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UBC expanding physical therapy program into Surrey

First cohort to start the fall and move into the Surrey space at City Centre 1 in 2023
UBC president and vice-chancellor Santa Ono speaks at an announcement for an expansion of the university’s master of physical therapy program into Surrey on June 23, 2022. The program will be in the City Centre 1 tower on the second floor (across from Surrey Memorial Hospital) where the announcement was held. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

UBC has made another step in its expansion into Surrey.

The University of British Columbia announced Thursday that a new training space will be coming to Surrey for the post-secondary institution’s master of physical therapy program.

The provincial government held the announcement at the City Centre 1 building in Whalley on Thursday (June 23), with Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training Anne Kang, Surrey-Green Timbers MLA Rachna Singh and UBC president and vice-chancellor Santa Ono.

The program, which will be hosting its first cohort in Surrey starting in 2023, will be on the second floor of Lark Group’s City Centre 1 building at the Health and Technology District, which is across the street from Surrey Memorial Hospital.

“We know that physical therapists are in high demand throughout British Columbia and especially here in the Fraser Valley,” explained Ono.

“This is precisely why we at UBC are focused on working with government to create more programs spaces in Surrey and beyond, so that we can create new opportunities for students to learn and train locally where they’ll build deep connections with their communities.”

The ministry says the space will be transformed to create teaching and research laboratories, seminar rooms, student learning commons, offices for faculty and multi-purpose space for assessment, treatment and health promotion.

The provincial government is also providing $24.9 million toward the $32.8-million project. UBC will be funding the remaining $7.9 million.

Construction on retrofitting the space is set to begin in the fall.

Once open, the new Surrey space will increase the programs capacity to 120 seats from 100.

Demot Kelleher, UBC’s dean for the faculty of medicine and vice-president of health, said the university recently expanded into northern B.C.

Kelleher said students are “more likely to stay on and practice” in the communities they’re trained in.

Aman Bassi, a Surrey high school graduate, is a second-year physical therapy student.

“In my experience and clinical placement in the Fraser region,” said the former Princess Margaret Secondary student, “I’ve come to better understand the unique biological, sociological and spiritual factors that impact people in this region.

“And how being from the region itself has allowed me to understand these factors from the same perspective as the community.”

It was back in November that UBC announced it would be expanding into Surrey, with UBC Properties Trust purchasing a 135,000-square foot property in Whalley for $70 million, at the southeast corner of King George Boulevard and Fraser Highway.

UBC Properties Trust purchased a 135,000-square foot property in Whalley for $70 million, at the southeast corner of King George Boulevard and Fraser Highway.

READ ALSO: UBC has grand plans for Surrey, south of Fraser, Nov. 2, 2021

About a month after the announcement, Ono was the keynote speaker at a Surrey Board of Trade lunch where he spoke to the university’s expansion plans in the city.

“It hasn’t escaped our notice that it’s also a little bit more affordable than Point Grey,” noted Ono. “A place where perhaps as a university, we can attract and continue to attract the world’s greatest professors to come and live here and to educate the youth of Surrey and to act as economic spark plugs to the innovative culture which is so evident here.”

He pointed to the number of students, staff and faculty that commute between Surrey and the Point Grey campus, which can take up to four hours roundtrip on transit.

READ ALSO: UBC planning for further Surrey expansion: President, Dec. 15, 2021

At the time of the initial announcement, UBC said in 2022 it would launch a consultation process with Surrey and Fraser Valley communities as well as Indigenous leaders, UBC students, faculty, clinical faculty and staff “on regional and academic programming needs in order to determine the future vision for the site,” a UBC press release states.

Ono told the Now-Leader on Thursday the deans of the university are developing an “overarching academic plan.

He added there will be discussions with nearby partner institutions, “looking for synergy with them, but also looking for the needs of the province.”

Then the university will develop a financial plan, Ono noted.

– With files from Tom Zytaruk

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Lauren Collins

About the Author: Lauren Collins

I'm a provincial reporter for Black Press Media's national team, after my journalism career took me across B.C. since I was 19 years old.
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