Thursday, March 23, 2017

Student Leadership Advisory Board Spotlight: Adrienne Lewis, UVA' 18

What led to your interest in physical therapy? What motivated you to pursue physical therapy?
I interviewed and shadowed various health professionals in high school. As an athlete, I had more exposure to the profession as many of my friends and family members went to physical therapy for various injuries. For two summers during college, I volunteered as a camp counselor working with children with neuromuscular diseases at Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) camps. I provided personal care and encouraged the kids to enjoy a variety of activities such as adaptive sports and arts and crafts. I was able to shadow the PT who was at the camp to help kids with their strengthening and stretching routines. During this experience and others, some of the most rewarding moments I have had working in therapeutic settings involved patients’ progress that makes them feel empowered and assuages doubts they have in regard to their abilities. I learned that physical therapy is an optimistic and highly rewarding profession that offers a lot of patient interaction time. By pursuing physical therapy, I can help patients improve their quality of life by progressing toward a common goal of becoming more independent and living as close to a “normal”, enjoyable, painless life as possible. 

What did you major in and what inspired you to choose this area of study?
I grew up playing sports, which led me to find an interest in sports medicine and exercise science in high school, and ultimately to study Kinesiology at UVA. In addition to taking a sports medicine class in high school, I interviewed and shadowed various health professionals. I knew Kinesiology would help me in my pursuit of a profession in the health field. 

What activities did you participate in at UVA?
Within my first year I joined First Year Council, Relay for Life, and Greek Life. I am currently the president of the Pre-PT Club and an officer of the Kinesiology Club. I found both clubs to be good sources of information about various health professions and the application process. I have benefitted tremendously from advice offered by members of these clubs and various health professionals that came to speak and wanted to give back and help other Hoos by seeking out leadership positions in these clubs and joining ULink advising my 3rd year. Additionally, I have shadowed and worked as a therapy tech at various outpatient and inpatient therapeutic settings in Charlottesville.

How did you prepare for the physical therapy school application process?
I began preparing for the application process during my 2nd year at UVA by researching PT schools and their prerequisites so I could complete them in a timely fashion. I took the GRE and applied in the summer following my third year. I found it much more enjoyable to study for the GRE and complete PT school applications by exploring various coffee shops in Charlottesville while I was here working at an inpatient rehab hospital over the summer.

How did you balance the demands of applying to PT school with additional obligations and challenges?
Although volunteering and working can be overwhelming while balancing a tough course load, it’s important to remind yourself that everything you’re doing is beneficial and important in your candidacy for PT school. I planned my semesters wisely so that I would complete my pre-reqs in time and to ensure that I wasn’t taking too many tough science classes at the same time. It’s also helpful to set informal deadlines for completing tasks in order to hold yourself accountable and avoid procrastinating (i.e. decide ahead of time when to study different sections of the GRE, when to take practice tests, drafts of application essays, etc.) Additionally, I found it most beneficial to take the GRE and complete my applications over the summer to avoid having to apply during an already hectic fall semester. 

What advice do you have for new applicants considering a career in physical therapy?
I think it is always important to consider “quality over quantity” in various aspects of the application. For instance, while it is encouraged (and required) to gain experience in different settings by working in inpatient and outpatient settings and with different populations, I found it beneficial to volunteer/shadow/work at a few places instead of hopping between tons of PT clinics. Although I took advantage of various observation opportunities, I worked as a therapy tech in one setting for almost two years, gaining over 400 hours from just one location. From this experience I was able to build strong relationships with a few therapists. I was able to learn a lot from them and over time they trusted me to do more exercises with their patients. Getting a great recommendation is important, and my time and work put into this experience gave me confidence in asking for recommendations from these therapists.

Additional advice is to highlight unique experiences in your essays and to apply early. Especially if you have all your prerequisites, hours, GRE, and letters of recommendation complete, applying early can only benefit you. You usually hear back from schools earlier as well. If your #1 school offers you the opportunity to apply early decision, do it! It’s a great way to show you really want to attend their school.

In what ways did UVA Pre-Health Advising support you in your journey? What was most helpful? 
I attended Pre-Health Advising office hours to ask them for advice before course sign-ups and for advice about my resume. I also signed up for the Pulse newsletters that have made me aware of helpful workshops and presentations. 

Have you been accepted? 
Yes! I’m very excited to join VCU’s DPT Class of 2020 this May!

Adrienne Lewis is a 4th year pre-PT student in the Curry School of Education majoring in Kinesiology. She is the current president of the Pre-PT Club and an executive member of the Kinesiology club as well as a member of the Pre-Health Student Leadership Advisory Board.