Celebrating Black History Month 2023 - Student Highlight February 15, 2023
Get to Know Olivia CooperFeb 15, 2023
Get to Know: Olivia Cooper
Q&A by Tori Serna
What made you want to pursue a career in physical therapy?
Out of everything that makes up physical therapy, I enjoy most how all-encompassing the profession is. Physical therapists can reach a variety of different patients. They can work in different settings, specialize, and have different focusses. Physical therapists can provide people with different ways to improve their lives, in whatever ways are most important to them. I first grew interested in the profession in high school and that interest was solidified in college. I enjoyed every component of the rehabilitation process. I also value how physical therapists have the capacity to form very meaningful relationships with their patients. It’s a unique profession that has a plethora of paths one can explore if they choose.
How has CU Anschutz Physical Therapy program allowed you to pursue your goals?
The CU Anschutz Physical Therapy program has opened many doors for me to find my way and figure out my skillset and the ways in which to use it to best serve the individuals I treat. Through community outreach, volunteer opportunities, and a variety of clinical experiences, our faculty has given us tools that have allowed me to grow in ways I never imagined. This program has been a strong support system in many ways and in doing so has given me the confidence and encouragement I needed to continue working towards my goals.
What is your “why”?
I have many “why’s” when it comes to physical therapy. Number one on that list would be the capacity physical therapists have to positively touch so many people in a variety of ways to help them live their life the way they want to live it. Giving someone the opportunity to feel their life getting easier or becoming less painful; less demanding on their caregivers because of services they receive during physical therapy is a large reason why I love this profession so much.
February is a month to honor and celebrate Black leaders. What does this mean for you? What leadership role(s) have you taken up and what impact have they had on you and your time in the program?
CU Anschutz has made an obvious effort to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout all interactions, experiences, and opportunities. I’ve been able to meet, learn alongside, and gain support from many other Black physical therapy students and students of other disciplines. To me, honoring and celebrating Black leaders means reflecting on how far we’ve come as a society and as a profession, while recognizing how far we still have to go. Representation in in this field is another one of my main drivers. When I was a child, I never met a Black healthcare provider. I hope to be that familiar face to future generations. To help them realize they too can become a physical therapist, a doctor, a dentist, or whatever other healthcare profession they are interested in.
During my time at CU Anschutz, I’ve had the chance to fill leadership roles at various volunteer opportunities. In doing so, I’ve felt more prepared to go forth in other leadership roles as I move towards graduation and post-graduation life.
What words of encouragement do you have to share with future students of color pursuing careers in healthcare?
As a student of color pursuing a career in healthcare, I have encountered many instances in which it was advantageous to have the perspective I do as a Black female. Keep an eye open for these opportunities and embrace them when they arise. Your empathy, compassion, patience, and the ability to connect with others will show through, even if the experience that taught you those characteristics were less than pleasant. Always remember how these difficulties help us grow as people and how the lessons they teach us make us better clinicians for our patients.