New England Patriots Cheerleader rookie Alicia has been balancing her work in physical therapy with her cheerleading career for years—she was an All-Star cheerleader for 10 years and has completed a bachelor’s degree and a doctorate in her pursuit to become an excellent physical therapist! Read on below to see how her passion for both fields has helped her overcome every challenge that has stood in her path!
What turned you on to STEM and when? When I was 12 years old I was diagnosed with scoliosis, a lateral curvature of the spine. Due to the severity of my curve I had to wear a back brace all throughout middle school, for 3 years – 23 hours a day. I spent countless hours in physical therapy to strengthen my core, back, and work on my posture. While working with my physical therapist it amazed mehow passionate he was to help me and how much of an impact he made in my life. From that point on, I knew I wanted to do the same for others.
Why did you try out to be a New England Patriots cheerleader? Growing up as a cheerleader, I have always looked at the Patriots Cheerleaders as role models and being part of this team has been a lifelong dream. As an adult I felt I was stuck in a routine of getting up, going to work, coming home, and going to bed. I wanted to change that routine and do something different. Going through the audition process, I had to work on health and fitness, public speaking, and even on my self-confidence. These are all skills I continue to use daily. I also wanted the opportunity to be a role model for young women; to show them anything is possible if you believe in yourself and work hard!
Please describe what you do in your career as a physical therapist on a daily basis. As a physical therapist I help people recover from diseases and injuries. I work one-on-one with patients and help them achieve their physical goals. The overall goal of my job is to help people feel better and make an impact on their lives.
What does it mean for you to be practicing in STEM? I love what I do! Every day I have the ability to make an impact in someone’s life. This is what I love about STEM jobs; we have the ability to make a positive impact in the world.
How do the qualities that make you a great cheerleader benefit you in your STEM career? As an NFL cheerleader, especially for the Patriots organization, I am constantly out in the community and at events where I meet new people. I have needed to master the skill of connecting and communicating with people with diverse backgrounds. The same thing applies as a physical therapist. I am constantly meeting new patients and needing to connect with them to help them reach their goals. Being a cheerleader and a physical therapist have a lot of the same job qualities.
There are stereotypes about cheerleaders in our society that make it seem unlikely that a cheerleader could have a doctorate in physical therapy. Obviously, these stereotypes are untrue, and you are a great example of that! How do you feel about breaking down negative stereotypes about cheerleaders? I think it is very important to show that women can do it all, and I think my team does a great job displaying that. My teammates are smart, funny and beautiful. One minute I’m in scrubs as a physical therapist working with patients and the next minute I have my glamorous Patriots Cheerleaders uniform on, performing with the best team in the NFL!
Best cheerleading experience? I would have to say it was when I made the 2018-2019 Patriots Cheerleading team. It still feels like a dream come true!
Best science/health-related experience? In graduate school I got to take a course called “Gross Anatomy”, which consisted of learning about the whole body and dissecting it. This was the hardest class I took, but the one class from which I learned the most. I truly believe if everyone took a course like this, they would appreciate their bodies more!
What advice would you give your 12-year-old self? To love who you are and don’t let anyone or anything stop you from achieving your goals!
What’s one thing people might find especially surprising about you? When I was younger I was very shy. Now you can’t get me to stop talking!