Hi, Science Cheerleader fans! We’re less than a month away from the 2012 USA Science and Engineering Festival and the excitement is ramping up! Amanda is one of dozens of Science Cheerleaders who will be performing at the festival.
So, Amanda, why science?
Amanda: I actually wasn’t particularly interested in science in high school, but once I decided I wanted to get a degree in physical therapy, I began taking a lot of science classes in college and fell in love. I particularly enjoyed anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology classes. As a dancer, I had a really good understanding of my body and how it moved and functioned. To learn the details of how and why it functions that way was so interesting to me. The human body is capable of incredible things, and those classes made my body make sense to me.
You’ve got a doctorate in physical therapy from Northwestern University. What inspired you to get a degree in that field?
Amanda; An injury my senior year put me in physical therapy for a few months, and I was so grateful to the dedicated therapist who made it her goal to make sure I could perform in an upcoming performance. I realized that through physical therapy I could stay involved in the dance world, but I could also help so many other people who need to heal and re-learn to do basic things such as walk.
Favorite courses you took to prepare for your degree? Why?
Amanda: I loved gross anatomy during physical therapy school. I am a very visual learner, and human cadaver dissection really allowed me to see and touch the structures I was learning about. I have the greatest respect for people who donate their bodies so that others may learn things that will help thousands of patients.
You’re now working as a physical therapist. What’s the most challenging part about your work?
Amanda: Sometimes I work with patients who are not dedicated to healing, and they take for granted all of the work you put in for them. It can be hard to help them see that they have to be responsible for their own rehabilitation and healing. I can’t make a patient better without their help.
Best part of your day job?
Amanda: Seeing patients meet their goals!! When a patient comes in and tells me, “I was able to play golf without any pain today,” or walks into the clinic without any assistance after they started out in a wheelchair. Those are the moments when I realize what a difference I make in peoples’ lives, and make me so happy.
Who are your most frequent patients/types of physical therapy cases?
Amanda: I see a lot of different types of patients. I primarily treat patients with orthopedic conditions; this means patients who have injured their bones, ligaments, muscles, or tendons. They may have pain due to a sports injury, an accident, or surgery. I also see some patients who are recovering basic functions like standing up or walking after having a stroke or a leg amputation. Additionally, I work with elderly patients without any specific injury who are working to improve their balance to avoid falling and causing injuries.
Which came first, your interest in science or cheerleading?
Amanda: My science interest didn’t take hold until I was a dance major in college!
How do your fellow cheerleaders accept your interest in science?
Amanda: They are very supportive! I’m always available to them to give advice and assistance regarding injuries or other medical issues. A physical therapist is a great person to have on a dance team!
Do you find that stereotypes about cheerleaders helped or hindered your professional experiences?
Amanda: I do think stereotypes about cheerleaders exist and for that reason I generally don’t bring up my cheerleading experience early on when meeting someone in my professional life. By the time they find out I’m a cheerleader I have usually already established a level of respect, and they are usually impressed to find out that I’m a cheerleader as well as a physical therapist! I think it’s sad that those stereotypes exist and I’m happy to be a part of the Science Cheerleaders to help challenge those stereotypes!
Best science-related experience?
Amanda: I did my final internship in physical therapy school at a clinic in New York City that treats performing artists almost exclusively. I treated performers backstage on Broadway and in the clinic. I felt the things I did truly helped “the show go on” and loved every minute of it!
If you could rewind the clock and change your degree, would you? If so, to what and why? If not, why not?
Amanda: I would not change my degree. I think everything you do is important in shaping who you become in life. Even if I did not want to be a physical therapist, the lessons I learned in my degree program gave me the tools I need to take care of my own body and succeed as dancer. However, I might consider going back for an additional degree someday!
Do you have any advice for youngsters who might feel torn between following one dream and another?
Amanda: There is no reason you can’t do both! You may have to put one on hold for a time being to focus on the other, but eventually, if you really love both there is no reason you can’t do it all!
Along these lines, what advice would you give your 12-year-old self?
Amanda: Be confident in yourself!
What are your plans for the future?
Amanda: I plan to continue to further my education in physical therapy, and become an orthopedic certified specialist. I also plan to keep performing as long as I can! Eventually I would like to be able to share all of the knowledge I have about taking care of your body with other dancers and cheerleaders to help them perform at their best!
Why do you want to be a Science Cheerleader?
Amanda: When I learned about the Science Cheerleaders I was immediately interested in becoming involved. I am very proud of my science background and my cheerleading background, and I love the idea of putting to rest the stereotypes that exist about both fields!