Monthly Archives: March 2017

Alphabet Soup

It’s crazy to think that my classmates and I are already three months into the Elon DPT program. Just a few weeks ago, we walked into the Francis Center unsure of where the nearest restroom was, exchanging awkward glances with unfamiliar faces, and nervously awaiting the hard work to come. Now, deep into our second module, we are gaining confidence as we breeze through bed mobility and flow through evaluation interviews like pros. It’s been a fun experience growing and learning with a group of people who continually support one another through new and exciting challenges.

Our professors fondly refer to much of our coursework as “alphabet soup.” Whether it’s learning neurotransmitters in Physiology, documentation abbreviations in PT Science II or memorizing the route of the brachial plexus in Anatomy, it can often appear as a cryptic, secret code. When that secret code evolves into a mastered language, incredible things begin to happen in the classroom.

One of the new challenges that many of the first-year DPT students face is the anatomy cadaver lab. We are extremely fortunate that these selfless individuals have donated their bodies for the betterment of our education. It’s impossible to describe the overwhelming gratitude that my classmates and I feel each day that we step into the lab to begin our independent discoveries. Our anatomy professor, Dr. Cope, has spearheaded an anatomical gift program at Elon that has given new meaning and respect to the act of anatomical donation. Last Friday, Elon hosted a signing ceremony to honor the individuals who have made the noble decision to donate their bodies to our university. Listening to the future educators share their life stories and experiences that led them to this program helped solidify the importance of human connection within the cadaver lab. We are so grateful that Elon has allowed us to have these wonderful and impactful opportunities. You can learn more about the Anatomical Gift Program here:

While the anatomy lab can be an obstacle, both emotionally and technically, it is the glue that binds the textbooks and the lectures together. The maze of muscles and nerves can seem undecipherable and admittedly evolves into the dreaded “alphabet soup.” But beautiful things seem to happen when our lab groups work together and formulate an anatomy language. This week, we had the unique chance to see the human brain and heart for the very first time. My classmate Kahli said it best, “Right within the palms of my hands sat decades of knowledge, memories and life. To see the complexity of our anatomy first hand, to uncover the mechanics behind each movement and learn about someone’s life beyond what their own eyes could ever see, has been an experience beyond the pages of any textbook.”

The class of 2019 has survived their first week of midterms!!! (And it only took a few comfort pizzas to get us there…or was that just me?). We have already learned an immense amount of knowledge in such a short amount of time. While the days can be long, we can see how this program has transformed the second and third year students into confident and prepared professionals. One day we will make it there, even if it means digesting a lot of alphabet soup.


Focused on the Future

Hello Again!

Here’s your Michigander, back at it again with the blog posts. Shout-out to Blake, a DPT candidate, whom I had the pleasure of meeting a few weeks back on Interview Day. He said he read the blog and that I talked about Michigan a lot, so I thought I would continue the tradition.

Many of us in the Class of 2017 have had great conversation with interviewees over the last couple of weeks. I have enjoyed how Admissions lets us DPT students’ help out on Interview Day. It benefits the candidates because they get honest answers from us about what to do at Elon, balancing life and school, ways to get involved, global learning opportunities, the curriculum, the professors, and much more! At the same time, it is great for DPT students because at one point we were in their shoes and we can see how far we have come! It’s motivating. I’m so proud of the Class of 2017; only one month in the Francis Center for some of us!

After Easter, our class is given 6 weeks to study anything we want to study. FREEDOM! About half of our class is choosing to stay at campus and delve more into the nitty gritty of either Orthopedics or Neurological Disorders. The other half of us have the opportunity to learn about physical therapy abroad in either: Australia, Belgium, Belize, Alaska, or Peru! I will be going to Belgium with six other classmates and I can’t wait to share my experience with you. It has been hard to focus in class at times because I start daydreaming of Europe.

Let me tell you what we have been up to this New Year! We finished off Module IX, which included Electrotherapeutic Modalities, Prosthetics and Orthotics, Management of Cardiopulmonary Dysfunction, and Exercise Physiology. My favorite part of this past module was when clients came to class or when we got to treat a client. After many years of sitting at a desk listening to lecture, many of us are just ready to see and do all things physical therapy. There’s only so much you can learn from words on a PowerPoint; everything just clicks when you see it put to action. For example, there are so many different parts to prostheses, but when clients with amputations come to class and walk and run all over the Biomechanics Lab, everything just makes more sense! It so much easier to learn by seeing how they move, and listening to their experiences.

