Kyerra Smith is a current student in the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree program at UB's School of Public Health and Health Professions.
Throughout my time playing collegiate sports, I experienced a number of injuries that resulted in my referral to physical therapy with the goal of strengthening and returning to sport. In my experiences, I took an interest in the work that the physical therapists were doing and the impact that they had on so many lives. Prior to physical therapy, I had volunteered with multiple organizations focused on getting people moving, but never truly knew how to incorporate the importance of movement into my career goals other than to become a personal trainer or teacher. After my exposure to physical therapy, I ended up switching my major to exercise science as a result of falling in love with my experience in physical therapy and never looked back! I found that physical therapy was the way to blend my interests with my career!
As I was finishing up my undergraduate degree in Alabama, I was looking for PT schools to apply to. My mother was born and raised in Buffalo so upon seeing the school on the application website, she urged me to add it to my list. She told me that it was one of the top public research institutions in the United States and that definitely caught my interest. From the moment that UB received my application, they made me feel like the most wanted student ever. They answered every question I had prior to even making a decision and it felt like, as a transfer student, they were fighting the hardest to bring me to Buffalo and make me feel welcome, and to this day I do not regret my decision to choose UB.
The course work for this program is grounded in science as it relates to the body. That being said, there is a huge focus on anatomy, but we also delve further into how the body moves and abnormalities. In addition to learning about how the body moves, we spend time learning about pain and pain management, different conditions that individuals may need physical therapy for, and how to recognize different conditions and treat them. I would say my favorite course so far has been musculoskeletal. It is a very in-depth course that lays out how your body parts move from your head to your toes as well as gives an overview of different conditions that you will see in the clinical as it pertains to that body part. There is also a lab component where we learn different ways to check the body to test for conditions. Overall, it is a challenging course but it helps prepare you for a lifetime of figuring out what is hurting people and how to help them overcome it.
In addition to just overall learning everything that I possibly can about PT, I would say what I am most proud and excited about are the clinical experiences to come. Having almost finished my first clinical, I can honestly say that it is the place where you see all of your hard work in the classroom pay off. Clinicals are the place where you have that "Aha!" moment, and suddenly it makes sense. It also is the place where you find what does and does not work for you in certain settings. It is your first exposure to working with your target patients that are not young, healthy 20- to 30-somethings, so it is the best learning experience that a person could have because you get to see what you are learning in real time. You also just get that satisfying feeling when you feel things go right . UB is one of few schools that affords us the opportunity to have five clinical experiences so I can't wait to keep having that moment where it clicks and figuring out the setting that I most want to work in.
The best advice that I could give any high school or undergrad student who is considering PT is very cliche, but true: Believe in yourself and put in the work. There will be times when you will doubt yourself and your skills, but it is all a part of the uphill battle as you work to become the best physical therapist that you can be. There will be long nights and tough battles that come in the form of exams and practicals, but at the end of the day you have to trust that you can do it.
The other advice that I would offer would be to use your resources! Talk to your teachers and professors, or even get out there and shadow! They were in your shoes before and know what you have been through. Your teachers want to see you succeed and want to pass on as much knowledge to you as they possibly can! They become your connections as you progress to becoming a young professional!