Leadership Through Service: A Student Perspective

Name: Amber Bolen, Class of 2019 Service Representative

Undergrad: University of Oregon

Hometown: Eugene, OR

Fun Fact: In college I spontaneously gained the ability to wiggle my ears.

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Hi everyone! My name is Amber and I am the Regis DPT Class of 2019’s Service Representative. Being the service rep for my class means that I work with people and organizations in the community to plan and implement service projects for my class to participate in. I have also had the wonderful opportunity to be Regis’s PT Day of Service Representative for 2017, a title that has now been passed to Austin Adamson, the service rep for Regis’ class of 2020.

The prospect of serving others was one of the main draws for me to attend Regis University’s DPT program. One of the first questions I would ask my prospective schools was “what opportunities do you provide for students to be involved in serving the community?” Regis was by far the most equipped to answer this question. With service learning projects being embedded into almost every semester, domestic and international service opportunities through the Global Health Pathway, and countless opportunities and contacts for students to find more to be involved in, I was hooked.

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Regis DPT Class of 2019 students pose with Denver Parks and Rec employees after working hard mulching trees and raking leaves at Sloan’s Lake Park.

Before beginning my journey as my class’s service rep, I wanted to determine what my fellow classmates were really interested in. Being people who all made the conscious decision to live in Colorado for 2.5 years, outdoor projects were high on the list. In the past, I’ve organized day projects cleaning and keeping up parks surrounding Regis. For example, for PT Day of Service we worked at Berkeley Park to restore the playgrounds, repaint picnic tables, clear trash, and unearth perennial plants.

Another trip involved collaborating with Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado to provide trail restoration work at the Anna Mule Trails near Georgetown, Colorado. The trail restoration project was a weekend endeavor that resulted in sore muscles, a more refined grasp on what goes into creating a trail, great food, and excellent classmate bonding time.

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Regis Class of 2019 students take a break for a photo op while they work on the Anna Mule Trail near Georgetown, CO.

Being the service rep for my class has truly been an honor and I would be remised not to reflect on what I’ve learned in the process. Here are some “pearls of wisdom” I was able to collect:

  • You don’t have to be outgoing to be a student representative, but in my case I did have to be comfortable reaching out to community partners I hadn’t met yet.
  • Sometimes what you think an individual or a community needs is not actually what they need. Our job when providing service is to listen and respond in kindness if we are to do anything tangible.
  • While direct service (working with people face-to-face) is valuable and rewarding, indirect service, such as maintaining community areas, has merits too. I can’t count how many people thanked us during our park clean ups!
  • An act of service does not have to be a huge, momentous task. Small acts of service are appreciated more than we think.
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Regis Class of 2019 and 2020 students and friends take a group photo in Berkeley Park on PT Day of Service.

The fact that so many Regis DPT students are willing and excited to take part in service projects beyond what is expected by their classes speaks volumes about the type of people that our program attracts. I have never met a group a people, students and faculty alike, that are so committed to doing more for others. Service is so inextricably linked to the curriculum, values, and culture here at Regis that it has become part of who we are. As my classes at Regis come to a close and I am getting precariously close to “real world PT,” I know that the emphasis placed on these values will make us excellent physical therapists. We have learned to be sensitive to the needs of our patients and our communities and understand that physical therapists have a unique position to advocate for and implement change on individual, community, and societal levels. My hope as we all eventually graduate is for us to take everything that we’ve learned and apply it to our own clinical practice. I hope for all of us to listen, ask questions, create connections, and take initiative to make a meaningful impact in the lives of others.

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Cleaning up trash at Berkeley Park!

Please stay tuned for PT Day of Service this year, happening in early October of this year! Look for announcements from Austin Adamson, the Regis DPT Class of 2020 Service Rep and PT Day of Service rep for 2018! If you have questions about anything involving student service at Regis, please feel free to email me at abolen@regis.edu. In addition, if you have any questions about PT Day of Service 2018, Austin’s email is aadamson001@regis.edu.

 

Farewell Marcia Smith!

Name: Marcia Smith, PT, Ph.D.

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As we sadly said farewell at the end of the summer to another beloved faculty member, Marcia Smith, who has been with us at Regis for 20 years, second-year student Meg Kates made sure to catch some of her words of wisdom before her retirement! Read the interview below for Marcia’s amazing journey as a PT, educator, and advocator.

How did your journey with physical therapy begin?

When I was 8 or 9 years old, I read a story in a Reader’s Digest publication called Karen, which was the story of a young woman growing up with cerebral palsy in the late 1930s. At the time in history, many of those individuals lived in group facilities for people with disabilities. I remember, in the story, Karen learning how to walk with the help of a physical therapist. My interest was further reinforced in 8th grade, when I saw a television show called Route 66. In the show, main character came down with an illness and had to be hospitalized, and, I remember, a physical therapist helped him get well. Lastly, the gentleman who became the head of the Rehabilitation Center in Grand Junction moved across the street from me. I had lots of opportunities to talk to him and watch him. So, I had lots of opportunities for physical therapy to be reinforced as the career I wanted to pursue.

