Student Spotlight: Chris Lew on Diversity at Regis

Name: Chris Lew, Class of 2018
University of Portland
Eugene, OR
Fun Fact: I have a whistle reminiscent of various fairy tale soundtracks…or so I’m told.


I am the Diversity Representative for the DPT Class of 2018, which essentially entails coordinating events and opportunities for our class to broaden their perspectives on different issues and to work towards becoming more educated and inclusive clinicians. I am also on the community outreach committee for the Move Forward race, specifically working towards outreach for the Spanish-speaking community in Denver. Lastly, I am on our class puppy-raising team that provides the preliminary training for a service dog that will assist a community member in the future.

Where do you see your PT career going?

Honestly, my interest in physical therapy has vacillated between many fields, ranging from ortho to acute care to neuro. So, at this point, I am mostly keeping my mind open to whatever fields trigger my interest. I am optimistic that my first clinical–which is in a mixed rural setting–will expose me to many different specialties of PT and will help hone in my interests a bit.

Tell me about why you wanted to put on the LGBTQ event at Regis. Who did you have speak and why?

Through coordination with the Diversity Representatives from the class of 2017, we decided it would be a great opportunity for us to host an event focused on health care issues that are specific to the LGBTQ population. As both the first year and second year students were preparing to depart on clinical internships in the near future, we thought it would be good to discuss a population and issues that are likely to be encountered while out on clinical. The health care issues faced by the LGBTQ population, including discrimination, ignorance, and legal problems, are things that we, as emerging Doctors of Physical Therapy, must be aware of to ultimately create a more inclusive and equal health care system for all individuals.

We utilized the resources we had available to us on campus, and were fortunate enough to have the assistance of Dr. Heidi Eigsti, who has connections to individuals who work on community health care access. Heidi was able to connect us with Daniel Ramos, Deputy Director of OneColorado, who specifically works on inclusion and health care accessibility for the LGBTQ population. Daniel was able to present to a multidisciplinary audience of students and faculty of various professions regarding LGBTQ issues in health care.


What were a couple of the biggest takeaways from the event? What would you like to add?

Before Daniel came to speak, I specifically asked him to emphasize health care issues faced by transgender individuals. To me, this is a chronically underrepresented population when discussing LGBTQ issues, and one that faces unique health care challenges, including insurance coverage for hormone therapy and sex reassignment therapy and the increased risk for depression, suicide and other psychological disorders. Daniel did a great job of emphasizing these topics and barriers to health care that are faced by transgender individuals. Additionally, he provided some clinical pearls of wisdom when discussing the importance of respectful and inclusive communication when working with the LGBTQ population. Simple things such as proper pronoun use, acknowledgement of same-sex partnerships and appropriate interview questions can help build a relationship of trust with patients that will allow them to feel more comfortable.

I hope that in later discussions we are able to expand on the ideas presented by Daniel, and, ultimately, have a discussion about how we, as future clinicians, can create positive change on a local or national level to create a health care system that is more inclusive and more accessible to the diverse population that we will treat.

What do you want to see, in regards to diversity, in the next few years at Regis?

While the DPT program at Regis does a decent job at consciously promoting diversity through things such as our service learning projects, the diversity committee and scholarships for diverse/minority populations, there is still a lot of potential for growth in terms of diversity at Regis. I think the university as whole needs to work on attracting a more diverse student body in terms of socioeconomic status and ethnicity. Specific to the physical therapy program, I hope to continue to see engagement and interest in students learning about a variety of diversity topics, such as mental health, cultural and language barriers, and race/ethnicity. I hope that students realize that learning about these topics serves to create more competent and educated clinicians that will have a greater understanding of how to engage patients in a respectful manner.

What would you like to do after graduation? Tell me a little about about an ideal plan, if you have one! If not, what are some things from your past experience/this year that you are now interested in professionally?

Following graduation, I would ideally like to treat myself to a well-deserved vacation. I love traveling, and, before committing myself to a new career, would love to be able to backpack across some unseen places–perhaps in South America. Then, upon returning to reality, I would either like to return to Oregon (where my home and heart reside) to work or gain experience through traveling physical therapy for a year or two.

How do you feel about the upcoming semester? How was this past semester?

I am really excited about the upcoming semester. Although our schedule looks pretty heavy, I have only heard good things from the classes above us about this semester. We are making our first foray into clinical applications of our foundational knowledge, and I am excited to begin learning treatments that we will use during our imminent clinical internships. In short, I’m excited to finally begin to feel like a physical therapist.

The past semester was fairly rough, but I wouldn’t say it was unbearable and definitely felt it was easier than the first semester. Neuroscience was certainly the most esoteric and intangible subject we have learned so far in PT school, but the volume of information to learn this semester was less than the first, and that made it somewhat more palatable.

What would you like to see change in the healthcare system in the next 5-10 years?

I would love to see a health care system that is more patient-centered and focuses on the social aspects of patient care as well as the medical aspects. I have a fairly diverse background working in health care settings, and one thing I have seen fairly frequently is a lack of understanding and respect for patients who come from backgrounds that are different from the practitioners. I would like to see education for health care professionals to focus more on the psychosocial and cultural aspects of patient care so that clinicians emerge with a better understanding of the importance of respectful and educated patient communication. Specific to physical therapy, I hope to see increasing autonomy in practice and reimbursement as the competency and ability of physical therapists is better recognized.

How did Regis further your interests? Any advice for the classes under you?

Regis has so many opportunities for learning outside of the classroom. Between leadership and volunteer positions, evening seminars and close relationships with professors and peers, there is always more to learn outside of the class syllabi. I have always been interested in increasing awareness of topics regarding diversity, and that was one of the things that attracted me to Regis. Regis has been able to foster that interest by providing me with an amazing leadership position that focuses on inclusivity and diversity.

My advice for the classes below me would be to figure out what your passions are in physical therapy and in life…and to pursue them while in school. While it can be easy to get fully absorbed in school and grades, it’s important to realize that there is more than just that. If you are interested in community service, find projects to work on while in school. If you love swing dancing, take time out during the week to pursue your hobbies that make you happy and fulfilled. There is so much opportunity for personal and professional growth while in physical therapy school and it is important to capitalize on this time so that you can become a better clinician and human being.



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