My Immigration Experience
Name: Pamela Moreno Soto
Undergrad: Southwestern Oklahoma State University (SWOSU)
Hometown: Texhoma, Oklahoma
Fun Fact: I’ve read over 1,000 books
I remember back in 2005, there was a huge Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid 40 minutes away from my hometown. Many families were split, and children came home from school to missing parents because they had been deported during work. That day, my parents came home early from work and pulled us out of school. We went home, closed the blinds to our house, and sat in silence. As night fell, my parents didn’t allow us to turn on any lights. We sat in the living room most of the night as I eventually fell asleep to the sound of my mother praying the rosary, fervently praying that immigration agents wouldn’t knock on our door and tear our family apart. A haunting thought plagued my brain: “this is it…we are getting deported.”
Many descriptors could be used for me: woman, daughter, wife, sister, aunt, student physical therapist, but most importantly IMMIGRANT. My family and I immigrated from Mexico to the United States in June of 2002. I was 12 years old when we made the move. My family had every intention of going back to Mexico, but 15 years later, it never happened. So, how did that young, innocent, trusting girl make it here? It is a long story of a long journey, but I’ll give you the Cliff notes.
It began with Mrs. Davis, my 7th grade English teacher. I spent 4 hours with her every day, with the last hour consisting of her pointing to pictures in a magazine and making me repeat the words. She would make me come up with sentences using the word I just learned. To take on such a taxing task, she was a saint.
I love books, and that love was the driving force for me to learn English. I learned to read English by carrying a “book of the week,” an English to Spanish translation book, and a plain Spanish dictionary everywhere I went. For a typical 12 year old, I should have been simply expanding my native vocabulary, not learning another language on top of that. My journey continued with Mrs. Dana Martin, my junior high school counselor. She said 4 magical words that continue to motivate me to this day: “I believe in you.” I graduated from high school with honors, 6 years after moving to the U.S.
I went on to college with academic scholarships in the fall of 2008, where I met two very important people in my life, Sue Ball and Daniel Soto. Sue Ball was my academic advisor and someone that invested so much time and love into my success that I don’t know where to begin to thank her. She put me onto the path I am on today. I am here because she, along with the Southwestern Oklahoma State University (SWOSU) faculty, took time to prepare me for Regis. At SWOSU, I also met Daniel Soto, my husband. Once I married Daniel, I was able to apply for a green card. Today, I hold a U.S. citizenship. The process took 4 years, cost us over $5,000, and took many appointments with immigration agencies. The first time I had to go to an appointment to give my fingerprints, I felt nauseous thinking about the possibility of being deported. At a different meeting, my husband and I had to meet with an immigration agent to prove we had not married only to obtain a green card. At this meeting, I also felt nervous and ill. Altogether, I had 6 appointments with immigration offices up to the day I was sworn in as a U.S. citizen.
After graduating from SWOSU in May of 2012 with a degree in Biological Sciences, I took time off. After 3 years of time off, I decided it was time to get going with my long-term plan of going to graduate school. I got accepted into Regis’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program in February of 2016. That day, I fell to my knees and cried. This Mexican girl with English as her second language, who even learned English by watching Harry Potter movies, who was not supposed to graduate high school, nonetheless college, who lived in the shadows with paralyzing fear for a decade, who was the first of her family to graduate from a university in the U.S., is going to be a DOCTOR OF PHYSICAL THERAPY.
Like me, there are millions of children and young adults who were brought to the United States for the sole purpose of giving us a chance at better horizons. My parents tried to apply for green cards as soon as they realized they loved this country and our opportunities here were better, but we had to live undocumented for 10 years in the U.S. before our immigration statuses changed. I have been very fortunate to have many people invest so much time and energy into my success, and a mere “thank you” does not begin to cover my gratitude for them. My story represents one story of success for a young, driven, positively influenced, inspired, and committed immigrant and I hope to hear and read about more stories from student immigrants in the future.
I leave you with the words of my favorite composer/song-writer:
“My name is Pamela Moreno Soto,
And there’s million things I haven’t done
But just you wait, just you wait.
Another immigrant comin’ up from the bottom.”
– Lin-Manuel Miranda, taken from Alexander Hamilton, from Alexander Hamilton: An American Musical
Name: Zach Taillie, Class of 2018
Undergrad: State University of New York at Cortland
Hometown: Phoenix, NY
Fun Fact: I put BBQ sauce on everything.
Hello! My name is Zach and I am a third year in the program. I am also the President of the Orthopedic Student Special Interest Group (sSIG) here at Regis. In the orthopedic section we focus on manual therapy and musculoskeletal-related ailments.
