PT Students Awarded Grants to Examine Issues in PT Education
A group of eight students in the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program were awarded internal funding to support studies examining issues within PT education, including grit in first-generation PT students; impact of COVID-19 on health outcomes among PT students; barriers for application and reapplication to PT school among underrepresented minorities; and clinical preparedness of PT students to serve LTBTQ+ patients. The students are pictured in the attached photo, from top left: Michelle Arroyo, Maria Isabel Avila, Caitlyn Ferguson, Miguel Fajardo, Vanessa Garcia, Kristin Moreno, Jozelyn Rascon and Isabelle Valdez.
Abstracts for the four projects are below, and include the background, purpose, and potential application of the findings.
“Examining Grit and Social Capital in First-Generation and Continuing-Generation Students in a Doctor of Physical Therapy Program”
Maria Isabel Avila (Mentor: Dr. Celia Pechak)
On the way to reflect current population demographics, the healthcare industry should seek to
diversify its workforce, address health minority disparities, and become culturally competent. One way to increase diversity is to support the success of first-generation college students.
The purpose of this study was to identify if grit or social capital is related to DPT student success and to identify if FGCSs have different levels of grit and social capital compared to their CGCS peers.
Information obtained may lead to modification and improvement of mentorship efforts in the
DPT Program for future incoming cohorts at UTEP and other institutions. Improving support systems for first-generation DPT students can help diversify the physical therapy profession and thus reflect the current US population. This contribution can potentially lead to reducing health disparities.
“Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Graduate Education in Health Outcomes of Physical Therapy Students”
Caitlyn Ferguson, Kristin Moreno, and Vanessa Garcia (Advisor: Dr. Alvaro Gurovich)
The novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic resulted in the implementation of stay-at-home orders, which forced the abrupt transition of many classrooms to an online format. Studies have depicted the deleterious effects of a sedentary lifestyle on physical and mental health, which are seen in many graduate level students due to the rigorous demands of graduate programs. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has decreased physical activity in the overall population while increasing the incidence of mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. These two factors can have a compounding effect on the well-being of graduate level health care professional students, like Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) students at UTEP.
Therefore, our aim is to investigate the health behaviors and cardiorespiratory health outcomes of DPT students in three different cohorts in order to determine the effects of a graduate program and a global pandemic on students. Healthy, young (18-40) students from the 2023, 2024, and 2025 cohorts will be recruited. The primary objectives of this study are to determine changes in: (1) cardiorespiratory capacity as measured by VO2 max, (2) body composition as measured by DEXA scan, (3) vascular function as measured by pulse wave analysis, pulse wave velocity, and venous occlusion plethysmography, (4) inflammatory markers, lipid profiles, and glucose profiles via a blood draw, and (5) stress levels and dietary habits via surveys.
This data will also be studied with COVID-19 as a co-variable as measured through a survey. We will analyze the data using a repeated analysis of variance (ANOVA) to examine any differences within our individual subjects and cohorts.
“Exploring Reapplication to Physical Therapy Programs Among Underrepresented Minority Students”
Jozelyn Rascon and Miguel Fajardo (Mentor: Dr. Celia Pechak)
Background: The current demographics in the health professions do not accurately reflect the
demographics of the national population which results in health disparities. Physical therapy is among the various health professions that lack diversity in both its workforce and in its education programs. In order to address this underlying issue, the barriers underrepresented minorities (URM) face when applying and reapplying to physical therapy school must be uncovered.
Purpose: The purpose of this study is to identify differences in the reapplication process between underrepresented minorities (URM) and non-underrepresented minorities. We hypothesize that underrepresented minority students experience more challenges financially, personally, and socially when reapplying to physical therapy programs compared to non-URM. We plan to use the data collected to come to a conclusion regarding initiatives that DPT programs may take to increase the diversity of their cohorts and in turn the diversity of the workforce.
Potential Application: Once the barriers with reapplication experienced by URM are explored, potential changes can be made to reduce some of the identified barriers and increase the number of URM students who matriculate in physical therapy programs. In turn, this increase in diversity within the DPT programs will increase the percentage of URM physical therapists in the workforce which can reduce patient health disparities.
“Culturally Competent Care of LGBTQ+ Patients: Exposure and Clinical Preparedness in Texas Doctor of Physical Therapy Students”
Isabelle Valdez and Michelle Arroyo (Advisor: Dr. Celia Pechak)
Background: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, etc. (LGBTQ+) people experience significant rates of health care discrimination. Over 50% of LGB people have reported refused care, being verbally abused, or being blamed for their health by their health care provider. Transgender people reported experiencing discrimination and obstacles in healthcare settings at a 2-3 times higher rate than that of LGB individuals. The discrimination and lack of culturally appropriate healthcare may be due to inadequate education and training of students and providers. In the field of physical therapy, LGBTQ+ patients have reported a perceived lack of knowledge and acceptance on behalf of their therapist, decreasing the quality of care and increasing the experience of healthcare disparities. However, the extent to which physical therapy programs prepare students to interact with and treat LGBTQ+ individuals is unclear. To better prepare physical therapists to provide culturally competent care
to LGBTQ+ patients, exposure to LGBTQ+ related topics in the curriculum is vital. Currently, guidelines for providing culturally competent care to LGBTQ+ patients are compiled in the Introduction to LGBTQ+ Competency: Handbook for Physical Therapy published by PT Proud. However, there are currently no data on Doctor of Physical Therapy students' attitudes towards, basic knowledge of, or clinical preparedness related to LGBTQ+ care. No studies were identified on students' perceptions of the extent to which physical therapy programs prepare them to provide culturally competent care to LGBTQ+ patients.
Purpose: The purpose of this proposed study is to survey Doctor of Physical Therapy student's attitudes toward LGBTQ+ patients, basic knowledge on LGBTQ+ related health disparities, and the extent to which they have been prepared to and are willing to provide culturally competent care. Further, this study will provide vital information on physical therapy curricula across Texas regarding LGBTQ+ health issues and the extent to which these programs provide exposure to resources that may better prepare students to serve LGBTQ+ patients effectively.
Potential Application: The results of this study may better inform Doctor of Physical Therapy program directors and faculty to the level of exposure or lack thereof to LGBTQ+ related topics necessary for providing culturally competent care. The addition of Doctor of Physical Therapy student responses to the LGBT-DOCSS will also further enrich the research specific to health professional students and their experience with LGBTQ+ related topics.
For more information about the Doctor of Physical Therapy program, please visit: http://www.utep.edu/chs/pt/.