The History of Rehabilitation at McGill

The School has a remarkable history, marked by a tradition of ongoing innovation and leadership. Our School is one of the oldest in Canada, beginning in 1943 as a program for physical therapists, and evolving into the first Canadian BSc program in Physical and Occupational Therapy in 1954. Our PhD program in Rehabilitation Science, now over twenty years old, was also the first doctoral program in this field in Canada. We have the only Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy programs in the country with two entry points for admission. Our School now has close to 700 students enrolled in 8 different undergraduate and graduate programs including two on-line graduate certificates.

In response to the marked need for rehabilitation specialists in Canada at the time of the Second World War, the School of Physiotherapy was started at McGill University in 1943. It was the first Canadian School to be under the aegis of a Faculty of Medicine. Initially, the School offered a two-year program in physiotherapy plus internship, and was upgraded to a three-year program in 1947. In 1950, Occupational Therapy was introduced in a three-year combined Physical and Occupational Therapy diploma program, followed by two months of internship in each profession. The School was given its present name - the School of Physical & Occupational Therapy - the following year. In 1954, McGill introduced Canada's first BSc program in Physical & Occupational Therapy, together with separate diploma programs in Physical Therapy and in Occupational Therapy.

Due to the advancement of science and technology and to the increasing emphasis on health care needs of society, the programs have evolved, integrating a greater academic and scientific base over the ensuing decades. Thus, the diploma programs were phased out, allowing for the creation of the BSc degree in Physical Therapy in 1969, and the BSc degree in Occupational Therapy in 1971. The School vigilantly and continuously revises these science-based curricula, to prepare the best qualified graduates for entry into professional practice or advanced studies in rehabilitation. At the graduate level, an MSc (Applied) program in Health Science (Rehabilitation) was initiated in 1972 and formally approved in 1976. To provide the foundation for the development of a doctorate degree, it was changed from an applied to a thesis degree (MSc. Rehab. Sci.) in 1982. Since 1988, the School has offered a PhD program in Rehabilitation Science, the first of its kind in Canada.

The School began offering online Graduate Certificate in Driving Rehabilitation, in early 2006, followed by the online Graduate Certificate in Chronic Pain Management, in fall of 2012. See program details here

From 2007-2009, the School transitioned from the former B.Sc. (Occupational Therapy or Physical Therapy) to offering a non-practicing undergraduate degree and a professional Master’s degree, after which graduates are eligible to apply for a license to practice. The undergraduate degree is a B.Sc. Rehabilitation Science (with a major in Occupational Therapy or Physical Therapy), providing foundational knowledge in the life sciences (e.g. anatomy, physiology), human movement (e.g. biomechanics), psychology, and statistics. The first class of the new professional Master’s degree, designated M.Sc. Applied (Occupational Therapy or Physical Therapy), completed their studies in fall 2010 and convocated in spring 2011.


The Rich History of our Buildings

Hosmer House

Built in 1901, for Ogilvie Flour Mill founder Charles Hosmer, this heritage building and its coach house have housed teaching, research and adminstrative facilities of the School of Physical & Occupational Therapy since 1969.

Davis House

Built in 1909 for contractor James T. Davis and designed by architects Edward and W.S. Maxwell. The teaching, research and administrative facilities of the School of Physical & Occupational Therapy have been housed here since 1956.

Featured Video

Sparks and Waves: The use of electricity, light and sound in Physiotherapy

Featured Article

The Stained Glass of the Hosmer Collection, a lavishly illustrated book containing Hosmer House treasures.

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