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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Graduates first from EWU’s PT doctoral program

Amber Wagenblast spent much of her time as a member of Eastern Washington University’s first class of doctoral students away from its campus entirely.

The physical therapy major visited a local preschool each week to help a little girl learn to cut paper, color and ride a tricycle. This 4-year-old, who suffered a stroke while still in her mother’s womb, needed Wagenblast’s help to improve her motor skills.

Last weekend Wagenblast and 33 other students in her class graduated from EWU’s new doctoral program in physical therapy, which was approved by the Washington state Legislature in 2001.

Eastern is the only regional public university in Washington offering a doctorate degree in physical therapy – or in any subject.

Obtaining a doctoral degree is increasingly becoming the standard for physical therapists, said Byron Russell, chairman of Eastern’s Department of Physical Therapy. Opening the program has allowed the school to compete with the other Northwest schools that confer doctorates, including the University of Washington, the University of Montana, the University of Idaho, the University of Puget Sound and Pacific University.

There’s no shortage of interest in the program. Eastern limits the doctoral class to 34 students, but receives about 100 applications a year from prospective students, Russell said.

“There is such a high demand for physical therapists in the community,” he said. “Lots of baby boomers are getting to need the services.”

A physical therapist working at a Spokane hospital earns a starting salary of about $50,000 a year, Russell said.

These days, the little girl Wagenblast treated now longer needs her help to push off on her tricycle. She can dress herself and she’s getting better at cutting and drawing, Wagenblast said during a presentation of her work to professors and classmates last week.

Wagenblast seemed thrilled about her own accomplishments, too, when she returned to her seat after the speech.

“I’m done!” she exclaimed, clenching her fists in victory.

Safe at home? Less so in Washington

Washington state residents die more frequently from home-related injuries than most of the rest of the nation.

There are 8.1 home-related deaths per 100,000 residents in Washington, the seventh highest rate in the country, according to the Home Safety Council. Most of those deaths were caused by poisonings, followed by falls, fires and burns.

Idaho ranked 16th, with slightly more falls than poisonings.

The council recommends three steps to increase safety at home:

“Post the Poison Control hotline number – (800) 222-1222 – by your phone.

“Set your hot-water heater to 120 degrees or cooler.

“Install lighting at the top and bottom of stairways.

For more tips, visit

There’s no word on why Washingtonians are more reckless than residents in 43 other states and Washington D.C. Perhaps it’s our wild-west mentality.

The safest state? Massachusetts, with only 3.3 deaths per 100,000 residents.

Dental scholarships available

The Washington Dental Service Foundation is offering scholarships to minority students pursuing careers as dental hygienists, dental assistants and lab technicians.

The scholarships, typically $5,000 depending on need, can be used for tuition, books and other academic expenses.

On average, hygienists are paid $34 to $38 per hour, and dental assistants and technicians earn $15 to $20 per hour, the foundation says.

For more information, visit or call (800) 572-7835, ext. 2337.

Birth, death and some stuff in between

Kindergarten teachers can start mass-producing their 2008 name tags now – Emma and Jacob were the most popular names in Washington in 2003.

That tidbit is among the data the Washington state Department of Health recently released in its annual report “Vital Statistics 2003.” Other facts include:

“More than 80,000 babies were born in 2003, but the birth rate — the number of births per 1,000 people — is among the lowest on record.

“Fewer women are receiving prenatal care during pregnancy, going from 83 percent in recent years to 81.5 percent in 2003.

“Washington men can expect to live to age 76 while women make it to 80, on average.

“In 2003, more than 39,000 couples married and more than 26,000 divorces occurred. The state’s least populated county, Garfield, had only 15 marriages and eight divorces.

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