Physical Therapy Alumna Interview

Thanks for sharing your story, Dr. McCrady!

Jenn McCrady is a VT alumna who is currently working as a Physical Therapist. She graduated from Virginia Tech with a BS degree in Biology and Minor in Chemistry in 2002, before receiving a Doctorate in Physical Therapy at the University of Iowa in 2005. She currently works prn as a Physical Therapist for VT Sports Medicine as well as University Physical Therapy in the NRV.

How did you know that your profession was the right one for you?

I always knew that I wanted to work in the medical field. I started volunteering at the hospital when I was a junior in high school and was placed in the Rehabilitation Department (PT/OT/SLP). I was instantly drawn to the field and loved the idea of spending quality time with patients to help enhance their quality of life, improve their sports performance,  or recover from an injury.

When did you figure it out?

I was very fortunate to decide on Physical Therapy during my junior year of high school.  I continued to volunteer/job shadow whenever possible in the PT/OT department, as well as the orthopedic department and even had the opportunity to observe surgeries. During my undergraduate time at VT, I was fortunate enough to work with the athletes by serving as a student Athletic Trainer. Everything that I saw reinforced that PT was the career for me.

What kinds of experiences in undergrad did you have (over the summer/during the year) that helped you prepare for your profession?

  • Volunteering/job shadowing in PT/OT departments (variety of settings including inpatient,  outpatient,  and skilled nursing)
  • Serving as a student Athletic Trainer in the VT Sports Medicine Department
  • Observed orthopedic surgeries
  • Job shadowing with prosthetics/orthotics professionals

What are some important things to keep in mind when applying to/preparing for professional school?

In general, professional schools are significantly more competitive in terms of admissions (i.e. most PT incoming class sizes are 25-35 students). Everyone applying has competitive grades/test scores. What will set you apart is your demonstrated commitment to the profession and health/wellness in general.  This could include things like having a variety of job shadowing, involvement in extra curricular activities that demonstrate communication and leadership skills as well as your ability to adapt to your environment, leadership roles, etc…

What is something you wish you had known during your undergraduate years?

The biggest change from undergrad to grad school was that once you are there, you are all in. Everything that you do will be focused on the profession.  Every class is relevant.  Every skill that you learn is important. Every patient/case that you are involved in will contribute to your professional development in some way. It is exhausting and the workload is intense.

Overall advice for those unsure of their health profession path

Keep your mind open and take advantage of every opportunity you have to observe/volunteer different medical professionals.

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Nursing Alumna Interview

Thank you for sharing your story, Ms. Rabhan!

Alisha Rabhan is a VT alumna who is a dually certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner with over 15 years of pediatric experience in critical care, trauma/burn, oncology, hematology, bone marrow transport, surgery, newborn nursery, and primary care.  She is currently working as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at The Herman and Walter Samuelson Children’s Hospital at Sinai. She graduated from Virginia Tech in 2002 with a B.S. in Biology, a minor in Chemistry,  and a concentration in Biotechnology.  She then received her B.S. in Nursing from Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing in 2003.  Ms. Rabhan also received her M.S. in Nursing, Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner in 2007 and her Post-Masters Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Certificate in 2018 from Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing.  While pursuing further education, she has also worked in a number of hospitals around Maryland, first as a Registered Nurse (RN) and then as a Nurse Practitioner (NP).

What led to your interest in pediatric nursing?
I have always wanted to work and take care of children since I was a little girl, just did not know what that career would look like.

Who or what inspired you to pursue becoming a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner?
I had a 10th-grade teacher for science, and we isolated DNA from an onion versus doing the ‘bug’ project. That changed my life and wanted to pursue a career/direction with genetics involved.

What did you major in and what inspired you to choose this/these areas of study?
I majored in biology, minored in chemistry, and had a concentration in biotechnology.  I came to VT with biology declared. I did not know what my career would be but knew science/genetics would be the backbone.

Were you successful on your first application attempt and if not, would you like to share your story with the students on how you recovered/planned for the reapplication?
I have had many jobs within my profession. My first RN position was obtained since I was completing a clinical rotation on that unit and there was an opening.  My first nurse practitioner job also resulted from a similar experience.