Now we are in our final module of learning in the classroom! We are taking Pediatrics, Geriatrics, Clinical Decision Making, and Administration and Management. While I really enjoy having the opportunities to work with little kids in lab and going out in the community to learn from older adults, I have really enjoyed Clinical Decision Making. Over our last clinical rotation we had to choose a patient who we found to be complex. Now we are presenting the cases to the class, and teaching the class what we learned from our experiences. Students so far have presented on fascinating cases of people with traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, strokes, conversion disorders, lymphedema, and the list goes on. It’s very cool to see through pictures and videos the progress complex patients can make with the right therapeutic interventions.

While we continue to have a good time in the classroom, we are cherishing our last days of togetherness outside of the classroom. Excursions have included a weekend ski-trip to Beech Mountain, and a tour of breweries in Asheville. Whether it is cold and cloudy or warm and sunny, the class enjoys tailgating in the parking lot of the Francis Center at lunch. People brings snacks and meat for the grill and enjoy games like volleyball, corn-hole, Kan Jam, Frisbee-ing, playing giant Jenga (professors love it too), and water-balloon launching (I don’t know if that is really a game; people just enjoy launching water balloons and watching classmates get hit). Our class’ average age may be 26, but we are all kids at heart.

We all enjoy each other’s company and know that we will greatly miss each other, yet I think most of us are feeling prepared and ready to go out into the clinic. It’s different out there in the “real world,” but we are ready for the challenge and ready to be Physical Therapists.





The Power of Trust

As I sat on my couch the night before the start of our first clinical rotation, I began to truly appreciate the enormity of the transformation we endured through our first year of PT school. I believe I speak for the entire class when I say we entered into our respective clinics with a strong confidence in our clinical skills and decision-making: a stark contrast to our first days in the program.

Throughout the ortho module we continually heard, “You will know more than you think you do once you start your clinical.” Those were hard words to swallow with a squadron of nitpicky professors watching your every mobilization and listening to every syllable of your clinical explanations. The immensity of their expectations and the relentless nature of their questioning drove us to adopt the “clinical mindset.” Within this mindset, one exists in a state where every clinical decision is self-questioned, which in turn incites an eternal hunger to consume current EBP literature in order to fortify ones toolkit (of knowledge) for the arduous journey towards the mystical peaks of clinical perfection.

For my clinical rotation, I was placed at Aquatic Physical Therapy and Beyond in Raleigh, NC. Prior to the clinical I had little experience in the aquatic setting. (a half-day lecture/lab) Now, having completed my rotation I am a big proponent of aquatic rehab for a number of reasons:

  • It opens a world of pain free movement or at the least movement with less pain to patients with chronic pain conditions (severe OA, chronic LBP, CRPS). Often, pain leads to a sedentary life thus resulting in extreme deconditioning. The water facilitates the transition back into a more active lifestyle and allows for an individual to obtain a ‘foundational strength’ before transitioning to land based therapy.
  • It allows the post surgical populations (mainly LE) to return to ‘normal’ motion at a faster rate. I saw several patients post-ACL repair and a patient with a full patellar rupture repair begin to walk, jog, and perform functional movements (squats, lunges, etc.) at an earlier time than possible on land.
  • It builds confidence! Confidence is key to rehab, especially with individuals who fear movement or do not trust their ability to balance. The water creates a safe environment to rebuild and reshape their self-perceived capabilities and confidence.

Overall, the transition from classroom to clinical was a tad overwhelming to start between learning the clinic routine, documentation system, meeting new co-workers, and coming to the realization that I was working with real people (as opposed to a role playing classmate). The most enlightening part of the clinical experience was realizing the worth of my ability to build rapport with the person in front of me. Through school you gain a massive toolbox of clinical test and measures, you understand what questions to ask and what signs/symptoms to look for; however, the ability to connect at the human level is a skill that cannot be taught. Trust is the foundation of the therapeutic relationship; without it the path to rehabilitation becomes clouded. Never underestimate the therapeutic power of a strong, trustworthy relationship. To end this first post of 2017, I want to extend a warm welcome to the class of 2019! The class of 2018 looks forward to meet y’all and best of luck with your first year. There will be more to come on the wonders of our next module, Neuro!