New Master of Science in Respiratory Care created to fill need in health care industry

SAN ANTONIO (April 7, 2015) — The School of Health Professions at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio received approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to offer a new Master of Science in Respiratory Care.

Students can now begin the application process for the new master’s degree program. The first class of students for the two-year program will begin class this fall. The program is open to students with no prior health care experience.

David C. Shelledy, Ph.D., RRT, FAARC, dean of the School of Health Professions, said millions of Americans suffer from cardiopulmonary diseases and need the specialized care a respiratory therapist with a graduate-level degree can provide.

“More than 34 million people have asthma in the United States. Approximately 13 million suffer from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD, which is the third leading cause of death in America. Because of under diagnosis, we believe the actual number of those suffering from COPD is closer to 24 million,” he said.

Respiratory care, also known as respiratory therapy, is the allied health profession that provides care to patients with cardiopulmonary disease. A respiratory therapist cares for a diverse group of patients, ranging from newborn and pediatric patients to adults and the elderly.

Respiratory therapists bring help and relief to patients suffering from asthma, emphysema, COPD, pneumonia, cystic fibrosis, respiratory distress syndrome, and other conditions.

They are involved in specialty areas in the hospital, including newborn labor and delivery, neonatal and pediatric intensive care units, pulmonary function laboratories, sleep laboratories, and adult intensive care units.

In addition to working in hospitals, respiratory therapists work in home care, rehabilitation agencies, nursing homes, emergency transport teams, sleep centers, pulmonary function laboratories, outpatient clinics, and physician offices.

Dr. Shelledy said he and the Department of Respiratory Care decided to create this new degree because of the complexity of the care needed by these patients. “It is hard to provide all of the education and training needed for advanced-level care within the confines of an undergraduate degree,” he said. The Health Science Center already offers a Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Care.

“The master’s degree will prepare individuals to provide specialized care and to serve as clinical leaders in the field, especially in the acute care setting in intensive care units. The health care professionals also will gain more training in treating those with chronic disease, including COPD and asthma,” he said.

The Master of Science in Respiratory Care will be only one of four such degrees in the country. Dr. Shelledy said the UT Health Science Center is the perfect location for such a program because of the interprofessional collaboration existing between the Department of Respiratory Care and the Division of Pulmonary Diseases and Critical Care Medicine in the School of Medicine.

“We also have excellent medical facilities across San Antonio, including those in the medical center, the military, and the excellent hospitals,” he said. “These will all provide wonderful training sites for our students.”

Dr. Shelledy said prospective students do not have to have experience in the health care field to begin this master’s degree program. Admission requirements do include completion of a bachelor’s degree in any major from a regionally accredited college/university. They also must have completed prerequisite coursework prior to program entry. For application information, visit the Department of Respiratory Care.

Current respiratory therapists who want to earn their master’s degrees will be able to participate in an accelerated program based on their education and experience.

De De Gardner, D.P.H., RRT, FAARC, chair of the Department of Respiratory Care, said the new master’s degree is designed to prepare excellent advanced-level clinicians as well as to provide a foundation for leadership in management, education, research and clinical specialty areas.

“Respiratory care is one of the fastest growing health professions in the country. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected growth in the number of respiratory therapists needed for the period 2012 to 2022 at more than 19 percent,” Dr. Gardner said. “This is the ideal time to begin offering a graduate degree in respiratory care.”

According to the American Association for Respiratory Care, the average salary for respiratory therapists is more than $62,000 per year.


The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the country’s leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 13 percent of academic institutions receiving National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding. The university’s schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced more than 31,000 graduates. The $787.7 million operating budget supports eight campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. For more information on the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit

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