to use a single Web-based application and one set of materials to apply to multiple physical therapist education programs. Please visit http://www.ptcas.org for application instructions. Applicants are encouraged to apply by the September deadline. No applications are accepted after the first working day of December.

In order to complete your Graduate School application to the University of South Dakota, you must submit a $35 application fee, in addition to the PTCAS fee. The USD Graduate Application Fee cannot be waived or deferred, and it is nonrefundable. The fee can be paid on the USD payment site website.

  • Preferred application deadline:
    • September 2, 2024
    • Interviews to be held in October
  • Final deadline:
    • December 2, 2024
    • Interviews to be held in February
  • Academic Update in PTCAS submission deadline:
    • first working day in January to be considered in committee review


  • Overall Cumulative GPA of 3.2 or better (as calculated by PTCAS), based on a 4.0 scale
  • Prerequisite GPA of 3.2 or better (includes only prerequisite coursework - as calculated by PTCAS), based on a 4.0 scale
  • Official transcript(s) verifying receipt of an undergraduate degree and all credit from all colleges/universities (in English or with translation) must accompany an application in PTCAS.
  • GRE General test. Official scores submitted to PTCAS using code 7814.
  • Minimum of 50 hours observing a licensed physical therapist. Hours must be verified through PTCAS and completed prior to the application deadline. Diversified observation experience is highly encouraged.
  • Three letters of reference (no reference from family members will be accepted and one reference is required from a physical therapist) 
  • Personal statement/essay (submitted directly in PTCAS)
  • Prerequisites:​
    • Fall interviews: 9 of the 12 prerequisites must be completed at application submission with 10 of the 12 prerequisites completed by the end of the fall semester in which you are applying 
    • Spring interviews: 10 of the 12 prerequisites completed by the end of the fall semester in which you are applying 
  • Bachelor’s and/or master’s degree (or approved 3+3 curriculum as outlined below) and all prerequisite courses must be completed by June 1 prior to beginning the DPT program. No preference is given to any specific field of undergraduate study.
  • CLEP and pass/fail coursework may not be used in fulfillment of prerequisite courses that require a lab component 
  • AP coursework may be used in fulfillment of prerequisite courses. A minimum score of 4/5 must be met. Official score report must be sent directly to USD using code 6881.
  • Personal interview with the USD Physical Therapy Department by invitation
  • Additional requirements exist for international students and applicants with degrees from other countries


Specific prerequisite courses are required and must be completed by June 1 of the year they intend to begin the USD PT program. Prerequisite courses must be completed in the following content areas:

Biology (for majors)1 

8 semester credit hours (2 courses, each with lab)

Chemistry (for majors)2

8 semester credit hours (2 courses, each with lab)


8 semester credit hours (2 courses, each with lab)


3 semester credit hours

General Psychology 

3 semester credit hours

Developmental Psychology4

3 semester credit hours

Abnormal Psychology

3 semester credit hours

Human Anatomy5

3 semester credit hours

Human Physiology5  

3 semester credit hours (1 course with lab)

1Acceptable Biology course content include Cell Biology, Embryology, General Biology, Genetics, Histology, Microbiology, and/or Molecular Biology 
2Acceptable Chemistry course content include Biochemistry, General Chemistry, and/or Organic Chemistry
3Acceptable Statistics course content include Biostatistics, Business Statistics, Psychology Statistics, or Introduction to Statistics
4Acceptable Developmental Psychology course content include Developmental Psychology, Lifespan Development/Psychology, Adolescent Psychology, Child Psychology, and/or Growth & Development
5Or a combined Human Anatomy/Physiology course with a minimum of 6 credit hours with lab taken over 2 semesters

Accelerated DPT Option: Biology, B.S.-Human Dynamics specialization with DPT standard program  

3+3 PROGRAM OPTION (by application to the program through PTCAS)

This early-entry option is available, by application, to eligible University of South Dakota students in the B.S. Biology - Human Dynamics specialization.

Students pursuing a B.S. in Biology with specialization in Human Dynamics at USD through the 3+3 option are eligible to apply for admissions to the USD DPT program if they meet the following criteria:

  1. enrolled in the B.S. in Biology with specialization in Human Dynamics undergraduate program;
  2. earn 91 curriculum path undergraduate credits by the end of the junior year;
  3. meet all major, distribution, general education, and testing requirements in accord with institutional and regental policies, guidelines, and requirements by the end of the junior year;
  4. receive a letter of recommendation from a professor teaching in the Biology, BS, Human Dynamics specialization attesting not only to the student’s intellectual strengths, but specifically addressing the student’s maturity, work ethic, and overall readiness for graduate school; (in addition to the recommendation required as part of the standard PT admissions process).
  5. complete the standard application for admission to the DPT program through PTCAS in the fall of their third year;
  6. meet all admission and prerequisite requirements outlined above;
  7. obtain your final degree audit from the USD Office of the Registrar attesting that you have successfully achieved all minimum requirements prior to enrolling.

Students interested in this 3+3 option should submit their intent form to the PT department by the beginning of the third undergraduate semester. If a 3+3 program applicant moderately deviates from these requirements, and demonstrates evidence of extraordinary character, leadership, and maturity, the Physical Therapy program reserves the right to make an exception and grant admission in that case.

Admission to the DPT program is competitive and not guaranteed for these applicants.

Students who do not gain competitive admission to the PT program through the 3+3 supplement 12 credits of upper division BIOL credits and 17 credits of other electives in their final year, earning their Human Dynamics specialization at the end of the 4th year. These students are eligible for reapplication along a traditional 4+3 timeline, using guidelines established and published for the admissions cycle.

Students admitted under the 3+3 option will pay standard undergraduate tuition and fees and receive federal financial aid under the rules for undergraduate students during the first three years as an undergraduate student. If the student is admitted to the Physical Therapy program and begins the first-year course of study, you will be billed and receive funding as a PT student. Standard financial aid as a PT student includes the ability to borrow the total cost of attendance, which includes the cost of tuition and fees as well as the estimated cost of living.

[key word search: 3+3 or 3 plus 3 program]

Accepted Students

Upon contingent acceptance into the physical therapy program, applicants are required to complete three steps to secure your seat:

  1. Pay a $400 seat deposit
  2. Submit and pay for a criminal background check (approximately $100)
  3. Sign off that you are able to perform the tasks outlined in the Essential Functions and Technical Standards document

Admitted students are required to show proof of comprehensive personal health insurance and comply with all immunization policies as required by USD Health Affairs.

WICHE Applicants

The University of South Dakota participates in the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education’s Professional Student Exchange Program. For more information about this program, including states that participate in physical therapy programming, please access a handout at: https://www.wiche.edu/tuition-savings/psep/psep-faq/.

Student Learning Outcomes for Physical Therapy (D.P.T.)

  1. The Program will provide an entry level, professional graduate program with an intensive curriculum leading to a Doctorate in Physical Therapy degree and successful state licensure.  
  2. Students/graduates will demonstrate skills in the provision of interprofessional, patient-centered care within medically underserved and rural clinic environments.  
  3. Students/graduates will demonstrate personal and professional growth and development that draws on leadership opportunities, ethical behavior, and a commitment to service.  
  4. Students/graduates will appropriately use evidence to inform practice and scholarly endeavors and to develop lifelong learning behaviors.