PT Pintcast PT School of the Week: Western Carolina University

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Congratulations to Western Carolina University DPT on being selected as the PT Pintcast School of the week. If you would like to nominate your program, fill out the form here.

 Big thanks to current student Zia Assad (zrassad1@catamount.wcu.edufor nominating Western Carolina University DPT !

Why is your program the best?
In addition to traditional PT education, Western Carolina University (WCU) offers practical and reflective activities that enable graduates to face the urgent challenges present in today’s health care environment. Just as PTs must acknowledge the whole patient, the DPT program here at Western honors each student and encourages his or her unique personal and professional growth. Additionally, state of the art facilities, on-site clinical services, community engagement and service learning opportunities all add to the strength of this program. The new Health and Human Sciences Building offers state of the art facilities and equipment, including a Human Movement Science Laboratory, a Balance and Fall Prevention Clinic, and an on-site clinic to provide opportunity for application of knowledge and skills with an emphasis on inter-professional collaboration. In addition to quality facilities and equipment, WCU is also known for its focus on service learning. WCU has been nationally recognized for community engagement and service learning opportunities. Service learning is integrated into the program through health promotion and wellness, numerous short-term service learning opportunities, and the option to participate in a doctoral project that is based on comprehensive, research-based community engagement.
What’s a strong point of your program? What’s something that makes it stand out from other programs?
The program’s focus on service learning is an undeniable strength. The Mountain Area Pro Bono Physical Therapy (MAPPT) Clinic is one of the many practical ways that our students and faculty serve the community. MAPPT is a student run, clinician supervised clinic that offers physical therapy services to uninsured and underinsured individuals. Our aim is to serve individuals in our community while expanding our experience and establishing excellence in our practice. MAPPT creates space for community involvement by filling a need in the community, and engages students in clinical application of knowledge throughout each school year.
What’s cool about your program?
The community outreach and engagement aspect of our program is noteworthy. Thus far, I have worked on both a doctoral research project and a health promotions project that involve serving the community. My doctoral project focuses on work with migrant farmworkers, and education of lay health workers on musculoskeletal injury prevention. As part of a health promotions project, I have been involved in designing and implementing a community exercise class for individuals with Parkinson’s Disease. Both these experiences have led to a greater understanding of disparity and need in my community, and have provided me with practical tools for implementing change. This feature of our program prepares students to engage in meaningful work, and serves as a reminder of our duty to attend to the needs of under-served communities.
What are the (approximate) stats, class sizes, # of faculty?
WCU’s DPT program consists of 10 core faculty members, and 32 students per class.
With only 32 students admitted each year, this program is quite competitive. The small class size, however, creates an optimal learning environments and encourages close relationships among students and faculty.
What’s the area around school like? Social scene? Recreation?
WCU is nestled in a small mountain town, Sylva, NC. All PT courses take place in the Health and Human Sciences (HHS) building, which is separate from the main campus. HHS is a small, intimate learning environment and is home to nursing, social work, and PT students. The building is tucked away on a hill, with stunning views visible from the vast window spaces throughout the facility. The town itself is quaint and typically southern, with a slowly developing community focus on local business and sustainable practices. The town has very little to offer in the realm of wining and dining, but comes equipped with a few local restaurants, 2 small wine bars, and an impeccable brewery. Typical of a small town, Sylva’s night life scene is minimal, but its appeal comes with the ability to take a moment to slow down and take a deep breath of fresh air. Weekend warriors, thrill seekers, and nature walkers alike will find joy in the open spaces and the convenience of engaging in outdoor activities. Not only does HHS sit in front of miles of mountain biking trails, but Sylva is surrounded by hiking trails, waterfalls, rivers, and vast land for exploration and adventure. This area is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts.
What’s the school’s mascot?
The Catamount, a fierce mountain feline.
If you had a PT student who was on the fence about coming to your program, whats one thing you would point out to let them know why coming there would be a good choice?
I feel incredibly honored to be a part of this program simply due to the quality of education it provides. Over both of my clinical experiences, I received continual praise for my level of professionalism, communication skills, book knowledge, and manual therapy skills. In both experiences I received feedback indicating that my skill set exceeded that of other students my CI’s had worked with. I humbly take no credit for my excellence in practice. The DPT program at Western is exemplary. This program is well developed and thorough, and our faculty is incredibly knowledgeable and is invested in student success. The DPT program has prepared me for practice with a solid knowledge base and impeccable treatment skills, but has also encouraged growth in my ability exercise balance, compassion, and understanding in a diverse world.
Best local beer:
Sylva is home to an amazing brewery, Innovation. Innovation’s most popular brew is likely the Soulvation IPA, though I am partial to the seasonal offerings. This month’s seasonal brews include: Hibiscus Cranberry Wheat, Coffee Poblano Porter, and Raspberry Sour, to name a few.
Freestyle: Tell us anything else the PT world should know about your program.
The DPT program here at WCU consist of a myriad of distinct individuals. WCU PT students come from all over the US, and each student possesses a unique set of skills and experience to bring to the table. Students’ background education ranges from construction management to creative writing, and everything in between. This diverse environment encourages students’ growth in tolerance, communication, and capability to work as part of a team.
Tell us a little bit about yourself: Where you’re from, year in school, what setting you want to practice in and anything else you want to add…
I am a second year student hailing from the mountains of Asheville, NC, where my heart still resides. Though I miss Asheville, I am becoming increasingly fond of my new home in Sylva, NC. When I venture away from Sylva, I find myself longing to be home on my porch, enjoying the quiet and the fresh air of this quaint town. WCU truly suits me – I could not have imagined myself feeling more at home or more free to be myself. I have been exposed to an entirely new cultural environment, dragged out of my comfort zone, and repeatedly asked to step into positions in which I feel inadequate. This program has challenged me immensely, and has spurred great personal, professional, and academic growth. I am glad to call this place my home, and to have found a giant welcoming family in my cohort. Though I have learned a lot about myself as a student and practitioner, at this point, choosing practice setting would be an impulsive guess, at best. Currently, I am confident of only two things in this regard: 1) I love working in pediatrics 2) all my favorite course work involves neuro. I can only speculate that I may end up practicing in pediatrics or inpatient, but I am open to a range of clinical settings.
And, what made YOU specifically want to go there?
When beginning the application process, WCU was not even a passing thought. Only after numerous individuals encouraged me to look into the program did I finally begin to consider the option. I have already sold you on the many defining characteristics of this program, but what sold me was my interview experience. After interacting with the students and faculty, I was eager to be a part of the DPT program at Western. The students expressed genuine delight with their education, and the professors exuded excellence and an earnest investment in their students. A single day of interacting in the space that I could potentially spend the next three years confirmed that Western was a perfect fit.

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