Student Experiences

UCF Division of Physical Therapy

headshot of Kristy Thompson

Kristy Thompson MPT, CCCE, CCI

Kristy Thompson, from the class of 2007, is currently residing in Deland, Florida as a CCCE for the Florida Hospital within Outpatient Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation, and is also pilates certified and currently working on Manual Certification. Some of Kristy’s fondest memories of the program revolve around the opportunities it provided her: “Choosing UCF’s PT program was one of the best decisions I’ve made academically. It has provided me with valuable opportunities that have aided me in my career and personal growth. One such opportunity I was given was my participation with another classmate in the Student-Assisted Workout Program. It was a great opportunity to take our love of therapy, health, and wellness and apply it in a very tangible way with other students at UCF while in the program.” Kristy also has valuable advice for current and future students of the program: “Get your hands dirty! If there are opportunities to volunteer, do it! Have a creative idea? Suggest it! This is a hands-on profession; your best learning will come from getting involved and working with people.”

headshot of Daniel Flynn

Daniel Flynn PT, DPT, LAT, ATC, CSCS

Daniel Flynn graduated from the program in 2008, and since graduation he has been working at Orlando Sports Medicine Group, a private practice, outpatient orthopedic provider. During this time, he completed his transitional DPT at the University of South Florida as well as obtaining his CSCS. Daniel’s professional interests include all aspects of sports medicine from acute injury management/event coverage to traditional rehabilitation. Daniel places a special emphasis on return to sport function which bridges the gap between “traditional” PT and full return to sport. Daniel also serves as one of the lead therapists for concussion management and rehabilitation. During the course of his career, he has had the opportunity to work on a continuous basis with various professional, collegiate, and amateur elite level athletes as well as the performing arts. Because of the research partnership between OSMG and the UCF Physical Therapy department, Daniel has had exposure to various research studies and looks to continue participating in active research. He also frequently serves as a clinical instructor and also heads the volunteer program at OSMG which provides mentorship opportunities for individuals seeking careers in Physical Therapy and Athletic Training. Looking to maintain a well rounded practice, Daniel also works per diem as a home health physical therapist for Pinnacle Home Care. Daniel’s advice to students is this: “If you’ve made it far enough to be accepted into a doctorate program, then you’re already a successful student. You can stop worrying about your grades, and now start worrying about becoming a professional. Use your time to learn not just academic content, but other important skills like time management, stress management, work ethic, communication, empathy, and proficiency in skill. Also, don’t forget to work hard, play hard, learn hard, and rest hard!”

headshot of Victoria Daacon

Victoria Daacon

Victoria (Morgan) Daacon is a 2010 graduate of the UCF DPT program who now resides in Austin, TX. After completing her DPT clinical rotations in New York, Georgia, and New Mexico, Victoria moved to Austin after graduation. She has been working for St. David’s Healthcare for the last 6 years- two years in Acute Care, and the last four years on a Spinal Cord Injury unit at St. David’s Inpatient Rehabilitation Hospital. Victoria received her Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT) Certification through The McKenzie Institute in October of 2015. Victoria has been highly involved in the Austin UCF Alumni Club since moving to Austin in 2010, and she also volunteers her time working with the Texas Ramp Project to help build ramps for new wheelchair users with inaccessible homes. Victoria’s favorite part of the DPT program at UCF was the sense of camaraderie she felt with all her classmates. She loved working and studying in such a collaborative environment, and she feels it helped provide her with a lifelong desire to learn with and from others. Victoria recommends incoming UCF DPT students complete their clinical rotations outside of their comfort zone and outside of Florida: “Every student should seek to learn as much as they can from instructors in a variety of PT clinical settings.” Victoria started out PT school wanting to do Outpatient Orthopaedics, and now she’s been working Inpatient Neuro Rehab for over 4 years! She feels that: “the clinical options UCF DPT students are provided with are completely invaluable, and I’m very thankful to UCF DPT for the wonderful opportunities I was able to take advantage of during my time as a student.”

