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Big Shoes to Fill: The Decades of Giving Program

Oct 21, 2013

Second year students of the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program, Nicole Molina '14 and Devon Flannigan '14 are excited about the 2014 American Physical Therapists Combined Sections Meeting (CSM) in Las Vegas. This national conference held in February hosts more than 10,000 physical therapy (PT) professionals and provides a vast wealth of knowledge and networking opportunities for Molina and Flannigan's tight knit class of 34 students. As representatives of the Decades of Giving Program, both young professionals must rally up support to send their class to Las Vegas for an opportunity of a lifetime. The DPT class of 2014 has participated in fundraisers to raise enough funds to go to Las Vegas, but they need alumni support to make it all the way. Molina puts it this way, "Without alumni, we wouldn't be able to attend the meeting. Being full-time students, many of us do not have jobs that can serve as a source of income." The estimated fee is $400 per student for travel and lodging and the students will have to pay for additional amenities.

The Decades of Giving program involves past Pacific Alumni supporting and contributing to the goals and dreams of current Pacific students in the Department of Physical Therapy. Alumni support is crucial to students' advancement. Not only do alumni provide information and knowledge of the real world, but also opportunities for Pacific students to network and develop professionally. Flannigan states, "Alumni support is important because they are the few who can imagine what it's like to be in our program, and literally be where we are right now. Even having that connection is special. Knowing that they support us in taking advantage of this amazing opportunity means a lot emotionally and financially."

So what does attending the Combined Sections Meeting really mean for the students? Flannigan responds, "It's going to be our first chance to be a professional other than being in the clinic. It adds another aspect to the profession for us and serves as another resource to gain skills that we can apply in the clinic."

While at CSM, the students will be able to listen to lectures, and have access to tools and tricks of the trade. It also demonstrates the reality of working in different industries of physical therapy. For the class of 34 students, attending CSM offers another way to get help in the areas they struggle in. It is expected to be a flurry of activity and knowledge so grand it may overwhelm, but Molina and Flannigan have a plan; both have decided to keep an open mind and try to see and do as much as possible during their short stay. Molina laughs, "I think you just have to jump in head first. You'll find your feet."

As representatives of the Decades of Giving program, Flannigan and Molina want to thank Pacific alumni for helping them take that step towards professionalism. The CSM will provide them with research and innovative ideas outside of the classroom. Molina adds, "To have alumni who are in the field and say 'hey, we'd really like to support you, your dreams, and what you're doing and trying to achieve,' that's really important. We want to say thank you to all the people who support us."

Molina's interest in physical therapy bloomed in high school after shadowing a physical therapist over the summer. "I thought it was the coolest thing. That's exactly what I wanted to do." She followed her passion at Notre Dame de Namur University of Belmont and obtained a bachelor of science in kinesiology. Flannigan also launched her journey in high school where, as an athlete, she was introduced to an athletic training course. She continued her education at Chico State University where she graduated with a degree in exercise physiology. As a junior undergraduate student she worked as an aid at a physical therapy clinic. "I loved it. Working with the clients and getting to know them...and then it just stuck!" Both Flannigan and Molina entered Pacific's Department of Physical Therapy in the fall of 2012.

When asked, why Pacific Molina and Flannigan concurred that it was both the fast paced accelerated program as well as the close knit structure of students and faculty that drew them in. Flannigan explains further, "You would go through your educational experience with others, not just by yourself. We have 34 in our class, and we go to all of our classes together."

It wasn't all fun and games for them; Molina is the first in her family to go to college. "It's a big jump because nobody's been there before." Flannigan explains further, "For both Nicole and I, it's [physical therapy] something we had in mind before we even started college. It was always there to motivate us and we didn't really have the option to slack off." More specifically, Pacific's stringent physical therapy courses have kept them extremely focused on a successful career. As Molina describes it, "Pacific is a school where they tell you something once and you have to know it and be on your toes. A rigorous course translates well into being great clinicians." But Pacific's faculty haven't left them to flounder. "The faculty meets our needs. Because our class is so small, they always have time for us." This enormous focus is leading them toward bright futures. Although Molina and Flannigan have yet to decide on their career paths but they are open-minded and ready for anything. Molina is currently interested in the pediatric field while Flannigan's interests lie in traveling to third world countries as a licensed physical therapist.

When asked what advice they would give to students in their shoes 10 years from now, Flannigan and Molina agreed that it will be interesting to see what happens during that time. "The PT field has grown so much in terms of what we can do for patients and in healthcare in general. So over 10 years, seeing those students and seeing what they're learning, it'll be amazing. In terms of advice? I'd say to ask a lot of questions and question everything because it's a great way to learn. Because absorbing what they're giving you is only one part of it. You only get so far with that." Flannigan continues, "Don't be afraid to put your own spin on things. Every PT out there is different. There's a lot to consider but just because your plan is different from what others would do doesn't mean you're wrong. Take pride in that, and in formulating unique treatment plans."

In the future, Flannigan and Molina hope to return the favor by supporting students. "I hope so! I plan to. Especially because we are representatives, and we know how we've reached out to them. We want their support, and so I would love to return the favor. Once we graduate we will forever be tied to the School," said Flannigan.

To learn more about how you can sponsor a student click here.

By: Alin Kim '14, BUS