Empowering future therapists through alumni mentorship

Learning to treat the patient as a whole versus the condition.

By Anne Riker Garlington
Dr. Cere
Dr. Melissa Cere

Clinical education experiences are key for helping Doctor of Physical Therapy students build the skills and confidence they need to be effective clinicians at the time they enter the workforce. When clinical mentoring comes from University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions alumni, that’s an added bonus.

“Since the alumni have been through the UF educational program they have an appreciation for where the student’s knowledge is and that makes it a more seamless transition between the academic and clinical environments,” said Mark Bishop, Ph.D., P.T., a professor of physical therapy and director of the D.P.T. program.

UF-alumni owned Kinetix Physical Therapy in Gainesville has provided a training ground for many UF D.P.T. students, including Michelle Warner, P.T., D.P.T. ’11.

“Having someone who has been through school and is in the field practicing is immensely helpful to students as they can provide insight and advice that is valuable to students with little experience,” Warner said. “It is especially invaluable when it comes from someone who has been in your shoes and understands the stress and challenges of P.T. school and patient care.”

Kinetix co-owner Melissa Cere, P.T., D.P.T., a 2002 UF PHHP graduate, has enjoyed the challenge of mentoring.

“Mentoring forces you to think about the right way to do something and then explain the why,” she said.

While students learn technical skills in the classroom, the clinical setting provides a broader perspective, Cere said.

Dr. Eddins photo
Dr. Scott Eddins, D.P.T. ’16, Chris Lee, UF D.P.T. student, and Zach Bryan, former Kinetix P.T. Exercise Specialist                    Photo credit: Kinetix Physical Therapy

“Working with therapists in the clinic helps students learn to adapt and modify treatments, based on that individual patient’s needs,” she said. “Students learn we don’t just treat the condition, but the patient as a whole.”

The clinical portion of physical therapy education is critical, Bishop said.

“A lot of our craft is developed through mentorship,” he said. “Good mentorship requires a lot of feedback, and a trusting relationship between whomever is modeling and guiding behavior.”

UF graduate and Kinetix Physical Therapy clinical director Scott Eddins, D.P.T. ’16, uses a collaborative approach to mentoring.

Dr. Eddins
Dr. Scott Eddins

“I try to encourage the students to ask the questions they need to ask to have the experience they want to have. Their clinical internship goes by fast, so they need to make each day count and challenge themselves,” Eddins said.

The clinical setting also gives students experience in building relationships with their patients and seeing the impact they can have on their well-being and lives, Cere said.

The relationship between physical therapist and patient inspired Cere early on. She knew she wanted to be a physical therapist since she was in high school, when her sister was diagnosed with hydrocephalus. She watched therapists working with her sister and liked the way her sister developed close relationships with her physical therapists, many of which her sister still maintains today.

Relationships built in the clinical setting aren’t limited to therapist-patient. Often, the role of mentor and student lasts far longer than the eight-week internship, as Warner, who was mentored by Cere, discovered.

“She helped guide me in so many ways, but the most impactful was the advice and support she provided throughout P.T. school and even more so once I began my first job,” Warner said. “What started as an internship developed into a lifelong friendship I cherish!”