1. Michael Kowitz, ACSM EP-C
I pride myself on being someone who takes initiative and leads by example. Some of my most fulfilling experiences have been rooted in the desire to empower others and leave a positive impact on the people I encounter. My initiatives in developing a fitness program at my summer camp, facilitating volunteer abroad opportunities for underrepresented student communities with the Peace Corps, and starting my own personal training business have all taught me the value of being an instigator of change. Having been raised in the Jewish community and exposed to a broad range of ethnic backgrounds, adopting a lifelong commitment to personal development, global awareness, and service to others have been some of the core principles which has guided my actions and have instilled in me the value of embracing one’s differences while feeling interconnected to those around me. I hope to translate these values to a career in the medical field as a physical therapist by establishing trusted relationships with patients and building a community with coworkers across disciplines in a collaborative effort to best guide those in need on their path towards better health. Having the opportunity to gain clinical experience building adaptive fitness programs for patients living with paralysis as well as working with a wide variety of patient populations in community wellness has highlighted the tremendous benefit of incorporating evidence-based movement and exercise interventions to facilitate positive health outcomes. While advancements in western medicine have provided incredible innovation and cutting-edge treatment modalities, the alarming rise in diabetes, metabolic disorders, and preventable chronic diseases has exposed the broken reactive nature of our current healthcare system. Now more than ever, we need to re-align with the fundamentals of health to offer long term solutions to keep our world active, strong, and healthy throughout the lifespan. Early on in my career, I plan on taking advantage of domestic and international opportunities as a traveling therapist by partnering with mobile healthcare agencies and non-profit organizations that specialize in providing care to vulnerable populations in underserved communities. In addition, I hope to expand the scope of my online fitness business by collaborating with other health professionals and community leaders to make preventative health services more accessible to help mitigate the risk of poor health outcomes among uninsured populations. While there are many challenges within the PT profession, I feel inspired by the potential to make a greater impact on others with a DPT education. I hope to play an active role in addressing such challenges by promoting the open exchange of ideas and cultivating a culture of resourcefulness with fellow students, colleagues, and patients in creating solutions to better utilize the power of physical medicine within our current healthcare landscape. In doing so, it is my goal to continue my contribution towards combating the obesity epidemic and to move the needle on how people view physical therapy in the scope of holistic healthcare by providing the education, tools, and clarity for others to take ownership of their health.
2. Kayla Faith Ellis
I had no idea rubbing lotion on my Mamaw’s legs when I was 11 years old would spark my interest to become a Registered Nurse. Shortly before the picture below was taken, I was with my Mamaw when she fell and broke her hip. After her surgery, she was in a rehabilitation facility for an extended period of time. I would visit her regularly and while I was there, I helped open items on her food tray, brushed her hair, colored her nails, pushed her in a wheelchair to see the birds perched on the feeders outside and just simply spent time with her. This injury was the first of many between her and my Papaw. Because I lived close to my grandparents, often times, I would be with either of them when they got hurt so I was able to quickly call for the help they needed. I made a conscious effort to assist them as much as possible during their recovery period. They fondly referred to me as “Nurse Kayla” because of how much I enjoyed doing whatever I could to help “nurse” them back to health. I inherited the desire to care for others since both my Mom and Mamaw have a heart for helping people. Prior to my Mom attending school to become a Licensed Practical Nurse, she attended a community college with my Mamaw and they graduated from the Certified Nursing Assistant program together. I followed in their footsteps by becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant as well. I have a soft spot in my own heart for those who God made extra special. I would be blessed if my educational path led me to a nursing career where I could help those with learning disabilities. A few years ago, my Mamaw was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia which required her to have a specialized level of care. Even though her mind was leaving us, I was able to help keep her spirit intact by our social interactions and repetitive activities. Unfortunately, my Mamaw recently passed away but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, she will be with me when I receive my Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. Thankfully, she never forgot who her family was and that I was “Nurse Kayla.” For the past several years, I have not wavered from my desire to become a nurse. Nursing is so much more than just learning skills. A nurse must be able to listen and show empathy. I will utilize the traits that have been demonstrated to me in my life by being considerate, compassionate and caring. I will always remember that sometimes it is the little things that can make the most impact - like a bottle of lotion.
