Celebrating Black History Month 2023 - Student Highlight February 8, 2023
Get to Know Shawn HorneFeb 8, 2023
Get to Know: Shawn Horne
Q&A by Tori Serna
What made you want to pursue a career in Physical Therapy?
My journey to becoming a physical therapist started when I was running track in college at CSU-Pueblo. I dealt with a lot of injuries and because of this, wanted to initially pursue a career in athletic training. Unfortunately, you couldn’t be a student athletic trainer and an athlete. My athletic trainer told me about physical therapy and from that moment on, I ran with it. During my senior year in college, I had another injury 2 weeks before the season ended. I saw a physical therapist in Louisville at Red Hammer Rehab who helped me to finish out the season.
I had opportunities to shadow PTs in the VA system, exposing me to one of many underserved populations. There was one patient encounter I remember of a Black man. He was experiencing homelessness because he could not work due to pain. During his last session of physical therapy, he cried because he was able to work without experiencing any pain and finally had steady income. Seeing all the ways physical therapists can help people affirmed my desire to become one.
From experience, I also know that there aren’t many Black physical therapists. 5% of physical therapists are Black and I want to fix that disparity. I want to practice somewhere there’s not representation. I want to stay here in Colorado, where at times, Black physical therapists are limited.
How has CU Anschutz Physical Therapy Program allowed you to pursue your goals?
The CU Anschutz Physical Therapy Program has allowed me to pursue my goals by first and foremost accepting me into the program. This allows me to become a physical therapist and increase representation. The faculty is helpful and professors like Dr. Magnusson pave the way for tough discussions to take place to promote and facilitate change. Each professor seems to be with you and if you feel lost, they’ll help address the inconsistencies contributing to that feeling. There is change happening and it’s not just talk for the most part.
CU Anschutz Physical Therapy provides us with opportunities to shadow TAs since they are always willing to help us and show us more of the profession.
Lastly, the program provides us the opportunity to participate in volunteer projects such as Punching 4 Parkinson’s, Dawn Clinic, Stout Street Clinic, and Community Service Outreach Group. It’s through these projects that I’ve had the opportunity to work with the populations I’ve previously described.
What is your “why”?
My why continues to evolve but right now, my why is ME. Everything I do is to make myself and the people around me happy and whole. Becoming a physical therapy student because of the injuries I’ve experienced in my past. Seeing my grandmother, dad, and other family members deal with their own injuries and observing how much it’s changed their lives. Knowing I’m entering a field that lacks in representation fuels me. Even remembering how difficult the process of trying to shadow PTs of color was; I felt lost in the process. I’m the first person in my family to go to a post professional school and although there are days where I’m tired and burnt out, I do this for the younger me and for all the people that look like me. I remember everyone that helped me get to where I am today; those that kept me going. One day someone that looks like me will go through a similar process, and I hope to be the person they’re looking for; the same person I was looking for.
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?
When I was in high school, I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life after graduation. I received mentorship in Korea from a group of Black men on the base. There were teachers, linguists, Army officers and many other professions present. This mentorship showed me what it meant to be a leader and how to serve my community. That alone changed my life. I went into undergraduate hoping to become an engineer after I met a Black civil engineer through the mentorship. Although that wasn’t the profession for me, I tried it because of the Black man I saw; representation matters. I want to be a Physical Therapist for that same reason. To open the door and keep as many people coming through as possible.
I began coaching track and field for a school in Denver Public Schools so that those kids see a Black professional that wants to see them succeed in life. I enjoy showing people what track and field can be. Not only do we talk about the sport, but we talk about college, how one can run in college, and just life in general. Conversations like these keep progress happening and are even sometimes the beginning of change for those unsure of their journey. Not every person knows exactly what they want to do but giving them the tools to create their own path is just as helpful. I’ve also participated in volunteer opportunities through community service outreach where we go talk to students in schools in the Aurora community. Having similar conversations as I described before. I hope to send more students through CU DPT program so that they can impact their community in a positive way.
What words of encouragement do you have to share with future students of color pursuing careers in healthcare?
You belong in this space. If you are struggling, find someone to help you. Seek a mentor, you don’t have to navigate this alone. Search for somebody you respect, who has similar interests to you and/or is in a position you see yourself. Network! When you make it into a program, find a faculty member that does what you want to do. If you don’t know what you want to do, talk to as many professors and TAs as possible about the different possibilities. Know that the things that make you different in your everyday life will make all the difference in healthcare. Don’t be discouraged because there’s a low number of individuals in the field that look like you. One day, someone is going to be looking for the representation you provide. You’ll be who they want. If you want it go get it, nobody is going to give it to you. I’m here if you need help.