Diverse DPT experiences pave way to career

(Photo by Duane Zehr)

July 22, 2014

Experiences and connections made through the three-year doctor of physical therapy program enabled Sarah Fuller ’13 to pursue her passion close to home. The Peoria native is an OSF Healthcare employee completing Bradley’s postgraduate residency in orthopedic physical therapy.

Fuller used the program’s emphases on academic exploration and practical experience to enhance her skill set and to prepare for her professional life. She came with a neurological background and expanded her knowledge base by studying orthopedic physical therapy.

“Bradley is good at starting with a knowledge base and getting into decision-making,” she said. “We learned how to process things like patients’ emotions and financial situations because we’re dealing with complexities of people.”

The residency required her to teach several classes at Bradley in addition to the clinical experience. Because she is a tactile learner, the classroom setting challenged her to a deeper understanding of materials.

That, in addition to the research and experiential elements to the program, gave Fuller a diverse foundation from which to launch her career.

“I never thought of myself as being strong in research, but we integrated it into evidence-based practice,” she said. “I’m a hands-on learner who loves lab time, but we learned how to go through research with a hands-on approach.”

Academic work brought Fuller recognition in 2012, as she won the Student Scholarship Expo President’s Award for research on playground environments’ impact on children with cerebral palsy. Two years later, she returned to the Expo as a judge, where she observed progress on research her class had started.

“Seeing how classes built on our projects shows how Bradley pushes students toward excellence,” she said. “It was fun coming back to see how students’ confidence, comfort and personalities developed.”

Beyond the academic benefits of the Hilltop, Fuller found the DPT program an ideal setting to connect with classmates and faculty from the enrollment process through the stresses of student life. Those relationships have stayed strong since her classmates scattered across the Midwest after graduation.

“We had a close-knit class that was like a family and I liked having that,” she said. “We would have dinners each week and do things to together to de-stress after intense weeks.”