Physical therapy: A caring profession has 27 new members

  • Friday, September 9, 2016

    PRINCESS ANNE, MD- (Sept. 8, 2016) - One by one, the 27 members of UMES' physical therapy class of 2016 crossed the performing arts center stage to receive their professional practice doctorates. 

    Physical therapy class of 2016Each bent slightly at the knees to receive their symbolic hood from department chairman Michael Rabel, then accepted the leather-bound document from President Juliette B. Bell before posing for a keepsake photo.

    Among those who received the heartiest cheers from classmates was Matthew G. Lucas of Mitchellville, Md. - or more accurately, formerly of Mitchellville. Lucas has a job offer from Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury, so he's staying put on the Eastern Shore. 

    Lucas called his three-year pursuit of his Doctor of Physical Therapy degree “amazing. I wouldn't trade it for anything.”

    “This program definitely gave me all the tools I needed to land job - and hopefully succeed,” he said.

    UMES' physical therapy program is among the university's most successful and popular. It receives hundreds of applications annually for roughly 30-to-32 slots available each fall. Small classes and the personalized attention students receive from faculty are invaluable intangibles.

    The previous two graduating classes distinguished themselves by achieving a 100 percent / first-try pass rate on the national licensing test every UMES graduate takes.

    Lucas and his classmates will spend the next several weeks hoping to keep that streak alive by reviewing what they were taught to earn that important credential that he'll need to affirm PRMC's job offer.

    After the brief ceremony, which featured an entertaining address by former NASA physicist Julian Earls, graduates gathered with faculty and family for a small reception where Alexa L. Yancey of Edgewater, Md. learned she was the winner of the 2016 Excellence in Patient-Centered Care award named in honor of retired professor Joseph Beatus.

    Among family on hand to observe graduation was Katie Irvine's young daughter, Julia, who exchanged hugs as her husband and family looked on outside the Ella Fitzgerald Center for the Performing Arts.

    “I feel amazing,” Irvine said. “I'm excited and so grateful for this opportunity.”

    Irvine, a graduate of Wicomico High School in Salisbury, has a job offer from Nanticoke Memorial Hospital in Seaford. “I wanted to stay local,” she said.

    Leah A. Zinnert of Severn, Md. called the year-round program “challenging, but in a good way. The faculty was just fabulous. They all care about us and knew us by name.”

    “They put a lot of thought into where they place us in (clinical) rotations” off campus, Zinnert said.

    Earls, the commencement speaker, delivered a light-hearted, self-effacing address employing a formula that drew on his own experiences, anecdotes about UMES he gleaned moments before he spoke and his inner George Carlin.

    He had the audience laughing aloud with homespun stories and perfect-timing jokes, including posing such questions as: why don't psychics know lottery numbers; why does Hawaii have Interstate highways; and why do banks assess penalty charges when customers' accounts have “insufficient funds?”

    Earls managed to weave into his message references to Socrates, Einstein, Calvin Cooledge and parables from his grandparents.

    “Thank those who helped you,” he said. “Don't take for granted they know.”

    Earls praised the graduates for choosing “a caring profession.”

    “You can make a difference,” he said. “Use your lives as an inspiration for others. Sustaining change is a challenge.”

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    UMES Office of Public Relations, (410) 651-6669