First Year Student Journal: Mohammad Saad

Passion: It’s not taught, it’s caught.

As a non-traditional student, I spent nearly seven years between undergrad and grad school searching for the “perfect career.” Despite finding plenty of fulfillment in my role as a high school teacher, enjoying the limitless travel that came with working in management consulting, and even cultivating my personal interests while working in the running specialty industry, my enthusiasm would ultimately begin to fade and none of those jobs felt like a sustainable career for me.

Like any aspiring DPT student, I shadowed dozens of physical therapists in various settings while preparing my application. The level of enthusiasm, dedication, and altruism my preceptors demonstrated assured me that this was the path I wanted to pursue. Despite all of their mentorship, guidance, and advice, there was one therapist in particular that seemed to always approach her long days of patient care with an unparalleled level of zeal. Dr. Boose stood out, in a sea of exceptional clinicians, because of the effortless passion she had for her work. Knowing that she was a Duke DPT alum, I figured following in her footsteps would continue to fuel the fire ignited in me…..boy, did I underestimate that.

At Duke, passion is contagious.

No one warns you during admissions info sessions or orientation just how electric the atmosphere here is. From day one I was in awe at how dedicated and excited everyone is…..ABOUT EVERYTHING!

Not only do we have the privilege of learning from some of the best professors in the world, the energy they bring to the classroom is unparalleled. During our first term, we dove deep into anatomy lectures and labs with the guidance of almost A DOZEN faculty members, each with their own keen lens into the human body. To supplement our hands-on anatomy content, we learned about the intricate biomechanics of every joint from professors who constantly engaged us with their own fascinating patient cases and research studies. The attempt to make us well-rounded clinicians doesn’t end at lectures and case studies, we get to engage in discussions with APTA board members, section leaders, board-certified clinicians, and faculty residents about how to advocate for the field of physical therapy and prepare for navigating the professional world.

To say that the Duke DPT faculty is passionate about their respective areas of expertise would be a gross understatement. The fact that our instructors can captivate our fascination about exercise prescription one hour and evidence-based practice the next is a testament as to how engaging they make the material. Their passion for student success extends beyond the confines of the classroom and lab as they are relatable mentors and make themselves available for reflection about personal issues and are always willing to lend a listening ear. The entire department works together to ensure a comprehensive and streamlined curriculum while maintaining flexibility when unique opportunities or obstacles present themselves.

When you feel that the faculty’s passion has reached the cup’s edge, the passion of your peers causes it to overflow. From the first day of orientation, my classmates were already setting up anatomy study groups, planning details for CAMPOUT, and sharing career ambitions that would inspire a seasoned clinician. I quickly came to realize that aside from our shared interest in physical therapy, each and every member of my cohort was deeply passionate about so many other things. Classmates engrossed themselves in intramural sports and led fitness classes. Those that found comfort in their shared faith traditions formed small groups. Books club members, music groups, animal lovers, all found someone to share their endless energy with. Don’t even get me started on basketball season. Trust me, you don’t have to be a former Tar Heel to admire and respect the diligence in preparation and excitement for each and every Duke basketball game that our group has. The fact that in the span of three months, a formerly devout Carolina fan would become a closeted Cameron Crazy should speak for itself.

With our second term, being temporarily confounded by unforeseen obstacles like the COVID pandemic, struggling economy, disappointing acts of police brutality, and disheartening race relations, one would anticipate a diminished fervor at Duke DPT. Leave it to us resilient Blue Devil students to become even stronger in the face of adversity and find ways to strengthen ties while maintaining our social distance. I am beyond proud of the efforts of my peers to develop mental health support groups, advocate for social justice issues, and plan virtual social and service events to keep our cohort’s familial sentiment stronger than ever. Our faculty didn’t skip a beat in transitioning to an unanticipated online didactic platform and continue to make our team-based learning model more successful than ever, despite our teams being scattered around the country.

Not even a full year in, my experience at Duke has already been a roller coaster ride that leaves me wanting to immediately jump back in line for another round. The key ingredient to it all, passion. It’s more contagious than the Coronavirus and is just as evident via Zoom as it is in person. It can’t be restrained by any handcuffs or tear gas, and while it certainly can’t be taught, at Duke, it’s a pervasive way of life.