UPIKE, WKU collaborate on health programs

NIB_UPIKE_WKU_0001A partnership between the University of Pikeville and Western Kentucky University will make three health-related master’s degree programs available to students in eastern Kentucky and provide access to WKU students in UPIKE’s College of Optometry.

UPIKE President James L. Hurley and WKU President Gary A. Ransdell made the announcement today at the Pikeville campus.

“Dr. Hurley and I began conversations a year ago about how WKU and UPIKE could work together, and I’m pleased we’ve quickly moved to put three programs in place that he and his stakeholders have identified as high priority,” Dr. Ransdell said.

“We are excited about the UPIKE-WKU ‘East Meets West’ strategic and natural partnership,” Dr. Hurley said. “UPIKE and WKU have long traditions of creating educational opportunities for students from across the Commonwealth.”

WKU will begin by offering a Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) pathway program this fall that includes all of the pre-requisite courses students need to qualify for the master’s program in Communication Disorders, which will be available in fall 2015. Both the SLP and master’s programs are fully online. The master’s program is accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology.

The Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) will also be available by fall 2015. This online program is designed so that current UPIKE medical school students and those completing their residency program can complete both the MHA and their medical degree simultaneously. The program is a member of the Association of University Programs in Health Administration.

In fall 2016, WKU will offer the Master of Social Work at UPIKE, a web-based format. WKU’s MSW Program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.

UPIKE is also offering access to WKU students seeking careers in optometry.

“The University of Pikeville is developing a pre-optometry track and will offer five guaranteed admission slots per year to WKU undergraduate students who meet the program criteria and 15 guaranteed admission slots to UPIKE students,” said Dr. Hurley. “This will be similar to our Osteopathic Medical Scholars Program, which provides guaranteed admission to the university’s Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine. Like our medical school, the mission of the Kentucky College of Optometry will be focused on access and rural healthcare. As the only college of optometry in Kentucky and the 22nd school in the nation, our first ‘off-campus’ guaranteed admission program would provide opportunities for WKU students and address the need for optometrists in the western part of the state.”

The WKU programs are housed in the University’s College of Health and Human Services.

“The mission of the WKU College of Health and Human Services is to provide diverse educational opportunities leading to excellence in health and human services for a global community,” said Dr. John Bonaguro, Dean of the WKU-CHHS. “By offering these programs via distance learning, we can help address critical needs in Kentucky, including a shortage of speech pathologists and social workers in the Pikeville area. The MHA will be important particularly to physicians who need to understand the business model for healthcare financing and in operating a physician practice.”

Dr. Hurley said cooperation is key to meeting the needs across the Commonwealth.

“President Ransdell and I firmly believe in public-private partnerships and educational investment,” he said. “I fully expect the University of Pikeville to extend some of our degree programs to the WKU campus in the near future. Our intent and common vision is very clear – to enhance opportunity and access for students to obtain higher education degrees in a non-duplicated manner. This is a win-win partnership for higher education in Kentucky.”

Dr. Ransdell agreed.

“This is a unique collaboration between private and public institutions, and although geography separates us by a nearly 300-mile span from east to west across the Commonwealth, technology and the willingness of both our institutions to meet the needs of Kentucky’s communities wherever they may be makes this partnership possible,” he said.

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