Dan Malone named director of the CU Physical Therapy Hybrid Pathway
Get to know Dr. Dan MaloneZachary Noriega, MPA | Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation/CU School of Medicine Jan 12, 2024
In 2022, the University of Colorado received approval from the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) to begin a hybrid learning pathway. Utilizing resources and talent from both CU Anschutz and UCCS, the universities plan to provide a unified academic curriculum for students pursuing a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. Students in the DPT hybrid pathway at UCCS will spend the same amount of time in clinical rotations and have the same graduation requirements as the residential DPT pathway students at CU Anschutz. Students in the UCCS hybrid DPT pathway will have the option to live in Colorado Springs throughout their DPT education and commute to the William J. Hybl Sports Medicine and Performance Center for approximately 7-14 days of intensive lab immersion within each semester or learning block. The rest of the course content occurs online in synchronous or asynchronous format, allowing the students to reside in their local communities.
Dan Malone, PT, PhD, CCS, has been named director of the hybrid pathway, with the first cohort of students matriculating in the summer of 2024. Dr. Malone, associate professor of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, joined the CU Physical Therapy faculty in September of 2011 and has assumed a number of roles during his time with the program. His service includes Team CAPTE leadership, the Faculty Advisory Committee, chair of the Curriculum Committee, the Hybrid Development Task Force, the Scheduling Task Force, and most recently, as associate director of the CU Physical Therapy Program.
1. What are you most excited about with launching the hybrid pathway?
I think there is a lot to be excited about regarding the hybrid pathway. It may sound cliché, but hybrid education allows our students to “learn where they live”. I think hybrid education provides further evidence of the evolution of physical therapist education. There has been dramatic transformation of physical therapy education over the last several decades, including the transition from a bachelor's, to a master's, to a doctoral degree. This evolution in the degrees being awarded recognizes the increasing emphasis on developing clinicians who are making complex clinical decisions across settings and patient populations. Today’s physical therapist needs to be aware of, and address the challenges in, rising health care costs and limited reimbursement while facilitating interdisciplinary collaboration and increasing patient access to rehabilitation. Hybrid PT education has the potential to address many of these challenges by growing student applicant pools, increasing student accessibility to higher education across Colorado and the nation, increasing flexibility within a student’s schedule allowing more equitable work-life balance, growing faculty and faculty expertise, and providing students access to expert clinicians and educators who are no longer limited to a specific region, or a commute. Overall, this will be highly beneficial to our students and faculty, and ultimately increase faculty and student representation across underserved and under-represented populations. Hybrid education has the potential to bridge gaps and address health care disparities by increasing access to rehabilitation services in rural areas and underserved populations.
2. Will you be re-locating to Colorado Springs?
The short answer is no. However, the longer answer is that not moving shouldn’t be misinterpreted as being a “virtual” director. My plan is to be in Colorado Springs as often as needed and then some. Many tasks, responsibilities, and duties can be managed by leveraging virtual resources, but sometimes there is nothing like a handshake or a personal one-on-one meeting. The Hybrid Pathway is a collaboration between both the Anschutz and UCCS campuses. That means that the Hybrid Pathway, including faculty, students, clinical partners, and the hybrid pathway director, are part of both communities.
3. Tell us about the process of getting the hybrid pathway started and your involvement with that process?
The hybrid pathway has truly been a collaborative effort involving the time, talent and energy of many people. I don’t think it would be fair or accurate to describe my specific involvement because teamwork and collaboration really defined the “process”. The old saying that, “many hands make lighter work,” certainly encapsulates the process. The creation of a new PT hybrid pathway didn’t just happen. The planning and implementation have been years in the making, (preceding the COVID-19 pandemic), and involved determining a needs analysis to provide clarity on the ever-changing health care landscape with an eye towards geography, work force and population trends nationally, as well as regionally (southern Colorado, eastern plains, etc.). By collaborating with our partners at UCCS, we could determine availability of educational space and education resources (lecture and laboratory facilities, equipment, information technology, etc.) Additionally, we needed to survey our current faculty to determine interest and bandwidth for course development. That survey prompted CU PT to identify gaps leading to interviewing and hiring new faculty to fill instructional gaps. We’ve also had to modify our application and admission processes so we can admit our inaugural student cohort. There is so much more that enabled the hybrid development process to be successful. I would also note the ongoing support from the CU School of Medicine and UCCS leadership. That support can’t be understated. Teamwork and collaboration across both campuses has been the key.
4. What challenges do you anticipate with a new educational pathway?
No doubt we will experience some “growing pains”. I also have no doubts that our successes will far outweigh our growing pains. However, I fully expect some trial and error as we launch our new educational pathway. The number one challenge will be transitioning our curriculum into the hybrid space. We have certainly learned a lot resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic accelerated the learning curve for online and blended learning. However, we didn’t stop with ongoing development as the pandemic has slowly subsided. Our faculty, including our new faculty, have been, and continue to work with, an instructional design team to support course development. We have been working with UCCS support staff and faculty to order all equipment and necessary supplies. The CU PT Recruitment & Admissions Team has been working to fill our inaugural cohort with qualified applicants/students who are prepared and committed to this learning style. The CU PT leadership team has been busy creating and confirming class schedules, hiring new faculty, working on administrative support structures, and ordering equipment and supplies. All of this requires the coordinated efforts of many people across both the Anschutz and UCCS campuses. Although there are challenges, we have a development plan and we are absolutely checking off the boxes as we get closer to admitting the inaugural class.
5. What does this new role mean to you personally and professionally?
Personally, I am excited to be a part of a great team that is doing great work to bring the hybrid pathway forward. I’ve been fortunate to have great colleagues and leadership who have supported my advancement in the PT Program. Professionally, being appointed the PT hybrid pathway director allows me to continue to grow in my leadership and management skills. For example, I know I need to improve my organizational and delegation skills, communication skills, and decision-making skills. Being organized, managing time, prioritizing tasks for goal attainment, and successfully delegating are all marks of a good leader. These are skills that I possess but need to be finely tuned. Additionally, I know that effective communication is also a skill that can always be improved. I believe I do well listening to others and weighing alternative points of view, but articulating precise expectations is key to avoiding misinterpretation or confusing expectations. As we continue with the development of the hybrid pathway, there is no doubt that critical decisions will routinely pop up during the day or week. It is important for me to not just consider the impact on daily operations, but also to have an eye on the future. Again, this is a skill that I can further develop. I am embracing the challenge.