Duke Doctor of Physical Therapy Program Celebrates 80th Commencement


The Class of 2024, a group of 94 remarkable individuals, was formally hooded and awarded their doctorates on Saturday, May 11, in a special ceremony at the Washington Duke Inn. This momentous occasion marked the 80th class to graduate from the esteemed Duke physical therapy program.

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(l to r) W. Todd Cade, PT, PhD and Kimberlyn Hayes

“As you step into the world as a Duke graduate, you become part of a rich history, joining the  2,176-DPT graduate family. You are now a living part of the Duke legacy, carrying forward its values and traditions,” shared W. Todd Cade, PT, PhD, Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) division chief.

Duke School of Medicine, Vice Dean for Education, Edward Buckley, MD, smiled at the podium and remarked, “I am honored to be here today to celebrate your outstanding achievements. This moment has profound significance. It is a time to celebrate the unconditional love from your family that has gotten you to this point. You have not just learned; you have transformed. This is the beginning of a lifetime in healthcare. Your impact on your patients’ lives will be profound and meaningful.”

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Wesley Bell-Pritzlaff, Vice President, DPT '24

He encouraged the cohort to remember the word, perspective. "My perspective will be different than yours at this moment. Remember this when you are working with patients. They will arrive with worry, pain, and fear, and you will need to understand their perspective to provide them with honest solutions. Your perspective today marks a culmination of the spirit and celebration we feel together. Remember that each patient encounter is meaningful because you bring hope during an uncertain time. Learning never ends – it’s a lifelong journey. Constant improvement is not a slogan; it’s a lifestyle. I am honored to have played a small role in your journey.”

Benjamin Alman, MD, chair of the Duke Orthopaedic Surgery Department, revealed why the DPT program is housed within the Orthopaedic Surgery department at Duke. “Physical therapists improve patients' lives much more than a surgeon can do alone. Remember what you do for your patients. You bring joy to their lives. Joy is long-lasting. It’s the feeling you get from the patients that you treat. Always use that feeling as your true ‘north.’”

He continued, “The few things I know is that there will always be change. When you started this program, it was during COVID. You learned how to adapt. Use those lessons as you move forward in your lives. Today is a step in your life. Continue with your education and with your experiences in life. I congratulate you on this tremendous step forward as successful physical therapists.”

Watch the archived ceremony.