I graduated with by Bachelor’s in physical therapy from CU, and then I moved to upstate New York, where my husband went to law school. A Bachelor’s degree was all that was really available at the time, unless a person wanted to teach, in which case he or she got a Master’s degree. I had never met a physical therapist with a Ph.D. at the time. I lived in Ithaca for 3 years, and then I moved back Colorado in 1972. There were zero positions open in the state, so I worked vacation relief at nursing homes. Colorado has been saturated a long time. Eventually I got a call from the head therapist at Denver Health, who had heard I was looking for a job and asked me if I would like to interview…I said yes! I was hired and it was the weird, the wild, and the wonderful. At Denver Health, therapists are assigned to teams, so I worked in the Amputee Brace Clinic for 6 months. Then, I did hand therapy. Then, I rotated onto the Neuro-/Neurosurgery team. After that, I told everyone they could rotate around me because I was not going to leave that team.

Starting out, did you always know that you wanted to pursue neuro-focused PT?

No, in fact, I thought I wanted to be a pediatric therapist. In New York, I worked at Tompkins County Hospital and Rehabilitation Center for 2 years. That was a wonderful opportunity. I would see a patient who had an acute stroke and I would get to follow them from acute care to rehab to outpatient. I had the opportunity to fill the spot of a physical therapist on maternity-leave at the Special Children’s Center, which was a freestanding outpatient school in Ithaca. Interestingly, the head of the Special Children’s Center had her Ph.D. in Education and her Master’s in Speech Language Pathology. And she had cerebral palsy. In fact, she was one of the people in the book “Karen.” It was a full circle moment for me. I worked with this woman in the pediatric setting for 8 months before I moved back to Denver where, like I said, there were no pediatric positions. There were hardly any positions, but it was at Denver Health where I decided neuro is what I really wanted to do.

 

Can you tell me more about your experience with Ranchos Los Amigos?

When I was at Denver Health, I felt like I needed to know so much more. I expressed these feeling to my husband and he encouraged me to apply to universities for a Master’s degree. I was admitted to a program for clinical specialization at Rancho Los Amigos, where I learned at a couple of years. The first year was mostly class work, and the second year was all clinical specialization. We rotated between specialties, and I chose traumatic brain injury, stroke, TBI children, GB, and it just goes on like that.

 

What advice would you to someone who want to get into a specific specialty of work?

When I was finishing my Master’s, I can remember a classmate saying to me, “If there are no openings, I will just go do anything.”

And I can remember saying, “I won’t. I refuse. If I can’t be a neuro therapist, I will flip burgers!

So, my advice is to find a place you want to be and stick with it. Secondly, try to pick your final clinical rotation in a setting where you know you would like to practice. Lastly, don’t disregard what you have learned based on the setting you are in. For example, I have used my musculoskeletal and cardiopulmonary skills in practice with my patients with stroke, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease. Always be searching for opportunities to use a wide breadth of skills and never putting people into a “box.”

 

What do you think is the next step for the career of physical therapy?

I think that we will always need educators. So, if you’re interested in that route, be considering in what subject you would like to get your Ph.D.

There are other things I worry about. I worry about the cost of education, and the loans that people have to take out. I see how physical therapists are reimbursed in Colorado and nationwide, and it’s hideous. So, I see residency taking us to another level, but, ultimately, we need to be addressed as primary care providers.

Ultimately, we need to be our own advocates. That means writing up clinical studies, asking questions, and answering questions.

 

What is the first step in becoming an advocate? How did you get your start?

When I lived in New York, there were two physical therapists at Ithaca College who would regularly invite me and some others to attend district meetings, and everyone would go. Then, in 1970, New York had its first state conference: that night, everyone volunteered to participate on a committee of the APTA. When I moved back to Colorado, one of my mentors invited me to a picnic, where she asked me if I would become the secretary of the Colorado APTA Chapter.

I asked her, “Do you think I can?”

She said, “Of course you can.”

So, I became the secretary and did that for 4 years before I moved to California to pursue my Master’s, where I continued to follow through with my responsibilities until I came back.

 

What’s the next step for you? What’s in your future?

I am going to continue to do some research. I am going to continue to answer some questions about how we dose exercise for people with Parkinson’s Disease.

I will be doing some traveling. In September, my husband and I will be escorting some friends to Ireland. I am going to see Iceland next. We are going to go for Hawaii for a few weeks, and, then I thought, since we are halfway there, why not go to New Zealand? Why fly back to the mainland? Then we have friends that we will be joining on a river trip on the Rhine. I don’t know after that!

 

Thank youMarcia, for your work and dedication to both Regis and our profession! We are so grateful for all of your contributions and will miss you very dearly at Regis, and we wish you all the best in your new adventure in life! Congratulations!