Meet Our Students - Briana Dawkins - Helping Others Celebrate Victories
Major: Physical Therapy
Are you a first-generation college student? Yes.
Why did you pick UTEP?
I am very passionate about working in and serving underserved communities. When applying to physical therapy programs, I was looking for a program in which I would feel comfortable as a Black student and also a place that acknowledged cultural humility and prioritized service to the community. The UTEP Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Program was one of three schools I gained acceptance to, and when I received my acceptance email, I knew becoming a Miner was the right choice for me.
What sparked your interest in physical therapy? What is special about this kind of work?
From a very young age, I know I would work in health care. As a child, I was obsessed with playing doctor, and I loved caring for my family members whenever they were injured. I decided I would become a physical therapist when I was in middle school after witnessing my grandfather’s journey with physical therapy after a few medical complications. My grandfather was very active, and when I saw him in a hospital bed with a low spirit because he could not independently do for himself, I knew I wanted to be that person that could help him get back to his old active self. It’s an indescribable joy that I feel watching patients celebrate their victories of being able to transfer out of bed with minimal help, or walk without assistance, or be able to return to their work duties or favorite hobbies. Every day, I want to be able to help someone celebrate their victories. I love physical therapy, and I love the human body in all its wonder.
Please describe your most meaningful experience professionally and personally during your time in the PT program.
Last year was a whirlwind for so many people. Along with battling COVID-19, we were also battling the ugly and violent truth of racial inequality. Carrying forth the spirits of the organizers and leaders I engaged with, I wanted to bring forth actionable items that addressed diversity, equity, and inclusion in my program. I reached out to my program director, and we set up a meeting to discuss my feelings and thoughts and how the program could best support me and other students. I was heard, my feelings were validated, and my requests were listened to. That conversation sparked the creation of the UTEP DPT Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. The purpose of this committee is to promote dialogue, reflection, and research with a focus on marginalized groups of people. The creation of the committee is so meaningful to me because it showed me that my program cared about me to hear my feelings and thoughts and valued me through their support of the ideas and changes I suggested.
What strategies do you use to balance your home and work/school life?
I do well in school and maintain a good home balance because I prioritize myself first. I realize that I cannot be a good student, a good friend, or maintain any relationship if I am not well within. Though school is extremely important to me, I do not let it encapsulate my entire life. I ensure that every week I have at least 2 days that I do not do any schoolwork. Those days are used to recenter and relax. I call friends and family on that day, I do a crafting activity while watching a movie, I cook my favorite meal, I do anything that is not school-related. After having those days to myself, I feel reenergized to complete everything else that is required of me. Another strategy I am continually working on is being kind and forgiving of myself, especially on those days when I did not do well on an assignment, quiz, or exam. Even after a bad day, I write down three things I am grateful for, and I tell myself that as long as the sun shines tomorrow, there exists another day that can turn out great. These rituals and reminders allow me to keep going.
What are your career aspirations?
There are so many things I want to accomplish. My five-year goal is to obtain my neurologic specialist certification, and my 10-year goal is to be a Ph.D. candidate and study behavioral, social, and health sciences. My clinical career aspirations are to work in a neuro-focused inpatient rehabilitation hospital, be a mentor and clinical instructor for physical therapist students, and become a director of physical therapy. Later in my career, I want to transition to being a full-time faculty member in a physical therapy program. I would love to teach the neuro sequence courses, and design and teach a class about race and ethnic disparities in healthcare.
What advice would you give to a student thinking about studying physical therapy?
When I am talking to students interested in the profession of physical therapy, I first ask them why they are interested. After the students tell me why they are interested in physical therapy, I follow their statement with advice to not limit their view of physical therapy to one specific setting or population. My biggest piece of advice is to reach out for assistance and mentorship. Physical therapy programs are extremely competitive, and I do not want to see anyone rejected from schools and have their money wasted because they failed to turn in a quality application. There are people out there, including myself, who want to help students navigate through their physical therapy journey. Do not be afraid to reach out and ask for help. Start learning how to ask for assistance now because you will need it throughout your career.
For more information about the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program, please visit: www.utep.edu/chs/pt.