3. Anchal Mahajan
Discovering that my brother has a genetic disease was the impetus that sparked my desire to become a doctor. I have been inspired by the compassion and dedication demonstrated by healthcare providers, and I want to emulate their care and expertise to others in need. I also have an insatiable curiosity that motivates me to seek answers. To dive deeper into my understanding of the medical field, I co-founded and currently co-preside over the Future Medical Professionals club at my school. We invite health professionals to discuss their jobs, education, experience, and advice for prospective healthcare workers. As my career journey progresses, I hope to continue creating opportunities for others to become exposed to and learn about the broad spectrum of healthcare career opportunities. I am also eager to make contributions to medical research in the future. While my love of research initially began by investigating my brother’s disease, I now enjoy reading articles about new developments in medicine, and hope to one day conduct my own ground-breaking medical research. I look forward to gaining exposure and building a foundation by furthering my education. My aspiration is to make a globally beneficial contribution to the medical world. By researching gene therapy specifically, I can be engrossed in a subject I have personal connections with, infuse my research with passion, and contribute to advancing knowledge. Community volunteer opportunities have enlightened me on the value of contributing to the education of others. Through the Massachusetts Science and Engineering Fair internship, I wrote chapters in a STEM handbook for teachers to use as material aids to ease students’ adjustment to remote learning. When I witnessed the impact of COVID-19 on teachers and fellow students, I jumped at the opportunity to help my community adapt to a new situation. By also tutoring classmates, I came to the realization that I enjoy helping my peers learn new concepts and reach their goals. I hope to apply this to the medical field specifically and use these teaching and leadership skills to train future doctors and aid people’s understanding of medical concepts. I am eager to channel my empathy and compassion into a career where I can make a difference in a manner that satisfies my personal interests.
4. Naomi Alemayehu
My purpose in life is to deliver hope to people who need it. Dentistry is my tool for doing this. I was born in Ethiopia. I grew up witnessing problems caused by severe poverty. One of my childhood memories was in the elementary school located a few feet away from my grandmother’s house. Most of the students who learned at this school came from low-income families. These students used to pass out in class because they weren’t able to eat for days. It was heartrending for me to watch children’s health shatter because of their economic status. This school was located in the capital city of Ethiopia. Fortunately, the issue got attention. A campaign that aimed to feed these students at least once a day was implemented. This allowed the students to excel academically. But, I can’t help but wonder about the living conditions of children living in rural areas. Their needs aren’t met. They get little to no access to education and medical care. They are denied hope. There are many communities in underdeveloped countries that don’t get sufficient dental care. I decided to become a dentist because I want to provide dental care to people who can’t afford it. I fall in love with dentistry on the first day that I shadowed a dentist. On that day, I understood that dentists have the opportunity to connect with their patients in the deepest way possible. Dentists do so much more than treat diseases. They ease anxiety. They create a safe space for their patients. They make their patients smile confidently. They spread hope. There is no reason for a person to be denied these benefits because they are born in an underserved community. Through my career, I want to be the source of hope that my community deeply desires. I am completing my undergraduate degree in Medical Laboratory Science at George Mason University. I choose to pursue this degree because it involves one year of instruction at medical laboratory sciences schools on top of three years of instruction at a four-year university. Medical laboratory sciences schools provide a hands-on learning experience. I will be able to earn valuable skills to perform academic research through this undergraduate degree. I plan to take a gap year before enrolling in a dental school. For my gap year, I will move back to Ethiopia and conduct research to explore the needs of my community regarding dental care. This will enable me to serve my community effectively after I graduate from dental school.
5. Lia Bleifuss
There’s a constant beeping. I open my eyes to see what it is, but everything is foggy. I hear a voice say, “Congratulations, Lia! The surgery went smoothly. You’re done now.” I was twelve years old and had just come out of my first surgery. At that moment I knew I wanted to become a doctor, probably an anesthesiologist. But when I told my friends, I was surprised by their response. “You want to be a doctor?” said one of them. “You know there’s a lot of walking? I don’t think you’d be able to do that.” I have Charcot-Marie-Tooth, a neuromuscular disease that affects my strength and balance. For much of my life, my disability has defined me. I participate in adaptive sports, I use a service dog at school, and I’ve rarely had classmates, teachers or doctors who navigate the world like I do. When I was a sophomore in high school, I decided to turn my uniqueness into leadership. I noticed that my high school had lots of clubs based on identity, but nothing for students with disabilities. Slightly nervous, yet motivated by the idea of redefining leadership and disability, I founded the first, and only, Disability Alliance Club in my school district. It has developed into a community of over 30 students, with and without disabilities, who work together to promote inclusion within our school and community. We bring in guest speakers and collaborated with our district Office of Equity to create a course for teachers on accessibility and inclusion in the classroom. My leadership has extended beyond school too. I helped start a group for people with disabilities at my church, and I’m vice president of our statewide Special Olympics Student Board of Directors. As I’ve grown older, I've maintained my love for medicine. I still want to become a doctor. I take advantage of every opportunity to further my knowledge of biology, and am fully mesmerized by covalent bonds and the periodic table in chemistry. However, I have also deepened my love for disability activism. My ability to change society's perception about disability drives and motivates me in everything I do. My goal is to intersect my two passions–to pursue both medicine and disability activism in college and beyond. Because of my disability, I’ve had many surgeries and medical treatments over the years, with doctors who were smart and kind. However, most of them were white, able-bodied men. As a Chinese woman who has a disability, I know the importance of representation. I want to be a doctor who helps redefine disability by showing people with and without disabilities what is possible, one who understands and connects with disabled patients, and one who acts as a role model of someone who thrives while living with a disability.