headshot of Nolan Amas

Nolan Amas

Nolan graduated with the UCF DPT class of 2013. After working in Orlando at CORA rehabilitation for a little over a year he returned home to the gulf coast and began working at Fitness Quest Physical Therapy of Sarasota. In addition to working as an outpatient physical therapist Nolan also works for Doctor’s Hospital of Sarasota on weekends. Nolan expresses that, “The UCF physical therapy program and its faculty really do an excellent job at exposing students to many ideas and providing the critical thinking skills necessary for continued learning. Beyond the classroom and clinical rotations the faculty make every effort to develop a relationship with there students. My most cherished memories from the program include the long hours spent in the cadaver lab learning the body with my amazing therapy family, the time I spent playing and volunteering with the Orlando Clash, and meeting my future wife Amanda (Macia), class of 2012. My advice to current and future students is to treat the program as an opportunity to learn not just a ticket to a degree. Also, don’t be afraid to make mistakes, push yourself, push your classmates, and push your future coworkers to be as good as they can be!”

headshot of Stephen Younger

Stephen Younger

Stephen graduated in 2013 and moved to Tampa, Florida, where he is currently employed by St. Joseph’s Hospital in the acute care department and works primarily with patients with neurological diagnoses. In addition, within the hospital, he is an advocate for interdisciplinary education development and fall prevention. Considering his experience with the UCF DPT program, Stephen says: “I believe that UCF’s DPT program fully prepared me to be successful from the very onset of my career and it’s due to a variety of factors. The faculty, beyond being highly knowledgable, were frequently available and always approachable. Even if it wasn’t their scheduled office hours. There were many times they would take time out of their busy schedule to answer any questions, or just simply provide valuable mentoring. Additionally, the around-the-clock accessibility to the building and classrooms was invaluable.” Stephen also has this advice for students: “My advice for current and future students is: You will make many new best friends and have plenty of time to socialize, but you must understand that your ultimate priority is to give the program 100% of your effort. The physical therapy profession has enough “average” clinicians. Don’t be one of them. Your future patients and colleagues are counting on you to strive for excellence, integrity, and professionalism in everything you do. If you do, I’m confident that the UCF DPT program will prepare you to be highly competent and impactful within the profession!”

headshot of Natalie Hair

Natalie Hair, DPT

Natalie graduated from UCF’s DPT program in 2014. She works in outpatient orthopedics and became a start-up clinic manager at Physical Therapy Specialists of Davenport in August 2015. Since then, she has learned the importance of marketing, developing relationships with referral sources, and educating patients on direct access as she strives to grow the new clinic. Natalie also sought ways to give back to her own Orlando community and communities across the world. She volunteered at Grace Medical Home, providing PT care for patients in the Orlando community without health insurance. In May 2015, she traveled to Central Asia to teach physiotherapists, neurologists, and primary care doctors more modern, research-based techniques for rehabilitation of patients with neurological conditions. Natalie has a valuable view on the program for all students: “My favorite part of the program was undoubtedly participating in the extra opportunities the program offered, from community service, to interacting with FPTA leaders, and presenting research at CSM. My advice to current students would be to take advantage of these kinds of opportunities outside of the academic challenges of DPT school. And for those of you preparing for board exams, I recommend taking multiple practice exams and building study guides from the questions or topics you miss or are not confident on.”

