by Prina Deva (CAHNR: Allied Health Sciences ’21)
I knew that ever since I was little, the medical field would be my destiny. For the longest time, I have been fascinated with anatomy, how intricate body components come together to build a human, and what is done to help treat an individual with physical troubles. However, the question was always: what should I do? The medical field is filled with endless possibilities, but I am someone with endless interests. Applying to colleges was complicated by the fact that I did not know what to major in because I did not know what I wanted to do. One positive was that many health science majors have similar prerequisite courses, so I at least knew I could realistically major in anything for a year of two before deciding on a more distinct path. With that in mind, I decided to come into UConn as an exploratory exercise science major in UConn’s Academic Center for Exploratory Students department.
Out of my array of interests, being a sports fanatic is at or near the top of my list. I was never an athlete (my family does not have those genes), but I have always been competitive and glued to a TV during major sporting events. While I can never play or dream of playing professionally, I learned quickly that I wanted to be in the sports medical industry and be behind the scenes of teams that I grew up watching. So, I decided on a pre-medical path, with the intention of specializing in sports medicine, which means preparing myself to go to medical school.
My freshman year, I took your basic introductory biology and chemistry courses like the usual pre-health science student. Boy, that was tough. I knew it was going to be one of the many challenges heading my way as a health science major, and it was time to take prepping for my career choice more seriously. At the end of my very first semester as an undergraduate, I know I am capable of being in most high-pressure situations, but I had to think about myself realistically. I did not want to give up my dream job setting over my fears, so I began to reanalyze my options.
At the end of my freshmen year, I began an internship at a senior living community. One of my many roles there was to escort residents to their in-patient physical therapist for daily exercises. I would stay there for the majority of their appointment and watch the physical therapist walk them through their routine. I soon realized how this was turning into a shadowing opportunity. I found myself asking the physical therapist about their undergraduate and graduate experiences, research, and patient recovery and treatment plans. I asked them to take me through their routine with patients and how they determine what course of action to take with specific ailments. As my summer was ending, I switched into the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR) as an allied health sciences major and generated a new plan of study that follows a pre-physical therapy track.
I knew I always wanted to help people. As a potential physical therapist, I find the process of recovery gratifying. Being able to improve the life of an individual and observe the progressive strength and growth in them is very rewarding, as I get the chance to employ my health science principles and adapt physical activity interventions in order to help individuals achieve their goals in a one-on-one environment. This part of the field is what I have been told keeps physical therapists able to enjoy and be happy with their jobs.
I got my second shadowing experience at an out-patient setting, where I got an inside look at a busy environment. There was a larger range of individuals and ailments than there was at the live-in geriatric setting, from younger kids, athletes, to retirees. I particularly enjoyed being around the athletes, and always asked for shifts where they were the main clients. Injuries are unavoidable. I appreciate the motivation that athletes have to get back to their peak form, and I know they are anxious to get back to the game they love. Specializing in sports physical therapy has now become my perfect path. It allows me to combine two things I like, sports and physical therapy, into a job. I think it could let me feel like my job is not my job everyday, but my passion. Because of this, I have now been shadowing the athletic medical team here at UConn, and have gotten a direct behind-the-scenes look at what it is actually like being in my ideal environment. I am looking forward to enhancing people’s lives by helping them heal.