Why study pre-physical therapy at a liberal arts college?
Studying pre-physical therapy at a liberal arts college not only helps to learn about the profession, but also helps to expand your horizons beyond just your major, thereby integrating cross-disciplinary ideas and applying them to physical therapy. The more I observe physical therapists, the more I value my courses in psychology because it plays a major role in patients' trust and interactions. Furthermore, I know my courses in nutrition, ethics and cultures will help me immensely in the future. I'm not sure that students at non-liberal arts colleges would take advantage of the opportunities that taking other courses provide.
What makes the pre-physical therapy program at CSB/SJU unique?
CSB/SJU has an excellent pre-physical therapy program. Every year students are accepted to top ranked physical therapy schools such as the University of Minnesota, Duke University and Mayo School of Health Sciences. I attribute a great deal of this to the outstanding faculty (see next section) and well-rounded pre-physical therapy students attending a liberal arts college and being involved in various campus organizations. We have a pre-physical therapy/athletic training club on campus that offers numerous resources for pre-physical therapy students to learn more about the field through panel discussions with current professionals and former students who are in graduate school for physical therapy. It also allows students to network with graduate schools admissions representatives, shadow physical therapists and volunteer. Furthermore, students have the opportunity to do research with faculty and/or with other students to learn real application of textbook concepts as well as make new discoveries that are often applied by our coaches and athletes in their training, practices and games. These opportunities make CSB/SJU students outstanding candidates for physical therapy programs nationwide.
What has your experience with the CSB/SJU pre-physical therapy program faculty been like?
The faculty in the CSB/SJU pre-physical therapy program is exceptional. They are extremely knowledgeable, helpful and approachable. They know students by name and genuinely care for each one. The faculty has high expectations, but are always more than willing to help students. Whether it is helping to understand a concept, holding a review session for an exam, or addressing student concerns about graduate school/professions, the professors go above and beyond to allow students to achieve their potential.
What has been one of the greatest challenges you've faced?
My greatest challenge was actually deciding if I wanted to go into physical therapy. My friends and family told me that I should consider physical therapy, so blindly I started taking the required courses while still keeping other options open. After shadowing a few physical therapists, it seemed like a suitable career, but I wasn't sure if I wanted to do it for the rest of my life. I continued to explore my options. Then I took kinesiology, one of the pre-physical therapy courses. While it was one of the most demanding courses that I have taken, I thoroughly enjoyed it and realized that I loved biomechanics. In our final project, we biomechanically analyzed a baseball pitcher in-depth from every muscle active in each motion to underlying physics principles to various positive and negative implications. My professor told us that this was a precursor to physical therapy, and everyday physical therapists use the concepts and skills we developed in class. At this point I started looking more seriously at physical therapy as a career. Then, I shadowed a physical therapist who had two students with her who were in their final year of PT school doing their clinical rotations. While I was observing, I saw that they had to work through the thought processes to determine treatment. Watching the physical therapy students made me realize how much critical thinking is required in diagnosing and treating patients. It was at that moment I realized that I wanted to be a physical therapist.
What advice do you have for students considering the pre-physical therapy program?
I strongly encourage any student who is considering the pre-physical therapy program to really look into the field. They will benefit greatly from joining the physical therapy/athletic training club, shadowing a physical therapist, taking some of the prerequisites and/or talking with students and Don Fischer (pre-physical therapy adviser). Doing these things and evaluating them with their goals and lifestyle will help them decide if physical therapy is the right program for them.
Did you study abroad? If so, how did that experience impact you?
I did an external study abroad in Cyprus. As a result of not knowing anybody upon departure and then traveling to 15 countries on three continents, I grew in ways I never imagined and learned an incredible amount about myself, other cultures and the world in general. Furthermore, I realized how I could apply my experiences to the physical therapy field. In the United States today, there are millions of cultural, religious and ethnically diverse people who need health care. Thus, being open and welcoming to people from all walks of life is an essential part of being a good physical therapist. I came to appreciate other cultures and customs. I love learning about and talking to people from different backgrounds and ethnicities. There is not a day that goes by when I don't think about my experiences abroad and cannot wait to travel again. I strongly encourage everybody to study abroad because it will change their life and positively impact their future.