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Rugby Dreams For Australia's First Doctor Of Physiotherapy Student

Plenty of up-and-coming rugby players have their eyes set on one day joining the Australian Rugby Union (ARU), but so does exercise science professional Stuart Allchurch.

The first to sign up to Bond University’s new Doctor of Physiotherapy (accreditation pending), Stuart hopes to one day travel the world as a sports physiotherapist for the world’s leading sports teams, with the ARU his ultimate goal.

But while he might want to work with the ARU, come the Rugby World Cup in September, he’ll still be cheering for England.

Born in the United Kingdom, Stuart came to Australia from Birmingham in 2002, where he took up residence on the Gold Coast and enrolled in a Bachelor of Sport and Exercise Science and Bachelor of Sports Management at Bond University.

After completing his undergraduate degree, he decided to complete his Masters in Sports Science to give himself an edge in his career.

It was at Bond University that Stuart met friend, and now business partner, James McDougall. The pair had gone through university together, and on gaining their Masters qualifications, decided to open a business in exercise rehabilitation.

“Early last year we set up Strength, Wellness and Athletics Training – or SWAT – Professionals, providing training, conditioning and rehabilitation to clients on the Coast,” Stuart said.

“While the company has been successful in its initial phases, both of us decided we wanted to take another next step up in our career, so again looked to Bond, where we were tossing up between the medical program and the new Doctor of Physiotherapy.”

While James decided on Medicine, Stuart’s love for sport saw him leaning towards physiotherapy.

“I spoke to Dr Greg Gass, who explained some of the benefits of the Doctorate over the other qualifications available.

“He gave me confidence that this qualification would help position me as a leader in physiotherapy in Australia. The Doctorate will allow me to combine the exercise and sports science component with the physio component, making me a better, and more well-rounded health professional,” he said.

“The Doctor of Physiotherapy will recognise my exercise science knowledge and background, and will be a good way to stand out from the crowd. It also helps that I’ll be among the first in Australia to achieve the Doctorate level qualification, so that in itself will be a huge benefit – at least for the first few years, until other universities follow Bond’s lead!”

Another drawcard for Stuart was the fact he could become a qualified physiotherapist in just two years, and spend around half that time in the real world, gaining valuable clinical experience.

Because an undergraduate degree in either exercise science or sports science is required for entry into the Doctor of Physiotherapy, students already have a sound knowledge of anatomy, physiology and exercise science, allowing them to focus more on the clinical component.

“That’s another great part of the Doctorate,” Stuart said; “Around 50% of the program is clinical, and for me – nothing is more important than hands-on clinical experience. It will also give me the opportunity to form great relationships with clinics interstate and internationally, and will give me a feel for the global industry.”

Now an Australian citizen, Stuart will be 26yrs old when he graduates, and will have four degrees to his name, including his Masters and Doctorate.

While his plans are to initially gain experience and build his reputation within the industry by working on the Gold Coast or in Sydney, he then hopes to travel internationally.

“I’m a rugby nut. I’d like to one day work for an American National Football League team, or an English rugby club – the knowledge and experience I could acquire through working with such a huge sports team with limitless funds would be great.

“But my end goal is to work with the Australian Rugby Union – in five years time, I might even be cheering for them instead!”

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