Meet Our Graduate Students - Branko Miljkovic - First-Generation Miner and Future Sports PT
Student Profiles: Branko Miljkovic
Major: Physical Therapy
Are you a first-generation college student?
My parents both emigrated from Serbia. I am the eldest of three, and I am the first in my family to attend college and graduate school.
Why did you pick UTEP?
I grew up in Lincolnshire, IL (a suburb of Chicago) and spent all my life in the Midwest. UTEP has truly allowed me to expand my horizons and immerse myself in a new culture. I am pleased to be part of a community of individuals who strive for high quality academics and service.
What sparked your interest in physical therapy? What is special about this kind of work?
In the beginning of my professional journey, I pursued a career in strength and conditioning, where I utilized scientific principles to evaluate athletic performance and construct training protocols tailored specifically for each athlete. I later became an athletic trainer with aspirations of joining a sports medicine team. Both strength and conditioning and athletic training cultivated my maturity and enhanced my practical and interpersonal skill set, both of which are necessary to become a physical therapist.
While completing my degrees in genetics and athletic training from The University of Iowa, I worked as an undergraduate research assistant with the Engelhardt Cystic Fibrosis Research Group. Coincidentally, I was very fortunate to have mentors who recognized my academic and professional talents and encouraged me to pursue a career in physical therapy.
The whole purpose of advancing my education and professional training was to prepare myself clinically to better serve patients who are overcoming debilitating injuries or general medical conditions. I chose physical therapy as a career because it requires comprehensive knowledge on multiple pathologies and disorder, adaptability and empathy for patients, and strong interdisciplinary communication skills; PTs work closely with physicians, occupational therapists, and speech language pathologists to integrate patient care and provide high-quality services.
Please describe your most meaningful experience professionally and personally during your time in the PT program.
Being a student in the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program has taught me to appreciate the level of detail and the amount of commitment required to enhance our clinical knowledge. In particular, Dr. Celia Pechak’s Cardiopulmonary Patient Management course enhanced my clinical reasoning skills by cultivating professional behavior as well as compassion for our patients. Through a Socratic method of teaching, she guides her students towards clinical excellence by integrating advanced clinical theory into applied practice. I am deeply grateful for Dr. Pechak’s and the entire faculty’s invaluable contributions to my doctoral education.
What strategies do you use to balance your home and work/school life?
It is easy to get caught up with the demands of such rigorous coursework. I do my best to maintain a strength and conditioning program, which allows me to decompress and helps mitigate the stress. As a cohort, we enjoy taking a break from school by playing soccer or basketball every Friday. I organize and plan ahead in order to maximize my study times. Before the COVID-19 crisis, I used to enjoy studying at local coffee shops with my girlfriend—this allowed us to spend time together while also being productive. Finally, I make sure to have at least one “Branko” day every few weeks so I can watch movies, eat some tacos, and just relax.
What are your career aspirations?
In my search for a career that best fits my aspirations, I hope to locate positions that will integrate my previous experiences and education in physical therapy. After graduation, I plan to purse a sports physical therapy residency where candidates devote twelve months to work in various Division I athletic venues. Additionally, I will work closely with staff physical therapists to enhance my professional training in sports medicine.
My dream job would be to work for a university from one of the Power Five conferences, where academics, rehabilitation, and human performance are emphasized. Furthermore, I hope to attain a career that aligns with my level of ambition, success, and happiness.
What advice would you give to a student thinking about studying physical therapy?
I strongly encourage students to observe a physical therapist in whatever capacity they can. There are various settings where physical therapists make an impact on patient-centered care, including women’s health, wound care, cardiopulmonary rehab, neurological rehab, and acute care, just to name a few. This will really help solidify their choice and gain a better understanding of the scope of physical therapy practice.