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Alana Gillenwater
  1. Why are you interested in becoming a Physical Therapist?
    Working as a medical professional has been a goal of mine for many years.  I first became interested in physical therapy after I was a patient myself following knee surgery in high school.  I was quite discouraged after several knee injuries/surgery ended my sports career and limited me greatly in being able to do all the physical activities I loved.  Going to physical therapy and working with my therapist made me feel like I literally got my normal life back. I was amazed at how much physical therapy helped me during my recovery process by not only getting me back to my previous activity level, but also making me feel so much more physically confident in my body’s ability.  I also formed a close relationship with my physical therapist.  This sparked my interest in physical therapy even more, because I really liked the idea of close communication and building trusting relationships with people as part of my career.
  2. What made you select WVU for your DPT degree?
    I obtained my undergraduate degree from WVU and could not have been more satisfied with the education I received.  I knew I already loved this school, the atmosphere of the area, and also the sense of community you feel being a Mountaineer.  Because of this, I was already interested in attending WVU to obtain my DPT, but I wanted to still look at some other programs.  Following research on several DPT programs, WVU’s teaching style and curriculum definitely seemed to fit my interests best, solidifying my choice in coming here. After I made my decision, I did not hesitate to apply for early acceptance into the WVU DPT program.  Receiving that acceptance letter is still one of my happiest and proudest moments of my time here in Morgantown.  Now almost being finished with my 2nd year of the program, I can confidently say I made the right choice.
  3. What defines a quality Physical Therapy education?
    A quality Physical Therapy education is one that prepares students to be expert clinicians in the subject of the human body and movement.  An expert has a vast understanding of the subject, but can also apply his/her understandings to real-world clinical scenarios to give each patient the highest quality of care.  I believe a quality physical therapy program must include comprehensive courses with hands-on experience taught by physical therapists with vast experience and an obvious passion for the profession.  
  4. What is your favorite aspect of the WVU PT program?
    My favorite aspect of the program is the sense of support I feel both personally and professionally.  The faculty members are excellent teachers and are always willing to offer advice concerning classroom work or your future physical therapy career. You also feel a strong sense personal support and compassion from the faculty members, which makes these busy 3 years enjoyable and less stressful.  You grow extremely close to your fellow classmates as well and I know I have made several life-long friends here.
  5. What is your favorite thing to do outside of class?
    In order for me to give my highest effort in PT school, I have to remind myself to make time to do things that make me feel healthy and happy.  I enjoy exercising either at the gym or any activity outside.  I like watching movies and TV series and listening to music to help me relax and wind down.  I love spending time with my friends as much as possible and also enjoy when my parents come to visit and I can show them around Morgantown.  
  6. Where do you see yourself professionally in 5-10 years?
    After graduation, I plan on working as a traveling PT so I can explore different parts of the country and also a variety of physical therapy settings.  I am not completely sure what area of physical therapy I am most passionate about yet, but that in a way is exciting to me.  There are so many great options I still have to explore!  Regardless of what setting I end up preferring, I can see myself in 5-10 years working on becoming a certified clinical specialist in a specific area of physical therapy.  I have already discovered I enjoy teaching others, so I plan on definitely becoming a clinical instructor and possibly even further down the road pursing my EdD and working in academia.
  7. What advice would you give to someone who is considering Physical Therapy school?
    I would suggest shadowing several PTs in a variety of settings before committing 3 years to PT school.  Although online research can be helpful, the only way you will be able to see if a career in physical therapy is the right fit for you is personal experience through shadowing/volunteering.  Obtaining your DPT is definitely a lot of work, but it is completely worth it if you know this profession is exactly right for you! I would also suggest doing some personal reflection regarding how your personality traits fit into the domain of physical therapy.  I have noticed common personality traits among my classmates that include: the desire to help others, a strong work ethic and organizational skills, good communication skills, and a great interest in the science of the human body.