On Friday, members of RMUoHP’s fourth entry-level Doctor of Physical Therapy cohort completed their formal educational journey at the annual DPT Winter Commencement Ceremony. More than 550 guests representing the 42 graduates were in attendance, which was a great testament to the support groups that each graduate was blessed to have during the process. Before crossing the stage, donned in cap and gown, and being hooded by each of their faculty mentors, the graduates were honored to be addressed by University President Dr. Richard P. Nielsen, Board of Trustees member Dr. Janet Dufek, APTA President Dr. Sharon Dunn, and class president Dr. Jamie Alexander.
RMUoHP President, Dr. Richard P. Nielsen congratulated the graduates for making it to this point and overcoming all it took in the nearly three years it took to get there.
“‘For most of you, this has been a seemingly impossible task, a dream that today, comes true,” President Nielsen said. “For a few of you, this day represents the summit of the mountains of the adversities that were placed in your path to get you to where you are. The nearly impossible odds that you have had to overcome to get here, and you have arrived. Savor this moment… We honor you this day. You overcame the trials, you beat the odds, and you rose above the adversities. You have arrived, you have earned the seat in which you sit in today… Today is your day”
Dr. Nielsen reminded the graduates, that although it is a meaningful day to each of them, it is only a “Stopping-off point” on the journey. “You came, you learned, you earned
Education, he noted, is about leaving the world and the community better than you found it. To do this, he suggested pondering the words of John Wesley, to “do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all times you can, to all people you can, as long as ever you can.”
Dr. Nielsen closed by telling the grads, “Your hands have now been trained, your minds have now been prepared, your hearts have now been filled and your skill have been developed to this point. You have a journey ahead to enhance those skills, to continue to fill your minds with powerful things, to touch as many people as you can through your hands, your hearts, your minds and your presence. Give to humanity and to life more than you receive back. Go forth to lift, to build, to serve and to heal.”
Board of Trustees address
University Board member Dr. Janet Dufek also addressed the graduates and likened their educational journey to climbing a mountain. “Today represents you making it to the summit,” she said, “so my question to you, is now what? What is it that you are going to do now that you’ve gotten to the top of the mountain?”
Her challenge to each graduate was to continue with self-education. Now that each student has become a graduate, they won’t have the professors there anymore to answer the tough questions and drive them toward best practices. She advised them to keep up with the literature, to go to conferences, ask the questions, solve the problems, to step- up and be a leader, and to be a life learner. “You will find more answers than you can use,” she said.
She also advised them to remember their experiences at RMUoHP and to use them to be the best healthcare provider they can be, to use them to help with patients, clients, friends family, the world. Above all, she said, “Always be true to your core values.”
The DPT grads were privileged to have APTA President Dr. Sharon Dunn as the keynote speaker at the ceremony. Her address was meant for three audiences: the graduates themselves, their parents and spouses, and their guests and friends.
To the graduates, she asked a question: Will you still love this profession 30 years from now? Her resounding answer was: Yes, if you remember to put the patient experience first. She said, “Occasionally, remember to get over yourself. It’s not about you, it’s about the patient.” She reminded the graduates to remember that their work is not about them. She assured them that if they do this, they will still love the profession 30 years from now, because they will be able to help their patients in a way no other healthcare provider can.
“You bring hope to hopeless situations,” Dr. Dunn said, “and this is not false hope- you are real hope. You are the first healthcare professional who comes in and looks for what’s working. You laugh and cry with [the patient].”
To the parents and spouses of the graduates who wonder if the student loans will ever be paid off, she pointed out that the Physical Therapy profession is perfectly positioned in the healthcare setting to provide an improved patient experience, with lower costs and higher quality of life. “We are the solution, the answer for society’s healthcare needs,” she said, “Our value is in downstream cost savings, because an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” She noted that currently, only 8% of the population has access to Physical Therapy, so the potential for growth in the profession is enormous. These graduates will not only be able to pay off their student debt, they will thrive and live comfortably in a society that needs them.
To the graduates’ friends and guests, Dr. Dunn said that Physical Therapy is the answer to healthcare reform. “This generation of healthcare professionals is ushering in a patient-centered paradigm in the healthcare industry, based on the patient’s healthcare goals,” she said.
She closed her address by reminding each graduate to, “Love your career, go out and be excellent.”
Dr. Jamie Alexander, DPT 4 class president and graduate student council member, was the student speaker at the ceremony. She addressed her classmates, who came from many varied backgrounds, ranging from ballet dancers, to professional baseball stars, to artists and physicists, but all had the past few years in common. She took them for a walk down memory lane, and noted that she would have liked to offer some words of inspiration, but, instead gave a tribute to her classmates, who ”wrote the book’ on the topic of inspiration.
She said, “Many of you rode your bikes to school each day in the wind, in the rain, in the snow, and uphill both ways. Others of you spent all night in the hospital, comforting and fighting alongside your precious newborns, and still made it to class the next morning, double-fisting energy drinks in order to stay awake through lecture. And to those of you who have overcome the odds of health concerns, family losses, disbelievers, and challenges unmentioned, you are the inspiration. And look at where you are today, donned in cap and gown, you have truly earned your right to walk across the stage.”
In thanking the support teams of each graduate, Dr. Alexander noted, “I’m sure my support team was not the only one to use the words ‘you can do this,’ ‘don’t worry, you’ll do great,’ and/or, ‘you can’t drop out, there’s only one week left.” She also thanked the faculty, staff and administration for creating an excellent environment in which each of them could learn and thrive.
In closing, Dr. Alexander stated, “I hope we continue to inspire those around us, that we make the world of physical therapy a better place because we are a part of it. American inventor Charles Kettering said, ‘We work day after day, not to finish things, but to make our future better, because we will spend the rest of our lives there.’ Remember where we were when we started this program in May of 2013, and look at where we have come. We have proved that we are ready to begin our next chapters as Doctors of Physical Therapy. May we rise to our new title. Congratulations class of 2015, we made it!”