A group of physical therapy students looking a model of a spine

Become a Leader in the Field of Geriatric Physical Therapy

If you're a physical therapists working with the growing population of aging adults and want to learn the exciting new research that demonstrates PT can dramatically improve the quality of life as we age, this is the program for you. Our post professional Fellowship in Optimal Aging is designed for US licensed physical therapists and includes online coursework, virtual rounds and one-on-one mentored time.
Online Accelerated

Doctoral Certificate: Fellowship in Optimal Aging

Degree Overview

Regis University's Post Professional Fellowship in Optimal Aging is the first of its kind! Why is this new program important to you as a practicing clinician? As older adults comprise an increasing segment of the U.S. population, if you are not currently working with this patient population, you will be! It is very important for adults to age as optimally as possible and to recover from any declines rapidly in order to offset the serious physical, psychological and financial consequences of suboptimal aging.

Consider this:

  • Being the first with such recognition illustrates your commitment to leadership in the field
  • Being the first of a group of distinguished fellows in Optimal Aging sets you up in a position to guide the profession in this critical area of practice
  • Gaining recognition as a fellow in Optimal Aging can help to grow your clinical practice

If you're interested in learning the exciting new research that demonstrates that PT can dramatically improve the quality of life as we age, this is the program for you. Did you know that accurately prescribed PT improves patient's ability to get up and down from chairs, climb stairs, walk faster, walk further, and perform hobbies and recreational activities? It has also been shown to increase social contacts, improve quality of life scores, decrease pain, decrease hospital and ER use, and increase time spent living in an independent setting.

The combination of didactic and clinical learning in this option will prepare the fellow to sit for the GCS and pass it without excessive preparation. In addition it will provide application to the didactic training that a person just studying and preparing for the GCS may not have. All fellowship students need to have achieved clinical specialist status prior to graduation. This can be in any area of specialization except Pediatrics. It is not required before acceptance into the fellowship program, but applicants who do not have specialist status should be able to show evidence that they will be able to attain this by completion of the program.

You don't have to relocate to do this! The online nature of the course work allows clinicians from all over the United States, who want to continue working and the opportunity to expand and gain knowledge with little work/life interruption. In addition to online course work, students will attend several weekend sessions on campus to practice hands-on skills and collaborate with faculty in person. Emphasis will be placed on advanced clinical decision-making, outcomes evaluation, and autonomous patient management. Courses focus on best practice integrating manual therapy, motor control and exercise. Examples of topics includes emphasis on screening tools, pharmacological, psychosocial, and nutritional considerations, and reimbursement models specific to this population. Risk identification, exercise prescription, fitness enhancement, and general health strategies are also studied, giving consideration to motivation and cultural issues that impact healthy lifestyle choices. The program is typically completed in one to one-and-a-half years.

U.S. licensed physical therapists holding a BSPT, MSPT or DPT are eligible to apply to the Fellowship program. Applicants that are not currently DPT prepared will need to consult with the program coordinator to determine their readiness for the program and may need to complete modules prior to starting the program. This is determined on an individual basis.

 Learn more about graduation rates, the median debt of students who completed this program and other important information regarding gainful employment for the current academic year.


Program Requirements

Listed below are the required courses for completion of the Fellowship in Optimal Aging Certificate at Regis University. The total certificate requires 18 semester hours.

Fellowship in Optimal Aging Certificate Requirements
DPT 751T Management of Spine Disorders within Aging Population (3 semester hours)
DPT 754T Management of Neurological Disorders in Aging Population (3 semester hours)
DPT 755T Management of Lower Extremity Disorders with Aging Population (3 semester hours)
DPT 757T Current Concepts in Aging (3 semester hours)
DPT 758T Health & Wellness in Aging Populations (3 semester hours)
DPT 791T Virtual Rounds and Clinical Practice in the Aging Population (3 semester hours)

Please note that recent course requirement updates may not be reflected in the list above. For further information contact the Office of Admissions at 303.458.4344.


Regis University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association.

Commission URL: http://www.ncahlc.org/
Commission Phone: 312.263.0456

Fall 2014-Summer 2015

Tuition (per semester hour) $535
Other Fees
Application Fee $50
Background Check (external agency fee) $60
Graduation Application Fee $50

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Student Biographies

Debbie Hanka PT, GCS

Debbie graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1995 with a Bachelors Degree in Physical Therapy. In 2005, she became a Geriatric Certified Specialist through the American Board of Physical Therapy. She has been a member of APTA since 1993 and is a geriatrics section member. Debbie has been active in the MN Chapter as a peer reviewer and previous Quality Practice Training & Education Co-Chair.