When I heard about the opportunity to run for president, I knew it was a perfect fit for me. Let’s back up a little bit to figure out why. At the age of 15, I got hooked on weightlifting and loved working out. In addition to that, I also grew up playing baseball, basketball, and football. I first found out about physical therapy during college after sustaining a serious dislocation of my left shoulder that resulted in a SLAP tear (if you don’t know what that is, you should apply to PT school!). Guess that’s what I get for wrestling bears. Fast forward to the rehab I underwent after the surgery: I instantly fell in love with the mix of rehabilitation and working out. That love has continued throughout PT school and drove me to run for the president position. The election was a dead heat but, when the dust settled, I received 100% of the votes. How, you might ask? Maybe I ran unopposed, maybe I ran an awesome campaign, we’ll never really know.
After taking over the group in the summer of 2016 I decided to adopt a new model. Every month I reached out to an expert in our field and asked them to do a presentation for the group. Some of the presentations from physical therapists we had this past year include:
- Tim Noteboom: How to filter social media to find information relevant to you and who to follow
- Chris Edmundson: Longevity as a manual therapist: How to save your hands and body
- Stephanie Pascoe: Residency vs. Fellowship: What’s the difference and is it for me?
- Lauren Hinrichs: Management of the wheelchair athlete: How do we keep the shoulders healthy in a wheelchair athlete?
- Steve Short: Denver Nuggets team PT: Management of the professional athlete population
Bringing these presenters in was a lot of fun and allowed me to meet experts in a variety of fields. Given the opportunity, I would do it all the again!
Moving forward, the group has been passed down to the Class of 2019 and I look forward to hearing what they do while we are out on our final clinical rotations. Stayed tuned on 2 more presentations coming from the Class of 2018, though! There are also some big things coming to you soon from me and another 3rd year. Be sure to check the Regis Facebook group for an exciting update around the middle of August. If you have any questions about orthopedic physical therapy, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Diversity at Regis
Name: Chris Lew, Class of 2018
Undergrad: University of Portland
Hometown: 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.
Matthew Sullivan, Class of 2016
Undergrad: Kansas State University
Hometown: Wichita, KS
Class of: 2016 I’M GRADUATED BABY!!!
Interest in PT (peds, ortho, etc): orthopedics and private practice management
How did you get interested in that specialty? Were you always interested in that?
Short story: Athletics and yes.
Longer story: I grew up an athlete. Traveling the Midwest playing in basketball tournaments or various sporting event camps, I was pushing my body to its limits, and with being so active, it wasn’t uncommon to be battling some sort of nagging injury. Needless to say, I was in and out of various doctor and physical therapy appointments attempting to take care of my body from the repeated abuse. It was these interactions, like many former athletes who end up in sports medicine, that influenced me to pursue a career in the healthcare industry. Getting through college wasn’t easy by any feat, but finishing my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Kinesiology while working as a physical therapy technician at a private practice further solidified my interests in orthopedics and manual therapy. When I found out I got into the Regis physical therapy program, which happens to be one of the best programs in the country, I knew I was following my dream and headed in the right direction. I set goals for myself entering PT school as I knew going through all the ups and downs of grad school were going to be difficult; I did not want to lose sight of where I wanted to take my career. My goals were to get involved and not be a shadow in the crowd and to challenge myself with any opportunities that might present themselves to me and to pursue my passion in manual therapy/orthopedics and private practice management. I am about to graduate in just over two weeks and I have achieved those goals, even made some new ones for the future as I begin my career, but I couldn’t be happier with where I am today.
Leadership positions/involvement in that specialty:
I was a student member of the orthopedic section of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), which is nice because you can get a hard copy of the Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy (JOSPT) monthly in the mail to read. I was also a student member of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists (AAOMPT), which is another great resource for manual therapy and offers discounts on their yearly conferences that I would highly recommend attending during your final year of PT education if you’re interested in that specialty.
Congrats on finishing your last clinical! Where were you?
I was in Fort Collins, Colorado, working at Colorado In Motion for 6 months, a private practice with four different locations in the Northern Colorado area offering comprehensive services of physical therapy, occupational therapy, and industrial health needs. This really is a unique private practice that offers everything from pediatric, orthopedic specialties, neurological, and even hand therapy; it was such a great learning experience. Applying and getting selected for this clinical rotation was actually a goal of mine entering PT school. One of the founders of the clinic is a world-renowned physical therapist who used to be a professor at Regis in the PT program and is a major contributor to research and education for physical therapy locally throughout Colorado and nationally with various organizations. He also challenges the status quo of the healthcare industry to foster better care. I knew I wanted the opportunity to surround myself in a clinic with like-minded clinicians known for committing to excellence and fostering continued learning. A unique factor regarding my clinical experience is that throughout the six months, I had several opportunities to shadow and work with seasoned clinicians who are experts in the field and learn from them firsthand.
What other types of settings did you experience during your time at Regis?
