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Physical therapy assistant program starts at Lanier Techs Forsyth campus
Cody Thompson is the director of the new two-year certified physical therapist program at the Forsyth County campus of Lanier Technical College. - photo by Micah Green

SOUTH FORSYTH — The Forsyth County branch of an area college is training its first class to become certified physical therapist assistants.

Lanier Technical College accepted 18 students into a two-year program under the direction of Cody Thompson. Classes began in fall 2014 with a graduation date of May 2016.

Thompson, who moved to Georgia from Birmingham, Ala., to take on the pioneer directorial role at the local campus on Majors Road, said he teaches with another full-time faculty member, Colleen Youtsey, and four adjunct professors.

Students in this first class range in age from recent high school graduates to age 50, Thompson said. They are part of a program that is “the sixth of our kind in Georgia and the third in the metro-Atlanta area.”

“We go really in depth into human anatomy, how the body functions and moves,” Thompson said. “They’ll come out with a pretty extensive knowledge of disease processes and different patient populations that have prevalent diseases.”

Students will learn how to “address dysfunctions with people’s movement, walking and gait patterns.”

Upon completion of the program, they will be prepared to take the board exam for any state, which qualifies them as a physical therapist assistant.

The program uses two classrooms and two labs containing assistive devices including walkers, crutches, wheelchairs and weight equipment. There are also traction tables, treadmills and balance equipment.

Thompson — a 10-year physical therapist who specialized in treating elderly patients and was an adjunct professor at a community college in Alabama — said the new space includes a mock hospital room with an electric bed and handicapped-accessible bathroom that allows students to simulate working with patients.

The five-semester program, which consists of one pre-requisite and four technical phases, was developed “based on a needs assessment within the community.”

“[Lanier Tech] probed the community and determined what programs would help … produce jobs and increase employment within the area,” Thompson said. “It’s tailored around producing jobs like any other technical college.”

That need, he said, was to prepare graduates to be health and wellness educators.

“With all of the health care changes,” Thompson said, “that prompts us to be educators about how to improve our overall function.”