Students in UCF’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program are leading the charge on volunteer efforts in Central Florida.
Ever since the doctoral program launched in 2010, organizations such as Disney and Special Olympics Florida have benefited from physical therapy students giving back to their community, and the students have built a foundation of real-life experiences.
It’s a win-win for the students and the organizations.
“Not only are we helping our athletes, we are also educating future physical therapists,” said Jennifer Miller, director of health programs with Special Olympics Florida.
New partnerships have also been birthed through the students’ efforts; the United States Tennis Association reached out to UCF mid-spring to find ways to partner with the program and offer volunteer opportunities.
“They do so much that it was impossible to keep track,” said Patrick Pabian, director of UCF’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Program. Pabian and William Hanney, assistant professor of physical therapy, encouraged the students to track their volunteer activity in the community.
“There are so many opportunities in Orlando and we just want to be able to pick the right ones for us,” said committee member Kayla Comb. “It’s also really rewarding when the students come back and say how much they enjoyed volunteering.”
Comb, a second-year student, leads the effort alongside fellow second-year students Sanjana Bhat and Andrea Sarto and first-year students Joy Kitsmiller and Maria Mousa to engage fellow classmates in volunteer projects to connect with the community.
The committee reports that students have performed more than 1,500 hours of community service during the 2018-19 school year. Committee members said some students may also be keeping track of their hours separate from the committee.
The ability to connect with the community is very rewarding for the students, said Kitsmiller.
“This provides opportunities to remind us why we are working and studying so hard.”