What are some words of wisdom about the application process? What would you have liked to know ahead of time? What do you wish someone would have told you before you began applying?
For many jobs as you advance in your career, you can negotiate your salary, unless there is a set salary standard.

How do you balance the demands of being a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner with additional obligations and challenges?
I have learned over the years that work/life balance is important despite being a ‘workaholic’ myself.

Do you feel that you were prepared for nursing interviews? What preparation advice would you give?
I have learned over the years that many interviews are now just a chat/talking with the interviewee about life experiences and just getting to know each other.

What do you enjoy most about being a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner?
The ability to build trust with patients and families to take care of their child especially in one of the most stressful times of their lives.
What was your favorite undergraduate class outside of the nursing prerequisite classes?
My favorite class was horticulture.  I loved making flower arrangements weekly and having a stress-free environment.
How many schools did you apply to and what criteria or resources did you use to select these schools?
For my nursing career, I only applied to Johns Hopkins since they had an accelerated BSN to RN program.

What made the nursing school you chose the right fit for you?
Johns Hopkins had the program I wanted to complete and was still close to my mom (3 hours away).

What memory stands out the most from your first few weeks of nursing school?
Just like any schooling, getting to know classmates/professors and finding my own niche.

What advice do you have for applicants considering a career in nursing?
It is a hard but very rewarding career. Nursing has many advantages since it encompasses so many opportunities to change and further your career.

What kind of financial aid did you need to pay for your multiple nursing degrees?
I was granted several scholarships but also obtain grants for my RN degree. I was fortunate that since I worked full time, Johns Hopkins paid for my first Masters (primary care NP) degree. I then saved money to pay out of pocket for post Masters (acute care NP) degree.

What helps you manage your stress and stay motivated?
Having a solid core group of friends who are supportive, and taking barre class several times a week.

Posted in Alumni Interviews, Pre-Nursing Information | Leave a comment

Health Administration Alumnus Interview

Thank you for sharing your story, Mr. Kaushal!

Karan Kaushal is a VT alumnus who is currently studying as a graduate student at George Mason University.  He graduated from Virginia Tech in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in HNFE with a concentration in the SNFE option.  He began pursuing a Master in Healthcare Administration at George Mason University during the summer of 2020.  Despite having recently begun pursuing his MHA,  he is currently interested in pursuing either finance, IT, or health policy after he graduates.

What led to your interest in graduate school?
I was interested in this graduate program (Master’s in Healthcare Administration) as it elaborates on Healthcare Infrastructure in the United States and touches on some important factors that influence success in the industry such as Finances, Policy, and Administrative leadership.

Who or what inspired you to pursue a graduate degree in healthcare administration?
I was inspired by my father who has been a practicing physician for over 30 years. From an early age, I would sit in his office or in our living room after he would return from work and he would teach me medical terminology. When I began high school, I started volunteering at a local free clinic where I was able to gain experience in their clinics, specifically in the pharmaceutical and dental departments.

What did you major in and what inspired you to choose this/these areas of study?
I was an HNFE major during my undergrad, focusing on the science of nutrition and exercise (SNFE). The SFNE option is great for students that are planning on entering medicine or any health-related field. I was drawn to this program due to the emphasis on biochemistry, anatomy, and exercise science. There was a nice mix of the class types, and some HNFE electives touched upon health policy and administrative roles as a practitioner. 

What activities did you participate in as an undergrad that shaped your preparation for a graduate degree in healthcare administration?
Although I am in the early days of my graduate program, I already understand that Health Administration is most efficient when working with a competent team. I made an effort to be active on campus as an Undergraduate TA, a Hokie camp leader, a committee member for the Big event, relay for life, and Greek life. These opportunities provided me with valuable experiences related to teamwork, time management, and communication skills. 

