My definition of personal growth is a continuous exploration of life that molds and develops the individual you are destined to be. A butterfly completes five transitional forms to transform from egg to full butterfly. Like a butterfly, a person must go through multiple phases to evolve into maturity. Moments, our cocoon, assists in shaping and transforming us, contributing to our transition from child to adult. My time, here at Duke, in the physical therapy program continues to be the most pivotal phase in my life to aid in the evolvement of the person I am meant to be.
As a Native American female who has overcome multiple adversities and barriers, my first year in the program was very challenging. There were many times where I felt like I was searching for my purpose and place within the program. We won’t even begin to talk about my battle with imposter syndrome; as I’m sure many of my classmates experienced the exact same feelings. The first year in the program is considered the hardest year for numerous reasons, but I did not let that stop me. I persevered and made it through! It has been twenty-one months since I started the DPT program. Throughout that time, this program has continued to shape my mindset and provide the validation I needed to know that my purpose in life is to become a licensed physical therapist.
The Duke DPT program continues to grow and maximize its efforts in providing support services, optimal and safe environments, and access and resources to their students. After reflecting on my experiences during my first year and what I hope to achieve as a second-year student, I made a discovery. I came to the realization that I have to become more involved in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives to further represent and be a voice for underserved communities, underrepresented populations, minorities, and Indigenous populations within the PT profession. Duke DPT has one of the largest assortments of Student Special Interest Groups (SSIGs) and Clubs within a DPT program, as well as, numerous opportunities for engagement inside and outside of the Duke community. These things, alongside great mentorship, further allowed me to become a member of the Duke DPT DEI Committee, APTA NC SSIG DEI Project Committee, the Diversity Club, and the Summer Impact Program. I have also served as a panelist for multiple DEI organizations which has allowed me to advocate and discuss my personal experiences as a minority within the PT realm. All of this would not have been possible if Duke DPT didn’t encourage their students to be all they can be, in every aspect. I am extremely thankful for my time here at Duke. If I had to highlight one aspect of the program that significantly impacted my experience it would be the exceptional faculty and staff. I have been able to foster relationships with the faculty that I know will last long into my PT career. The faculty genuinely care for their students; they want nothing but the best for us and to see us succeed in every way.
As a current second-year student, I would describe this phase in the curriculum as a window of opportunity to learn and engage in numerous areas of the PT profession that may be meaningful to you or may pique your curiosity. This is achieved in two ways; the first is the Advanced Practice Courses (APCs). APCs are basically a variety of classes that aim to provide a deeper focus on different areas of the PT profession. Some examples of the potential topics covered in the courses include sports, pediatrics, orthopedics, manual therapy, neurology, women’s health, research, and professional leadership and advocacy. I was able to personally choose which 12 APCs I wanted to take to further enhance my educational experience. This is why I appreciate how Duke DPT structures their program. The selection of APCs is student-centered; for that, I felt I could be in control of my future and the choices I wanted to make.
The second way this is achieved is through the Comprehensive Assessment and Patient Management (CAMP) courses. I participated in two 6 week courses that consisted of working in small groups to provide physical therapy care to members of the community who had a diagnosis that was either orthopedic or neurologic related. While in CAMP, our small groups were mentored by a faculty member. This was very helpful as though it allowed me to increase my ability to provide hands-on care to patients and improve my clinical reasoning skills. Due to the structuring of my second year in the program, I know I am ready to take on my third year.
Now, let’s discuss what is currently happening in my life as I am quickly approaching my third and LAST year in the program. In July, I will be starting my first Terminal Clinical Experience. I promise it is not as scary as it sounds. My first rotation will be at Duke University Hospital Acute Care, specifically hematology and oncology services. I have been experiencing a whirlwind of emotions about beginning this new phase in my journey. If I am being honest, the hematology and oncology PT setting is one of the lowest on my levels of interest. However, I feel like this will be an opportunity for me to get out of my comfort zone and learn more about a setting that provides preventative care and management to patients. My second rotation will be at an outpatient pediatrics clinic, which I am super stoked about! Lastly, my final rotation will be on the Navajo reservation at a general outpatient clinic through the Indian Health Services. This rotation is the one I am most excited about. Having the ability, as a Native American DPT student, to travel to another tribal nation and provide PT services to an underserved Indigenous population is beyond humbling. None of this would have been possible if it wasn’t for Duke DPT and its well-rounded connections with different rehabilitation facilities in the U.S.
As I prepare to venture off into another moment in my life that is going to shape and transform me into the clinician I hope to be, I am left with nothing but gratitude and excitement. The challenges I have faced in life have not only taught me the importance of perseverance and compassion but have sculpted me into the strong and determined woman I am today. Therefore, no matter how intimidating my clinical rotations and the future may seem, I know that my time here in the Duke DPT program has equipped me with the necessary tools I need to continue to overcome any barriers that may come my way. For this truly is my butterfly season.