Doctor of Physical Therapy
Class of 2016 Employed by HeathSouth Rehab Hospital in Lancaster
Physical Therapy at SFU
Anatomy Painting Project
I was first exposed to physical therapy when I was 13. I sustained a back injury caused by years of gymnastics. I wore a back brace for 2 years and received frequent physical therapy. It was the first career in which I could picture myself working. I was never interested in being a doctor or a nurse, but after growing up doing gymnastics, being in the PT gym just felt like home.
HealthSouth Rehab Hospital has been an excellent environment for me to begin my career as a physical therapist. There is a supportive, collaborative, caring atmosphere which makes coming to work enriching. Our patient population allows me to build my skills as a new PT, while exposing me to more complex cases. Working in an in-patient rehab setting also gives me daily opportunities to love people in a tangible way. I truly feel I am living out a ministry through my profession as a PT. While I hope to expand my horizons as a therapist, I don't believe I could have found a better place to begin my professional journey.
Living in Lancaster has also been an exciting adventure. It's a cool, artistic city which pulls off an urban vibe while being in the heart of rural central PA. I have made some wonderful friends through my church and through Swing dancing. Best of all, I have an art studio in my apartment which I have transformed into my own little Boiler House. Now that I have finally settled into my new life and job, I am beginning to return to my artwork. While it has its share of challenges and valleys, my new life here is beautiful and I can't wait to see what else God has in store for me.
Dr. Stephen LoRusso came to me and asked if I would be willing to do a few paintings about my experience during summer anatomy, it was like a dream come true. I expected that my growth as an artist would be put on hold for the duration of grad school. This project not only allowed me to delve deeper into painting on a larger scale, it allowed me to combine two of my passions in a very real way. My Honors Thesis was entitled
The Blending of Passions: Integrating Art into a World of Science. This new series is the realization of that dream. With a colorful pallet on one side and an anatomy book on the other, I was finally able to paint as both a physical therapist and an artist. The series wouldn’t be possible if I were not both.
This project started as an effort to portray one aspect of the PT program: the cadaver lab summer. However, as the series matured and evolved, the paintings took on a heart of their own. The series is about portraying a deeper side of the learning process, honoring those from whose bodies we learned, and revealing a wonder in the study of the human body. It is the blending of methodical study and empathy. Certainly, artists are no strangers to the human body, but what I hope to bring to the table is the beauty and intimacy even in the scientific study of the body. For my fellow therapists and scientists, I want to take the bodies that we study and heal and infuse them with a vibrant soul of color and life.
I love people. I find portraits and the human figure to be the most compelling. I am captivated by the human form and all the emotions, experiences, struggles, pain, and hope of individual persons that can be revealed by art. Now that I have learned the anatomy, I am even more fascinated. There is something so beautiful and awe-inspiring not only in our anatomical make-up, but how perfectly we are designed for life. Certainly, art is not bound to anatomical correctness, or else it would cease to be art. However, I feel privileged to understand the inner workings and mechanics of the muscles, bones, nerves and vessels. I get a sort of thrill from knowing that I have seen what lies beneath the skin. In this current series I completely embrace the anatomy, but I have yet to see if my knowledge will continue to pervade my artwork.
My Catholic faith is the core of who I am. I’d like to believe that it has shaped the person I am and the way I interact with the world. In my opinion, art and science are resolutely intertwined, because God is the author of all beauty and the creator of all things. The more I learned about the intricacy of the body, the more admiration I have for the Creator.
Never having studied art formally, I look at my ability to paint as a complete gift from God. Because it is a gift, free and unearned, I return credit for anything I create back to Him. As a result, painting becomes a kind of prayer and taking up my brush is an act of surrender. I have learned a lot about myself and my faith through painting. The more I learn and the more I paint the deeper my faith becomes.
I look at becoming a physical therapist as a way to become God’s hands in the world. My goal is to reveal His love in some small way to each of my patients. Heath care is a ministry of compassion and service. It may be messy, stressful and frustrating at times, but that’s because it requires getting right in there with people who are broken and hurting. I consider it a privilege to be able to use my skills and knowledge to help someone heal.
I don’t think I’ll be a better PT just because I can paint. However, I think that art can teach people to have greater empathy for other people. I think because I am creative, I look for depth and the story in what appear to be very sterile situations. I hope that this mindset will always allow me to provide truly compassionate patient care.
I never felt like an outsider in the health sciences. Although people sometimes wonder about me being an “artsy science person,” they accept that I am a PT and I can hold my own in the field. The science courses may not come as easily to me as those of
Arts and Letters, but I enjoy the challenge. I loved all of my PT courses, although I wish there was more scope for the imagination and room for creativity. But then I remember sitting in class being fascinated by the study of the body and its movement. I was genuinely excited by the science, but even more by the prospect of making a difference in the lives of my patients.
However, I do occasionally struggle with insecurity around other artists, especially those who attended art school. I feel like a health science student masquerading as an artist. Because I am self-taught with oil paints, I am painfully aware of all the things I’ve never tried or learned. I simply bought some paint, brushes, and turpenoid and jumped in. It took a long time and many completed paintings before I had the courage to call myself an artist.
There are times I imagine what it would have been like to have made Art my full time pursuit, but it just isn’t for me. I am so passionate about physical therapy and am looking forward to beginning my career. I am blessed to also have painting as an outlet. In the end, I don’t have to compromise.
My fears after graduation do not lie within my chosen career. Rather, I’m afraid that in “the real world”, I will not be able to make the time to nurture the beautiful gifts I have discovered. I am afraid that the pressures within the ominous and mysterious land of adulthood will overshadow my growth as an artist and undermine my faith. I have already begun to realize the challenges of living out my faith without my
Campus Ministry community. I can only imagine how difficult it will be to find the time (and space) for painting once separated from my beloved Boiler House work space.
However, I know that I had been well prepared for the Physical Therapy profession by my professors. I am also confident that my art and honors professors and mentors have given me the tools to adapt into life beyond college. In fact, I practiced for this transition all throughout school. This is why I was so determined to paint outside of class time. I knew that I was preparing for the day when I wouldn’t have designated art courses. In a similar way, campus ministry was meant to create a firm foundation from which I could continue to grow in my faith. I am determined that wherever I end up, I will create my own Boiler house and find an Immaculate Conception Chapel in which I can continue to grow.
I chose SFU for the
accelerated Doctor of Physical Therapy program, the
Honors program, and the strength of the
Campus Ministry program. I have absolutely no regrets. I not only reached new levels in my Catholic faith, developed as a well-rounded scholar, and received excellent training as a physical therapist, I discovered a part of myself I did not realize existed. I became an artist. With the support of those in my own department, as well as relentless encouragement from members of Arts and Letters like Dr. Weixel and Chuck Olson, I was given the opportunity to spread my wings and fly. The decision I made six years ago to choose St Francis has undeniably shaped who I am today as a Catholic young woman: a physical therapist with the heart and soul of an artist.
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