How did you prepare for the graduate school application process?
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to do a mock interview with Health Professions Advising at Virginia Tech. This gave me an idea of my strengths and weaknesses, and how to become a better applicant. From there, I watched several videos on graduate school interviews and wrote down the most common questions that were asked. I also made sure to read all about the programs I applied to as well as their curriculum and the post-grad synopsis. This provided me with an additional conversation starter in the interview process. Practicing the questions and my responses allowed me to feel more confident for the interview.

How do you balance the demands of graduate school with additional obligations and challenges?
Time management is critical to maintaining balance in my experience. I like to incorporate daily exercise and 1-2 hours to wind down each evening. By consistently spending several hours a day on assignments/schoolwork I tend to have more peace of mind and confidence in my courses.
Is there any advice or feedback that you received regarding personal statements that you would like to share?
This may be one of the most important aspects of any graduate/professional application. This provides the admissions committee one last opportunity to get to know the applicant before making the decision to invite said student for an interview.
My personal statement was far from perfect the first draft, and even the second draft. It took time for me to develop a personal statement that I was both satisfied with and confident in. Be patient, and do not get frustrated. I would encourage each applicant to try to bring something unique to their personal statement and have as many people provide feedback as possible. I also attempted to write each personal statement a bit differently for each school I applied to. 

Posted in Alumni Interviews, General HPA Information, Other Health Professions | Leave a comment

Dental Alumna Interview

Thanks for sharing your story, Ms. Dobson!

Sarah Dobson is a VT alumna who is currently studying as a dental student at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Adams School of Dentistry.  She graduated from Virginia Tech in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in Clinical Neuroscience and spent a year working as an AmeriCorps VISTA, assisting those living with Substance Use Disorder (SUD) before entering dental school.


What led to your interest in dentistry?
As a kid, I always enjoyed going to the dentist (as weird as it sounds!). I loved how my dentist was able to create a comfortable atmosphere for everyone, even those who were nervous or scared of the dentist. I also had braces in 7th grade and was fascinated by how the orthodontist was able to move my teeth. When I got to high school, I did an afterschool program at my local dental school that allowed me to experience dentistry for the first time. I had a blast learning about the tools, common procedures, and what life in dental school was like for students. 

What did you major in and what inspired you to choose this/these areas of study?
I majored in Clinical Neuroscience. I chose this major because not only is the content extremely interesting, I knew that I would be very well prepared for dental school. The course offerings are similar to that of a health professions school program and some are even taught by faculty who have taught/currently teach at medical schools. I was able to complete all the necessary prerequisites and was challenged at the same time. I also enjoyed the many group projects and case studies we observed as this is similar to the work that will be done on a healthcare team. 

What activities did you participate in as an undergrad that shaped your preparation for dental school?
I was heavily involved in the VT ASDA Pre-Dental Club. This experience allowed me to hold multiple leadership positions, network with others in the field, and learn more about dentistry! As a club, we also got to travel to American Student Dental Association conferences as pre-dental students, meeting other pre-dental and dental students across the country. There were many community service opportunities through the club, as well. We participated in MOM/RAM projects across the state. These are days of dental service where dental professionals provide free services to those in need. Not only was it great to give back, but we also were able to get hands-on clinical experience as well. 

In addition to my involvement in the pre-dental club, I completed 2 summer enrichment programs that heavily influenced my journey to dentistry. The first was the Summer Health Professions Education Program. I completed this program at the end of my freshman year at Howard University. This was my first time taking dental school level courses and learning about healthcare disparities. Another program I also participated in and recommend is VCU’s Summer Academic Enrichment Program. I completed this program after my third year at Tech, just before applying. This program stressed the importance of working closely with other health professionals as a dentist and being able to treat the whole patient, not just problems in the mouth.

Finally, I was able to graduate from VT a year early and spent what would’ve been my senior year as an AmeriCorps VISTA. I was located at the Virginia Department of Social Services Headquarters in Richmond and spent the year on the governor’s task force to assist those living with Substance Use Disorder (SUD). I highly recommend this program for anyone who is interested in giving back while also growing personally and professionally during their gap year!

