Future physical therapists learn from local professional

The Academic Advising and Resource Center held a student program Oct. 10 to benefit CSU Bakersfield’s future physical therapists.

Adam Theesen, Director of Rehabilitation Services at San Joaquin Community Hospital, addressed a group of CSUB Physical Education and Kinesiology students during a presentation about his experiences in the field.

This unique program was inspired in part by the student-athletes that the AARC works with, and especially the NCAA CHAMPS/Life Skills Program that is designed to help student-athletes develop lifelong skills that they can take into the world once they have graduated.

Currently, the minimum requirement to practice physical therapy entry-level is the doctorate of physical therapy, Theesen told students. For Theesen, becoming a physical therapist requires a passion for and commitment to quality patient care.

Theesen’s advice to students considering physical therapy graduate programs was both practical and specific. Theesen attended Point Loma Nazarene University as an undergraduate and Azusa Pacific University during his graduate studies.

Investigate graduate schools early, Theesen told students, and learn their requirements for admission to get a jump on fulfilling them. This will help students develop a more compatible course plan as an undergraduate, as well as help them understand what kind of observation and internship experience is required, Theesen said.

Graduate programs should be accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Theesen said, and smaller class sizes are always a plus when considering how much attention you may need when practicing manual skills and differential examination in labs.

According to Theesen, students must keep their “cost to debt” ratio in mind when selecting where to apply, as well as the cost of living  in the specific area for each university they are considering. Is an education at an expensive graduate school worth more than a less costly option? According to Theesen, not at all;  look at the average GPA for accepted applicants instead to determine the overall caliber of the students and the quality of the education.

What can CSUB’s undergraduates do now to prepare for graduate studies in physical therapy?

Take difficult electives Theesen advised – advanced math courses that are utilized in Physics and pre-med Anatomy and Physiology with a lab associated with them, especially if students plan to apply to competitive programs. In addition, students need to concentrate on earning top grades in their core classes, Theesen said, specifically in the courses that count toward a student’s major GPA or are on the graduate school’s list of requirements. Even a ‘C’ in these courses isn’t likely to be enough to earn admission, Theesen added, advising that students who do earn a ‘C’ in these classes should consider retaking them for a higher grade or be able to explain to an interviewing committee for acceptance, why the “C” was given.

Another GPA-boosting strategy Theesen suggested to students:  take the most difficult math and science courses one-by-one during the summer. This is a good idea, Theesen said, because students can then give these courses their undivided attention.  Each student knows their particular weaknesses, and if physics or math, or any other particular course is a challenge, consider taking it as a summer elective to concentrate fully on that course.

Theesen also advised students to join the American Physical Therapy Association. Membership as a student is relatively inexpensive, Theesen said. Membership sets students apart as serious applicants dedicated to physical therapy from the start, according to Theesen.

CSU Bakersfield does not currently have a graduate school of Physical Therapy, but does boast an undergraduate Physical Education and Kinesology major that offers two concentrations: exercise science and physical education (single subject teacher preparation).

The university also participates in the NCAA’s CHAMPS/Life Skills program, designed to instill in student-athletes the life skills they need to be successful after graduation. The program is centered around five core components: academic success, athletic excellence, personal values, community service and career development.

– Jessica Shillings, Academic Advising and Resource Center Intern