Former Harvard professor brings expertise to new respiratory therapy program

October 31, 2019

Before coming to Liberty University last summer to develop the new Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Therapy, program director Dr. Brian Walsh spent eight years as an associate professor of anesthesia at Harvard Medical School and served as clinical research coordinator at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Respiratory therapy is the latest undergraduate degree program to be offered through Liberty’s Department of Allied Health Professions, which also includes athletic training, exercise science, and physical education & health as well as a master’s degree in human performance.

“We are continuing to grow the program offerings within the School of Health Sciences to develop Champions for Christ in the field of healthcare,” said Walsh, who holds an M.B.A. from Liberty, a bachelor’s in respiratory therapy from Old Dominion University, and a Ph.D. in health sciences with a concentration in respiratory therapy from Rush University in Chicago.

Known for his clinical expertise in the management and education of pediatric respiratory disorders, Walsh was the editor for the fifth edition of Neonatal and Pediatric Respiratory Care. He has been a fellow on the board of the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) since 2006 and served as president from 2017-18. Former board fellow John Lindsey has joined Walsh as director of clinical education for the new program.

The program is preparing students to assess and treat patients who have a dysfunction of the cardiopulmonary system. That includes the treatment of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) — the third-leading cause of death in the United States. Respiratory therapists also provide emergency care to patients suffering from heart attacks, trauma, drowning, or shock.

Students receive hands-on learning in seminars and lab experiences before performing clinical training in hospitals. Over the summer, Liberty completed a 2,700-square-foot respiratory therapy lab in the Center for Natural Sciences. The facility features cardiopulmonary function lab equipment, mechanical ventilators, breathing simulators, aerosol generators, and high-fidelity mannequins.

“The lab is vitally important and is a requirement for specialized training prior to clinical or patient interactions,” Walsh said. “Respiratory therapy is a pretty specialized field, but it is actually one of the fastest-growing fields in the medical profession. We are more hospital-based, so we largely work in the critical-care environment.”

The U.S. Department of Labor anticipates respiratory therapy positions growing by 23 percent by 2026, much faster than average for all occupations in the medical field. Since respiratory therapy programs are only available at approximately 20 percent of four-year degree programs in the country, Liberty graduates will be highly sought after when entering the workforce.

In addition to the residential program, Liberty also offers an online Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Therapy post-licensure degree program for registered respiratory therapists who have an associate degree. Both the residential and online degree programs are accredited through the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC).

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