Do you feel that you were prepared for dental school interview(s)? What preparation advice would you give?
Before applying, I participated in the HPEC Committee Letter process which included an interview. This was great practice before the application cycle. Also, I utilized the HPA mock interview services as well. These experiences allowed me to feel ready for interviews.
The biggest thing with interview prep, in my opinion, is practice! Make sure that you are able to get feedback from others, as well. It is also a good idea to have a general idea of scenarios or topics that you can use to respond to commonly asked questions. Student Doctor Network has an interview section for each school that highlights questions that tend to pop up in their interviews. That said, I don’t recommend memorizing exactly what to say. You definitely still want the interview to feel genuine and flow naturally.
Finally, don’t forget to have a few questions that you can ask the interviewer at the end of the interview about themselves or the school. This is a great way to show that you’re interested. 

What do you enjoy most about dentistry?
There are a variety of things I enjoy about dentistry, from the positive work-life balance to the plethora of career paths and options for specializing within dentistry. What I think I enjoy most is the level of impact and interaction with patients you have as a dentist. Dentistry is a very intimate field that requires a lot of trust between doctor and patient. I like the idea of being able to gain a patient’s trust. Also, I like that in dentistry you can see your vision and your work come to life. It is amazing to see a patient enter the office with a smile they might not be as confident in and within a few appointments be able to have a healthy, bright smile. 

How many schools did you apply to and what criteria or resources did you use to select these schools?
I applied to 8 schools. I used the ADEA Dental Explorer Guide and ASDA’s Getting Into Dental School Guide to help me research schools. After determining the 4 criteria that were very important to me (diversity, cost, clinical experience, community service opportunities), I used the guides to determine which schools performed best in those categories. From there, I decided that I would only apply to schools that I would 100% attend if for some reason I was only accepted into that school. This narrowed my list down to 8, all on the east coast. 

Another great resource when determining where to apply is current dental students that attend that school. A lot of dental students are active on social media and willing to answer questions about their school. Don’t be shy and use them as a resource to get insight into a school from a student’s perspective before you apply!

What made the dental school you chose the right fit for you?
1) Early clinical exposure – UNC is unique in that we first see patients at the end of our first year. This is pretty early compared to other schools. I wanted to ensure that I would have a clinical experience that would prepare me to begin working right away (without feeling the need to do a residency before if I didn’t want to). 

2) Variety of opportunities – UNC has all of the core dental specialties represented. This is great because I am not 100% sure of what I want to do but can easily shadow in the specialty clinics to learn more about what each has to offer. Additionally, UNC has many great research opportunities. UNC is home to the #2 school of public health, UNC Gillings. I am interested in public health and will be able to collaborate with students and professors at the public health school during my career. Furthermore, there are a ton of service opportunities offered. From global mission trips to student-run clinics within the Triangle, I will have no issues getting involved in dental service during my time at UNC.

3)Cost – Being a public, state school, UNC is one of the cheapest dental schools in the country. Additionally, they allow out-of-state residents like myself the opportunity to obtain in-state residency after the first year. This, along with a scholarship offer, made UNC my most financially wise choice. 

Did you have to change any of your study habits when you entered dental school?
The biggest difference between undergrad and dental school is not so much the difficulty of the content but the pace of the material. Many of the courses I had seen in some capacity at VT (Anatomy & Physiology, Microbiology, Biochemistry, etc.) but the tests are closer together and there is less time to study. However, the content is less memorizing and more connecting concepts to what we will see in practice. Therefore, the biggest change I had to make was to start studying earlier. Whereas in undergrad, there often is a lot of time to review and get acquainted with the material, in dental school, there is often only 1 – 2 weeks between exams. With this, I learned quickly that life is easier when you study a little each day or the first day you receive the material vs. waiting until the weekend before the exam. 

What advice do you have for applicants considering a career in dentistry?
1) Explore the field! Whether this is through shadowing, summer enrichment programs/internships, or dental assisting, make an effort to learn as much as you can about dentistry and all that it has to offer. Not only will this increase your knowledge, but it will also allow you to ensure that dentistry is the perfect fit for you.