For the past 3 years, Debbie has worked for a community based non-profit and an insurance company to coordinate health and wellness programs for older adults; as an adjunct professor, guest speaker and clinical instructor at St. Catherine’s University’s DPT program for 5 years and as physical therapist in a variety of settings for 12 years primarily treating older adults.

In 2011, Debbie began the transition Doctor of Physical Therapy program and Fellowship in Optimal Aging at Regis University. She lives in Minneapolis, MN with her husband Greg. They have three grown children who live in AZ and CA. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, yoga, biking and hiking.

Laura Sage PT, MEd, WCC

Laura has been practicing physical therapy in a variety of clinical settings since graduating from Boston University’s Sargent College with a BS in 1981. She earned her Masters in Education from University of Massachusetts, Boston in 1991. Her areas of clinical specialty are wound care and clinical education. The five year Wound Care Certification (WCC) was renewed in 2010. She has been a credentialed CI instructor since 2003.

Since 2004 Laura has served on the Commission for Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education. After participating in 4 on-site review teams, she is now a commissioner on the PTA panel.

Laura serves locally as the chairperson and treasurer of the Clinical Educators Forum. This group of Denver area clinical and academic clinical educators meets monthly during the school year to address and discuss issues pertinent to PT and PTA students in the clinic. Laura is also on the Advisory Board of the Pima Medical Institute PTA program, where she has been a guest lecturer in wound care.

She has worked in four states: New York, Massachusetts and California (where she worked a total of 15 years providing home care), and now in Colorado. She is presently working full-time at Longmont United Hospital as an outpatient wound care specialist three afternoons a week, and as an acute care PT. Her responsibilities also include coordinating the PT student program as the CCCE. She served as the lead physical therapist from 2003 through 2008.

For the last 5 years Laura has been an affiliate faculty member at Regis University, assisting the lab component of the medical management course and participating in practical exams. In both 2010 and 2011 she assisted Regis faculty and students in data collection for their geriatric exercise study. She is in the Clinical Scholars program, committed to a close relationship with the Regis program and their students in the clinic.

As an APTA member Laura has joined many specialty sections, including Geriatrics, Acute Care, Electro & Wound Care and Education. Continuing education courses have included attending national conferences, particularly the Combined Sections meetings. Content areas have ranged from balance and geriatric orthopedics & manual therapy to wound care, differential diagnosis and clinical education.

In her free time, Laura enjoys travel and hiking, having recently hiked down to Phantom Ranch in the Grand Canyon. She is also a quilter. In the past 15 years she has designed and created bed-sized quilts as well as wall-hanging art quilts. She earned the Toastmasters “Competent Communicator” distinction in 2010.

Deborah L. Walker PT, MPT, OCS

Deborah Walker is a devoted Christian whose ministry is physical therapy. Ms.Walker is the proud wife of a deployed California Army National Guard SFC, and of her four children, young men ages fourteen through twenty. Ms.Walker has been a board certified specialist in Orthopedics since 1999. Ms. Walker graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University Long Beach in 1988, and from the University of Southern California in 1990 with a Masters degree in Physical Therapy. Ms. Walker spent her first two years as a physical therapist working at Rancho Los Amigos Medical Center in the inpatient orthopedic service which included patients with orthopedic, plastics, problem fracture, and rheumatologic diagnoses. Ms. Walker has spent the majority of her career as clinical educator or senior physical therapist in the outpatient orthopedic clinic for Long Beach Memorial Medical Center and Loma Linda University Medical Center, in Southern California. Ms. Walker has recently left orthopedics to pursue a part time consultation position at a therapist owned outpatient physical therapy clinic that specializes in neurologic disorders, to pursue her transitional Doctorate degree in Physical Therapy, and to work in home health physical therapy. Ms. Walker is pending graduation from Regis University with her tDPT in spring 2011. Ms. Walker is beginning the Fellowship in Optimal Aging in preparation for sitting for the clinical specialist examination in geriatrics. Ms. Walker is interested in fall prevention in the elderly, and clinical research that contributes to the establishment of clinical prediction rules for the evidence based treatment of falls with an emphasis on prevention.