On August 2, the College of Health Professions (CHP) hosted its third COAST Physical Therapy Exploration Program (PEP) event. COAST, Creating Opportunity & Academic Success for Tomorrow’s Therapists, is a student-run mentorship program designed to promote awareness of the physical therapy profession to underrepresented minority (URM) students. COAST is one of the many efforts, like holistic admissions and scholarships for URM students, at CHP that aims to encourage diversity and inclusion in recruitment.
Three years ago, Destinee Allen, DPT, Michael Israel, DPT, and Ericka Jordan, DPT, then students at MUSC, recognized the need for a program like COAST and took the initiative, with the support of the college, to get it started. PEP, a one-day career exploration event for rising high school juniors and seniors as well as college freshman and sophomores, is one way students in the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program hope to make their profession more inclusive.
Lexi Perry, a third year DPT student, and several of her classmates, planned and hosted the event for this year. This is her second year planning PEP and she couldn’t have been more excited to welcome the students to this year’s event. “It’s really inspiring to see everyone so excited about physical therapy and this year we even had someone travel all the way from New Hampshire!”
This year’s event had the largest attendance to-date with 14 students visiting from South Carolina and beyond. Dante Pelzer, Ph.D., the assistant director of student diversity for MUSC was among the guest speakers. Faculty members from in the Division of Physical Therapy gave a presentation about what physical therapy school is like and Dean Zoher Kapasi spent time answering students’ individual questions. Students also had the chance to ask questions during a panel discussion with current DPT students and alumni, enjoy lunch with faculty, participate in team building activities, and take a tour of the MUSC CARES Therapy Clinic and the campus.
“This is my second year participating in the event and what I find most rewarding is seeing the lightbulb go off for kids when they really become interested in physical therapy. It’s such a unique opportunity for students, that may not otherwise have the chance, to build relationships and mentorships that will help them move forward with their career aspirations” said Phillip Griggs, associate director of student diversity and community outreach for the College of Health Professions. “What’s great is at the end of the event, if students are really interested in physical therapy, the COAST program can connect them with mentors in their area who are practicing physical therapists.”
After a full day of learning about physical therapy, exploring campus, and interacting with students and faculty, everyone seemed to be more excited about the prospect of becoming a physical therapist. One student in attendance commented that her favorite parts of the day were “the panel discussion and listening to Dean Kapasi speak. It was interesting to hear their perspectives and their approach to going to school.”