2) Stay organized. There are a lot of moving parts in the dental application process. It is super helpful to have a binder or notebook that you can log shadowing, volunteer, and experience hours. Also, it’s never too early to start thinking about who you’d want to write your letters of recommendation or to work on your personal statement. Finally, be mindful of dates and deadlines in terms of applying as well as prerequisites needed because this tends to vary by school.

3) Trust the process! Know that everyone’s journey will be different and you shouldn’t compare yourself to others. Just trust that you will end up where you’re supposed to be, as cliché as it sounds. Run your own race and control what you can control, and the rest will fall into place.

What kind of financial aid did you need to pay for dental school?
Like most dental students, I am relying on loans to pay for my dental school and living expenses (rent, food, travel, etc.). I received a scholarship from my school, as well. Additionally, for completing a year of service with AmeriCorps, I was given an education award that I was able to get matched by my school. 

There are outside scholarships that cover tuition and fees as well as monthly living stipends for dental students in exchange for years of service as a dentist either in the military or in a medically underserved area of the United States. These 2 programs are called the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) and the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Scholarship Program, respectively. I recommend looking into either of those if you’re interested in serving in those fields.

What helps you manage your stress and stay motivated?
I enjoy working out, especially after a long week of exams! Also, I’ve been lucky enough to have a tight-knit group of classmates that support and look out for each other. We often find ourselves unwinding together on the weekends. Also, I like creating posts and interacting with pre-dental/pre-health students on my dental Instagram page (@sarahsmilesdds).

Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any specific questions about dentistry or UNC! Email:
Instagram: @sarahsmilesdds 

Posted in Alumni Interviews, Pre-Dentistry Information | Leave a comment

MD Alumnus Interview

Thanks for sharing your story, Dr. Crow!

Dr. Kevin Crow is a VT alumnus who is currently working as a resident physician in pediatrics as a member of the Johns Hopkins Harriet Lane House Staff.  He graduated from Virginia Tech with a B.S. in Biochemistry in 2013, before receiving a Master’s in Biomedical Science from Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) in 2015.  Dr. Crow then graduated from EVMS with his M.D. in 2019, before beginning his residency in pediatrics.

What led to your interest in medicine?
As a young child I had said a few times I wanted to be a doctor but it was never a serious dream. I initially went to school to be an engineer like my father, which is why I went to VT. Found out very quickly it wasn’t going to be the career for me and shadowed my childhood pediatrician when I was 19 after my freshman year. I instantly fell in love with what he did because I realized how much of an art medicine is, how he came in with a smile doing what he loved, and the long lasting and rewarding connections with people you are able to have. Ever since that day I did everything I could to become a physician!

What did you major in and what inspired you to choose this area of study?
I majored in biochemistry because I knew many of the principles of medicine and pharmacology are based in biochemistry and a biology degree felt too “animal” heavy when I wanted a more human side of things.
How did you prepare for the medical school application process?
This is a difficult thing to do! But what helped me the most was setting daily goals on what to accomplish for my application. On one day I would focus on obtaining letters of recommendation, another day on my essay, another day on the contents of my application (CV). It may work well for some people like me, where I get burnt out if I work on one sole thing for too long. I would also implore anyone to please ask others for help! It is a hard enough process alone, so be humble and have others review your application and essay to make sure it is as good as it can be.

Were you successful on your first application attempt and if not, would you like to share your story with the students on how you recovered/planned for the reapplication?
Well I will be very honest… I didn’t do “medical school” well with my grades while in undergrad and knew I couldn’t get in after graduation. So I decided to better myself as a human being and participated in AmeriCorps in NYC for a year working as a medically oriented social worker for homeless men. It was a humbling and life changing experience to say the least! After that year of re-orienting myself I went to EVMS in Norfolk, Virginia for a “Medical Master’s” program which went well and ended up going to med school there! I was definitely not a “traditional” medical student so don’t worry if you aren’t!

