Once a high school dropout, now a Doctor of Physical Therapy. My first encounter with a physical therapist was when I was working as a massage therapist in Syracuse, and one helped me understand the origin of my client's symptoms. His breadth of knowledge on the dynamic influence of pain pathology had an immediate impact on me: I knew I wanted to know everything he knew. Following this encounter in 2011, I confidently set a long-term goal of obtaining a degree in physical therapy from SUNY Upstate University… eventually. Because I was juggling my education with parenting, I was comfortable chipping away at this goal slowly. It was in 2017, however, when I found myself a single parent at 35 with no job or money, and back living with my parents, that I decided to take the plunge into the deep water of full-time higher education. I attended SUNY Cortland for two years and graduated Summa Cum Laude with a bachelor's degree in Exercise Science. While at Cortland I applied at Upstate, the school I had my eyes on since 2011, and the only school I applied to. Mine and my children’s future resting on one interview. The day I received my acceptance phone call I will never forget; I only remember crying.
Being a non-traditional student is a challenge to say the least. But being a non-traditional student in medical school during a pandemic, which periodically shuts the world down, is at best like attempting to nail Jell-O to the wall, and at worse, like trying to un-ring a bell. And that is if everything in your personal life goes right, which in my case it didn’t. Luckily, I had the wonderful staff of professors at Upstate to help me make it through the seemingly inevitable tribulations the fates brought upon me while attaining my doctorate. For instance, when my six-year-old son was severely attacked by a dog at a 4th of July party during my second clinical rotation, or when I needed to be by the side of a loved one who was dealing with the complications of a heart transplant mid-semester, my professors were nothing but supportive, going as far as personally reaching out to ask if they could help or be of assistance in anyway. Or when I was suddenly faced with the responsibility of having to homeschool my youngest son when COVID hit while keeping up with my own rigorous academics, the faculty at Upstate worked with me with all the understanding I could have wished for. Without their non-stop encouragement, guidance, and support, I would not have made it to the finish line.
One probably never thinks of an institution having a tremendous impact on someone’s life, but it is true, whether we set aside time to appreciate it or not. Through Upstate I had the opportunity to conduct student-led research using trans-cranial magnetic stimulation, which inspired me to specialize in neuro post-graduation. Almost serendipitously, my final clinical rotation at a preschool, which I absolutely loved, solidified me specializing in pediatrics with a neuro certification. I am happy to say I have a job lined up in the fall working for a local pediatric agency called Thrive by Five. If it wasn’t for Upstate, it is safe to say I wouldn’t have a career in the exact field I want to be in, and I wouldn’t be able to provide for my children in the manner I am able to now. So, in a way, Upstate didn’t just help me become the kind of doctor I didn’t know I wanted to be, but they helped me be the kind of mother I always wanted to be.