As new diagnostic and therapeutic methods enlarged the scope of health care after the 1920s, physicians, dentists, hospital administrators, and other health professionals employed many different kinds of assistants. Technical and "on-the-job" training for assistants evolved into certificate, diploma, or degree programs in such fields as dental hygiene, dietetics, respiratory therapy, speech pathology, physical therapy, and occupational therapy. In 1966 Mary Switzer, director of the Division of Rehabilitation in the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, labeled these new groups "allied health." Congress adopted landmark legislation, the Allied Health Professions Training Act of 1966, to provide federal money for increasing the number of allied health schools in the United States. Today there are more than 200 health occupations classified as allied health.
The first recognized school of the allied health professions in Texas was chartered on April 8, 1968, as the School of Allied Health Sciences at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. This school was the first of its kind in Texas and the Southwestern United States. More than 4,500 students graduated from it during its first twenty-five years; 85 percent of the graduates practiced in Texas. In 1993 the school enrolled more than 500 students seeking degrees or certificates in a dozen fields. Schools of allied health sciences are affiliated with the University of Texas Health Science centers in Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio, with the Texas Tech University Health Science Center, with Baylor College of Medicine, and with the United States Army Academy of the Health Sciences at Fort Sam Houston. Additionally, numerous colleges and hospitals offer training programs in specific allied health fields.
Five training fields are commonly found in four-year colleges or academic health science centers: health information management, medical technology, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and physician assistant studies. Many vocational, technical, and associate degree programs are offered in junior colleges and technical institutes. Academic credentials therefore vary considerably, from certificates given by technical institutes and hospitals, to associate and baccalaureate degrees awarded by colleges, to graduate degrees offered by university health science centers.
Even with the large number of programs, there is still a severe shortage of allied health professionals. This problem has resulted in delays in opening rehabilitation facilities, in increased costs, and in intense competition among employers seeking allied health personnel. A survey by the Association of Schools of the Allied Health Professions in 1992 indicated that 95 percent of allied health students are employed upon graduation. With more emphasis on primary health care in the future, the demand for allied health professionals will be robust because they work in many settings-hospitals, health maintenance organizations, community clinics, school systems, and long-term care facilities. Trends toward more outpatient care, home care, long-term care and community-based care are fueling the demand for many more types of allied health workers. This will have a profound impact on state laws that govern licensure of these practitioners. In 1994 the state regulated fourteen allied health occupations through licensing, certification, or registration: audiologists, dental hygienists, dental laboratory technologists, dietitians, emergency care attendants, emergency care technicians, massage therapists, nursing-home administrators, occupational therapists, occupational therapy assistants, physical therapy assistants, speech and language pathologists, radiologic technologists, and respiratory therapists. The Texas Society of Allied Health Professions is the professional organization in the state.