How do you balance the demands of medicine with additional obligations and challenges?
By being myself. Even when I find myself slammed with exam preparation, residency interviews, or even large patient volumes as a resident I do my best to never forget to do the things that make me happy. Your free time is certainly precious and you need to use it to make your mental health and stress level as low as possible. Keeping an actual written/virtual schedule can really help with this and make sure you stay on top of your work and well being!
Do you feel that you were prepared for medical school interviews? What preparation advice would you give?
I feel as though I was relatively prepared for medical school interviews. You never really know what your interviewers are going to be like so that is certainly a tough part. As for advice I would say one of the most important things to do in preparation is to really know yourself. If you’re asked an opinion on something , know your opinion and know why you think that way. If you’re asked a tough question then answer it as honestly as possible, don’t tailor it to your interviewers (unless it is a very controversial question… which they aren’t supposed to ask). This last piece of advice may sound terrifying, but I would genuinely say that if you don’t know something to admit that. Ask for clarification and really see what they’re asking. A large part of medicine is knowing when to ask for help and knowing when you have a knowledge gap.
What do you enjoy most about medicine?
I’m extremely lucky that I get to work with children and their families. Taking care of the pediatric population is an unbelievable privilege given someone is allowing me to take care of their most prized possession. My patients make me laugh almost every single day, I get to help terrified parents through their child’s illness, and sometimes even be there during the last moments of their child’s life. Even though it is a tough field it is unbelievably rewarding. Another part of what I enjoy is realizing how much I have learned and how far I have to go to become the physician I want. It is all about learning and bettering yourself as a physician and human being which should be a never ending process.
Did you have to change any of your study habits when you entered medical school?
Absolutely! When I was an undergrad and a really tough time focusing and taking studying seriously. After my year in NYC and during my medical master year I worked extremely hard to study every single day to learn the concepts of medicine, many times up to 12 to 13 hours a day. I also realized during my medical master year that I am not someone that does well with face to face lectures and that watching recorded lectures (if possible) is much more helpful given I can stop it from playing and try to understand the concepts better as I go, rather than get behind. I also realized that there is a massive amount of information to learn a medical school, which can easily seem overwhelming, so I decided to stop taking as many notes and only try to focus notetaking on things I didn’t understand. I would typically make flash cards of the things I didn’t understand through the use of Anki online.
What advice do you have for applicants considering a career in medicine?
That it is a long and difficult road but also extremely rewarding. My mentor once told me that it is one of the longest experiences of delayed gratification you can think of. With needing four years of undergrad, four years of Med school, and a minimum of three years of residency training it can seem like an almost impossible task. I can tell you it is not and that the entire experience is worth it if you truly have a passion for healing others.
Did you have any fears going into medicine?
I think almost every single person has fears going into medicine. At almost every single level I have experienced what is known as “impostor syndrome.” This is where I feel like at every level I am not cut out to be where I am…. and that is just not true. What I hope anyone who reads this realizes is that every single person in medicine has felt this at almost every step. It does not mean that we truly doubt ourselves and that you shouldn’t trust the doctors who are treating you or your future attendings, rather it means that it is a common shared experience and you are not failure. Don’t be so hard on yourself!!
What helps you manage your stress and stay motivated?
Talking to my family whenever I can, exercising, eating well (for the most part), reading non-medical books, hanging out with friends (socially distanced when necessary), playing video games so that I can talk to friends who I don’t live close to. I would also say of course something that keeps me motivated at this point in my career is my patient population And the families that I get to work with every day. I go into work every single day with a smile, because I know I’m going in doing what I love.
If you had the opportunity to talk to a potential medical student, what would you tell them off the top of your head?
Don’t be so tough on yourself. Many of us in medicine are type A individuals and perfectionists. But medicine isn’t perfect. You’re going to fail sometimes even if you did everything right, you’re not going to understand every single concept right away, you’re not going to always get a perfect grade, and not every patient interaction is going to go well. Do not beat yourself up for being in an already difficult field and know that us current doctors are excited to meet who you become as physicians!

Posted in Allopathic School Information, Alumni Interviews | Leave a comment

DPT Alumna Interview

Thanks for sharing your story, Dr. McDermott!