headshot of Kevin Nagel

Kevin Nagel, PT, DPT, SCS, CSCS

Kevin graduated from the UCF DPT program in 2014 before taking a position as a sports physical therapy resident at the University of Delaware’s physical therapy clinic. After completing his residency and passing the board certification exam to become a Sports Certified Specialist, he took a position for Florida Orthopedic Institute in Tampa where he currently sees a wide variety of post-operative and non-operative orthopedic patients in addition to being an APTA certified clinical instructor. When reflecting on his time at UCF, Kevin says that what stood out was the intimacy of the department and willingness of all the faculty members to help each student succeed. “Every day the professors would leave their door open and never seemed too busy for questions, which for me showed that they genuinely cared about our success. They always led by example with involvement in the community and participated in state and national level development of the profession. Ultimately the UCF DPT faculty members became role models for me.” Kevin recommends to current and future students becoming a well rounded student both inside and outside of the classroom: “Passing classes and ultimately the national license exam are the primary goals while in school, but choosing clinical affiliations that are relevant to your specialty of interest and becoming involved within the community, such as the Special Olympics or the annual Let’s Ignite event, are very important to potential employers.”

headshot of Vanessa Ziccardi

Vanessa Ziccardi PT, DPT

Vanessa graduated from the class of 2015 and now resides in Boca Raton, Florida working for a private outpatient clinic specializing in orthopedics and sports performance. She also works for a home health company and is a member of the Public Relations and Networking committee for the Florida Physical Therapy Association (FPTA). Vanessa reflects fondly on her time in the program, particularly for her Integrations I class: “The class provided an important bridge between our academic courses and the clinical application. Our class dressed up to portray the most creative patients by designing costumes and utilizing props.” She hopes to encourage future students to grow with this advice: “If you truly love this profession and you worked so hard to get into the program, do not stop believing in yourself throughout the three years. I also viewed my cohort as my second family, and we formed study groups to help with the difficult curriculum as well as the licensure exam. Finally, continue to ask for help from faculty, clinical instructors, and alumni because you can and will achieve greatness in this program.”

headshot of Melissa Mallory

Melissa Mallory

Melissa graduated with the class of ’15 and began working as a travel physical therapist in South Carolina at an Assisted Living Facility and memory care unit. Her next travel assignment was in Texas at a Skilled Nursing Facility with short-term and long-term care services. Currently, she works as a Home Health therapist traveling throughout northeast Texas delivering therapy services to the geriatric population within their homes. She has been accepted into the Geriatric Residency Program at St. Catherine Rehabilitation Hospital in Miami, Florida which will begin in August. Reflecting her current traveling lifestyle, she says this about the program: “My favorite part of the UCF DPT program was the trip to National Student Conclave in Louisville, Kentucky. The conference provided a refreshing perspective on the world of physical therapy and its opportunities, and it helped me to stay motivated with my studies. My advice for current and future students is to get involved in as many conferences and volunteer events as you can successfully manage. These events help to serve as an active reminder of our purpose as physical therapists. Get out there and make a difference while the resources are right in front of you.”

headshot of Tina Postrel

Tina Postrel

Tina graduated from the Class of 2015 and now resides in Portland, Oregon, working for a private practice outpatient clinic specializing in manual therapy and orthopedics. Within her first year of working, she has started a Minimalist Running Program, thanks to the guidance and skills learned from her Minimalist Running Capstone Project with Dr. Carey Rothschild and two classmates. Reflecting on her time in UCF’s DPT program, she is confident that UCF has one of the best programs in the United States. To start with, UCF has exceptional instructors, all specialists within the field, be it orthopedics, sports, manual therapy, pediatrics, neurology, or anatomy. What’s more, most of these instructors are active clinicians, which help bring in real life current scenarios. UCF’s DPT program also places an outstanding emphasis on manual therapy, orthopedics, and evidence based practice that prepared her perfectly to start working right away at a fast paced, highly reputable, manual therapy based outpatient clinic. She felt confident with the knowledge and clinical decision making skills due to this strong academic program, but also due to its clinical internships. UCF’s DPT program disperses the internships throughout year 2-3, which makes it easy to apply academic principles learned in class to real-life experiences gained in the clinic. Her advice for future students is to go to as many conferences as possible, because you can develop such a deeper passion for your career, being surrounded by working clinicians, and become even more enthusiastic about your decision. It also shows you how much you have learned and how well prepared you are going into your new career.

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