Brandon Johnson on his Journey to becoming our Program’s First Black Student Body President
February 4th, 2021
Greetings! I’m Brandon and I reign from the beautiful sun-drenched and immensely humid state of Florida. Born and raised in the capital city of Tallahassee, I received my Bachelors of Science in Applied Physiology and Kinesiology (APK) specializing in Fitness/Wellness as well as a Masters of Science in APK specializing in Human Performance from the University of Florida – Go Gators!
Growing up as an obese child, I found myself paving the way to an early grave. As a young African-American who was 200 pounds overweight, pre-diabetic, and suffering from debilitating sports injuries that required multiple surgeries and rehabilitation sessions throughout my teenage years, health and fitness became critically important. While recovering from a ruptured ACL, I contemplated what change I could make to shift my trajectory – one that would give me back control of my life and empower me to set a better course. That “change” was to embark on a weight-loss journey to help improve my overall wellness. In just one year, I successfully lost 150+ pounds while becoming passionate about fitness. What started as a platform to leverage my fitness journey to inspire and motivate others has strengthened my desire for exercise science, wellness, and rehabilitation. Working in the fitness industry for over a decade, I always valued holistic care. When working with clients, I began to realize that I was unable to provide this holistic care due to lacking a comprehensive education in rehabilitation exercise. This acted as the impetus for me to seek and attain higher education so that I could reach a wider breadth and depth of patients; thus, why I am endeavoring to attain a Doctorate of Physical Therapy.
I was considering Regis University during my first round of DPT applications (that’s right, I did not get in my first time applying) and when I was offered an interview spot off the waitlist, I did not hesitate to accept! What really crystallized my decision was the outstanding Interview Day experience. The faculty interactions were genuine in nature, and I could candidly tell that Regis was seeking humble and compassionate aspiring practitioners. Having no prior knowledge of the Jesuit Values, I found a deep resonance with what these values signified, as well as, Regis University’s mission to: “build a more just and humane world through transformative education at the frontiers of faith, reason, and culture.” My decision was made immediately after the Interview Day and I haven’t looked back since.
As a minority entering a field where we are not as represented, I find a deep passion in taking a leading role in providing culturally competent and sensitive care. My decision to run for Class President was solely to be a catalyst for cultural discernment to optimize the outcome for each individual in the profession of Physical Therapy or receiving care from a physical therapist. Additionally, I genuinely believe I can help our class reach our fullest potential in succeeding in our hopes of engendering true authenticity, advocacy, inclusion, and intersectionality for the profession of Physical Therapy. My view on leadership is not necessarily to just accomplish goals – although this is crucial -, it is to walk side-by-side in helping other people accomplish their goals. Leadership is a mutually beneficial relationship in which we can all learn from one another and help each other reach our highest potential.
In the past, I have held leadership positions such as holding the position as the Fitness Director of a gym facility. Contributing to hiring, educating, and advancing the knowledge of other Certified Personal Trainers so they in turn can provide a higher quality of service to their clientele. Moreover, I wholeheartedly believe that rectifying the obesity epidemic in America begins with the education of fitness and wellness to our youth. In Graduate school, at the University of Florida, I developed, implemented, and instructed various Youth Fitness Programs that brought to life the fundamentals of exercise technique, nutritional habits, and critical attributes of sports psychology (i.e. motivation, emotional regulation, confidence, and self-efficacy). Currently, I am a member of the Graduate Student Council where I work with exceptional individuals in various graduate student affiliates to plan events that support and represent our graduate student community here at Regis. I would love to become more involved and experienced with the American Physical Therapy Association and enhance my leadership skills, however, that might have to wait until after my first year of PT school – barely staying afloat as it is!
I am immensely humbled, honored, and ecstatic to be serving as the first black student body president of the Regis Doctorate of Physical Therapy Program (DPT). Looking at myself in a different light, this opportunity provides me a platform to promote diversity within my student body and lend a hand in bridging the diversity gap that currently exists within the realm of the Physical Therapy profession. There is a great sense of optimism in illuminating the depth and breadth of black genius in the healthcare field. Additionally, I am poised to offer a model of excellence for other minorities living in a society that continues to marginalize our hopes and dreams, accentuate our mistakes and errors, and place too little value on our lives or deaths. I find it also to be a demonstration of Regis University’s goal to exemplify diversity within their academic programs which is revering in it of its self. Ultimately, I endeavor to be the president of my entire cohort and represent minorities within the healthcare field. Viewing this as an invaluable opportunity, I strive to create a positive rippling effect that reverberates throughout the Regis DPT program for years to come.
It is a painful and arduous time for Blacks in America right now. Systemic racism, prejudices, and inequalities have inundated our society and have planted roots in our culture. This year marks the 95th anniversary of Black History Month and we must be aware of this and reflect on how far we have come not only as a race, but as a nation. Black History Month is not a month-long affirmative action holiday for African Americans. Nor is it 28 days of expressing contempt towards white people for 400 years of enslavement and racial segregation. It is a homage to reflect and appreciate the tremendous achievements of living trailblazers and deceased: pioneers, educators, innovators, discoverers, and advocates who have shaped our country. Black History Month empowers us to inspect the substantial contributions of Blacks to human civilization and provides all Americans with the opportunity to celebrate the rich and robust heritage, culture, and achievements of African Americans. I admonish my classmates, professors, and community to be cognizant, reflect on, and study Black History, because when we do, we study ourselves and our national heritage and history.
I have a few words of advice for students of color in leadership positions or those pursuing leadership positions. First, intentionally seek experiences to develop yourself for future leadership service. Essentially, be vulnerable, place yourself outside your comfort zones, and take risks, because intentionality seeds serendipity. Next, overcome your internal barriers. Developing a strong foundation of personal resilience, learning how to handle conflict appropriately, and circumventing internalized negativity will help you assimilate the negative self-talk you might associate with your abilities. Furthermore, keep your friends close, and your mentors closer. Never feel afraid to ask for help and surround yourself with those whose priorities align with yours – you are a product of the 6 individuals you surround yourself with. Also, seek a mentor who has achieved what you are striving for and emulate their inspiration to achieving higher goals. Finally, accept that there is no singular path to success. It may appear as if a majority of leaders orchestrated their success from the beginning to arrive where they stand today, however, this is not the case. Do exceptional work even if it seems mundane and niche, embrace failure and change, and exude enthusiasm in everything that you do.
By Brandon Johnson, President of Class of 2023