Brooke McDermott, DPT, is a VT alumna who is currently working as a licensed physical therapist in Roanoke, VA.  She graduated from Virginia Tech in 2017 (HNFE major) and attended Radford University to pursue her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree.  She recently graduated from PT school in May 2020 and now works in a skilled rehab facility.

1. What led to your interest in Physical Therapy (PT)?
“I knew from a young age that I wanted to go into the health care field because I got to see first hand through my mom’s work as a nurse and various professionals who helped take care of my grandma after her strokes (PT, OT, MD, nurses, SLP, etc.) and had an appreciation for how much positive impact these individuals could have on someone and their family’s lives. I knew going into college that I would pursue a degree in health care, but it wasn’t until I started my shadowing experiences that I chose PT.
I fell in love with physical therapy for many reasons, which are also reasons why I love my job now. I love that as a PT, I am able to spend a great deal of time 1 on 1 with my patients and that helps to tailor treatments to the needs of the individual, not just based on their diagnosis or primary problem. I love that every day is different and that I have to be able to think quickly on my feet to meet the challenges of each new day. I also appreciate that I have the ability to work in a variety of settings throughout my career (outpatient, hospital, skilled rehab, home health, etc.) with a variety of specialty areas (geriatrics, pediatrics, cardio, orthopedic, neuro, etc.)”

2. What did you major in and what inspired you to choose this/these areas of study?
“I was a Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise (HNFE) major at VT and I chose this because I always had a strong passion for not only human anatomy and exercise science, which are what a lot of schools offer as majors, but HNFE also had nutrition courses which I had always been interested in learning more about. Additionally, HNFE had many of the same degree requirements that my pre-requisite classes had for physical therapy school (biology, chemistry, anatomy, physics, etc.)
Of note – Most physical therapy programs do NOT require a specific major. In fact, it can serve to your benefit to have a major in a completely different area because this shows other interests and makes you well-rounded. Most PT programs only require you to have taken pre-requisite courses (see above) and as long as those are fulfilled, you can have had a completely unrelated major.”

3. What activities did you participate in as an undergrad that shaped your preparation for PT school?
“I was active in two groups: College Mentors for Kids and Pre-Physical Therapy Club
Both allowed me to improve leadership skills and manage time more effectively, to interact and network with other students/organizations/programs, and to enhance my application.
College Mentors for Kids is an organization that connects college students with local grade school students and gives the kids an opportunity to learn about higher education and careers, culture and diversity, and community service
Pre-PT club is a student-led group that allows students who are interested in applying to PT schools to connect and learn about different programs, the application process, and how to strengthen applications. I served as the club’s Historian for one year and the Vice President for one year.
I also worked 2 part-time jobs during college, which helped me to manage my time effectively.”

4. Do you feel that you were prepared for PT school interviews? What preparation advice would you give?
“Start by doing a Google search for “PT school interview questions” and “medical school interview questions.” This will give you an idea of general questions you should expect to be able to answer.
Practice answering these questions out loud (alone or with friends to get feedback) – important not to over-prepare or sound rehearsed. Just have a general idea of what you think is most important to say.
The most important advice I would give – don’t be afraid to ask for a moment to gather your thoughts. No matter how much you prepare, there will likely be at least 1-2 questions they will ask that you couldn’t have seen coming (situational, ethical dilemma, etc.). My best advice for this is to say, “that is a good question, would you mind giving me a moment to think about my answer?” – The interviewer will expect this and will appreciate you waiting to give the best response. I did this twice in one interview and once in another interview.
Take a notepad and prior to the interview, write down some key points you want to touch on during your interview (experiences, questions, etc.) that way you can reference your own notes if you get stuck. Also, come prepared with questions for the interviewer as well.”

5. What do you enjoy most about Physical Therapy?
“I enjoy the challenge that comes along with meeting/evaluating every new patient and determining the best plan of care that meets the needs/goals of each individual patient.
I love that no two days are exactly alike. Even if I have the same patients on my schedule two days in a row and have a set plan for treatment options that day, I have to be able to think quickly to re-plan treatment sessions based on how each patient presents that day, and I have to be comfortable deviating from the original plan when plan A doesn’t work out.
Working alongside other health professionals – I am lucky to have a very supportive and experienced team of colleagues to work with every day and bounce ideas off of. I value the ideas and input from the other team members (OT, SLP, nursing staff, etc.)”

