FLORENCE, S.C. (WBTW) — Francis Marion University has expanded its graduate degree offerings with a Doctor of Psychology degree.

Francis Marion University President Fred Carter thinks the new program will have a positive impact, especially on the Pee Dee medical community.

The new program will join the Doctor of Nursing Practice and the Doctor of Occupational Therapy programs.

The university’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved the new degree.

Carter said this program will help combat the Pee Dee’s chronic shortage of mental health practitioners.

“I think that the men and women who go through this program will be prepared to go out and become either parts of treatment teams and hospitals or clinics or individual practitioners,” Carter said.

Carter said most FMU graduates tend to stay in South Carolina, which means more students in will decide to practice in the Pee Dee after graduation. He said a lot of students who attend Francis Marion University are from rural areas and want to continue to serve those areas.

“Many of our graduates are looking to do just that because that’s their home, those are their families, those are their folks, and those are the folks they want to help,” Carter said. “They’ll not only begin their careers there, they’ll continue their careers there.”

Carter said the university started developing programs to help with mental health three years ago, and the new degree is part of that effort.

“They will have a big influence on the treatment of the mental health of people across the Pee Dee with behavioral disorders,” Carter said.

The new degree will begin in the spring of 2024.

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Taylor Ford is a multimedia journalist for News13. She joined the News13 team in January 2023. Taylor is a Florence native and covers the Pee Dee out of News13’s Florence Bureau. Read more of Taylor’s work here.