In PT school terms and clinical education, you could say I won the clinical lottery! My first rotation was in Moab, Utah, (two national parks in my backyard) for six weeks at an outpatient facility located at a hospital. Due to the rural location of the setting, my caseload was a mix of outpatient clients, inpatient acute rehab, skilled nursing, and even home health, so you could say I’ve seen it all in regards to what physical therapy encompasses. Oh, yeah, as an added bonus, I was also able to spend an ample amount of time exploring the vast southern Utah scenery in between working at the clinic. I honestly felt like I was on a six-week long vacation from PT school. My second clinical rotation was in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for 8 weeks at an inpatient rehabilitation facility. I saw a little bit of everything during this rotation, which will challenge your PT critical thinking skills because you have to put everything together that you have learned. In school you learn everything “systems” based but the real world requires everything put together that was the biggest challenge during that rotation but it was enjoyable because you get to return patients to much higher levels of function than when they arrived in the hospital.
Can you talk a little bit about why you chose to do a residency? What do physical therapists gain from such a program?
I am so thrilled to be pursuing a residency post graduation with an emphasis in orthopedics through Evidence in Motion. The primary reasons why I chose to do a residency are because of the structured clinical mentorship, continued hands on practice of skills with feedback, and continued education experiences for patient communication. PT school crams an unbelievable amount of information into your brain, but when you get out and start practicing, you realize that honestly, you really don’t know that much about treating patients. I mean, c’mon, how many patients walk through the door and are textbook examples of what you studied in the classroom? I’ll tell you, I’ve been working in the clinic for the past 6 months; there really aren’t that many, and you have to hone those critical thinking skills and figure out what is going on with this patient and how you are best going to address it during your treatment today. The hands on practice accelerates what you will gain from just working in the field of PT, but in a residency model, you will also learn how to best make the judgments for selecting the different interventions and any modifications when necessary that may be needed to best facilitate patient comfort. Lastly, communication is the most important factor in healthcare in general. For physical therapy, it is so important to be able to build rapport with your patient, establish that therapeutic alliance for your care, and be sure to effectively communicate what is going on to the patient. Sometimes, something as simple as listening to them talk is all a patient is really looking for in this ever-changing and dynamic healthcare industry. We all took on the roles of being lifelong learners when we decided to enter the healthcare profession. Even the best of the best in the field of physical therapy do not know it all and are still learning to this day. Physical therapists gain an increased self-efficacy and knowledge base for their clinical skills and are eligible to sit for the board certified specialists examination post completion of a residency.
How does your class feel with the NPTE? How did you study for it?
The majority of my class took the exam at end of April, which is came up really quickly after clinicals! I think that, overall, my class feels prepared to take the exam; Regis has prepped us really well with their curriculum. It is also reassuring I worked with many colleagues who all graduated from Regis during my final clinical, and they all have said the same thing: that Regis gives you a solid foundation of knowledge going into the exam. I set up a study schedule, and most of my studying has taken place after work. I make myself sit down for a couple hours each night during the week and focus on a particular area of study. If I get busy during the week, then I makeup more study time on the weekend or at work if I have an opening in my schedule between patients.
What would you like to have accomplished in the next five years?
Career-wise, my goals are to complete my residency, become board certified in orthopedics, obtain my trigger point dry needling credentials, establish myself in the Northern Colorado area with Colorado In Motion, and find a niche I want to market towards for clientele as well as possibly fellowship training through the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists. Life-wise, I want to continue to explore the Colorado and western landscape by climbing more 14ers, backcountry camping, and visiting as many National Parks and recreation areas as I can. I will also enjoy the Fort Collins lifestyle by becoming a regular at the New Belgium and O’dell Breweries tap rooms and by developing my new passion for trail running out at the Horsetooth Reservoir!
How did Regis further your interests? Any advice for the classes under you?
Regis is known for their high quality of education and, specifically, teaching very good manual skills. You will constantly be pushed to get involved and challenge yourself–no getting away from that at Regis! Someone as stubborn as myself (I am really stubborn) needed this, and even when it is frustrating, the faculty and your other classmates will find a way to push you off that cliff and watch you spread your wings. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there; you honestly cannot network enough! You can be the best PT ever, but if you can’t communicate and network with other colleagues and build relationships and surround yourself with like-minded people who will push you towards your goals, then you will fall stagnate and always wonder where your potential could have gone. PT school is a combination of all the best and worst feelings you can imagine mixed in with a boatload of exams and projects. Sometimes it sucks, and other times it is so unbelievably great! I was actually asked the other day if I had to do PT school again, would I? The answer is: yes! Absolutely! It has gotten me to where I want to be and, in my opinion, is the best career because I get to help people with movement all day— but I’m glad I graduated and am onto my career.