6. What was your favorite undergraduate class outside of the PT school prerequisite classes?
“Travel and Tourism Management, Human Sexuality, Abnormal Psychology, Classical Literature, Agricultural Economics”

7. How many schools did you apply to and what criteria or resources did you use to select these schools?
“I applied to 4 programs – Radford, VCU, ODU, and Mary Baldwin.
I applied to these programs because they were in-state and had good licensure pass rates. I was accepted into all 4 programs, however, I ultimately chose Radford to pursue my DPT.
What made the PT school you chose the right fit for you?
As above, I applied to 4 schools that were all in-state and I would have been happy to attend any of them. I toured all of the programs so that I could get a feel for the program’s atmosphere, staff-student relationships, etc. What made Radford my #1 choice was due to its location and small class size allowing for close relationships with staff and students.

8. Did you have to change any of your study habits when you entered PT school?
Yes. The courses I took in undergrad mostly required me to study in order to repeat the information for the exam, which only required memorization for the most part. My study habits had to change in PT school because the exams require a deep understanding of the course material and require you to thoroughly explain the concepts (for written tests) or demonstrate, perform, and verbalize thorough understanding of the material (for practical/competency exams)
Additionally, the material builds upon itself throughout PT school, which means you can’t think of each class individually and compartmentalize the classes. It requires you to continue to recall and demonstrate understanding of concepts that may have been covered in coursework 3 semesters prior in order to be successful throughout the program.”

9. What kind of financial aid did you need to pay for PT school?
“I utilized federal and private loans. The majority of my private loans were used during undergrad because in grad school, FAFSA covers the majority/all of the cost of tuition. I received $3,000 in scholarships and thankfully my family was able to assist me for cost of living/rent during school so I only took out loans for education. I am comfortable sharing my student loan debt – I completed both degrees totaling ~$114,000 in federal loans and ~$32,000 in private loans for a total of ~$146,000 of student loan debt. ”

10. Did you have any fears going into Physical Therapy?
“I felt like I was always afraid of not being successful. Originally when I decided to go to PT school, I was afraid that I wouldn’t get in. Once I got in, I was afraid of failing out of the program and throughout the program I was afraid that I wouldn’t pass my licensure exam in order to actually practice as a physical therapist. What helped me to manage the stress/fear was realizing that I was accepted into the program because my professors believed that I would be successful, that my classmates were feeling the same way, and that the fear of being unsuccessful was actually driving me to work harder and harder to ensure success.”

Dr. McDermott writes: “I have responded to a few of the interview questions, but if you have any additional questions (PT related or otherwise), I would be happy to serve as a resource for you!”

Posted in Alumni Interviews, Pre-Physical Therapy Information | Leave a comment

Medical School Admissions Advantage

Medical School Admissions Advantage, a networking event for VT students and representatives from allopathic and osteopathic medical schools, will take place on Zoom on Sunday, November 1, 2020, from 5:45 – 7:45 p.m.  Students should plan to arrive to the waiting room by 5:40 p.m.

Meet and learn from representatives of various medical schools in five, ~15-minute small-group conversations.  This year, the event will be hosted virtually via Zoom. This is a great opportunity to learn about various medical schools and find out what they look for in applicants.

Registration for this event is now open.  Please register here by October 23rd at 4 p.m.  You will need to be logged into your VT email account to register.

Please note that this is a professional commitment and that by signing up, you are agreeing to attend.  Check your calendar before signing up; make sure you are not taking this opportunity away from another student as space is limited.

We hope to accommodate ~100-130 students for this event. However, please be aware that if student interest exceeds our capacity, we may need to place some students on a waitlist. Early during the week of October 26th, registered students will receive an email from us confirming registration or notifying the student of a waitlist placement.


Posted in General HPA Information | Leave a comment