Celebrating Black History Month 2023 - Student Highlight February 28, 2023
Get to Know Umaru HarunaFeb 28, 2023
Get to Know: Umaru Haruna
Q&A by Tori Serna
What made you want to pursue a career in physical therapy?
It took me a while to figure out physical therapy was the route I wanted to take for my career. I spent a lot of time reflecting on what it was that I was really interested in. Prior to applying to CU DPT, I spent 6 years in the Marine Corps. After that, I pursued a degree and profession in accounting. Both careers were, and are, very influential to my professional growth. I wanted a career I could see myself doing for the next 20-30 years. Fitness is both physical and mental; it’s something I’ve always been interested in. It helps me connect with other people and allows me to merge my personal and professional experience. Within fitness there is movement. Movement allows us to experience life. I want to help people experience that every day. The rehabilitation process after an injury is so critically important and I want to be a part of that journey with my patients.
How has CU Anschutz Physical Therapy Program allowed you to pursue your goals?
One of the reasons why I really appreciated CU Anschutz was because of the large emphasis they put on diversity and inclusion. Also, I take pride in the number of resources available to the students that attend this school. For instance, you can walk into an elevator and there are fliers for mental health breaks or studies promoting mental health, health and wellness, and nutrition classes. All of which are important when it comes to managing the rigorous coursework involved with the program. Our CU DPT faculty, advisors, and instructors have an open-door policy that makes communication easy and fluid. This has allowed me to ask a variety of my professors questions, each giving insight on an assortment of paths one can take as a physical therapist. Every student also comes from a different background. This has enabled me to create my own path, tailoring my interests to my own education. There are resources available; you have to be resourceful and take advantage of them.
What is your “why”?
When I think of my “why,” I think of what drives me. I want to leave an impact on the world, a dent on the universe. Early in my professional career, I saw how much could be gained by providing service to my country, serving something greater than myself. Life can deal some heavy blows, sometimes even tragic. Knowing we all go through experiences like this makes me want to be there for those in need. I want to help others improve their condition to get back to the things in life they find important and fulfilling. I want to remind people that they aren’t alone and that they have the potential to do amazing things. My “why” is being of service to other people by being dedicated to improving those around me.
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?
For me, I like reflecting on and thinking about all the great leaders that came before me. Icons such as W.E.B. Du Bois, the first African American to receive a doctorate from Harvard University, Martin Luther King Jr., and Rosa Parks. More recently, I have been inspired by Bryan Stevenson, David Goggins, and Les Brown. All who have broken barriers and overcome extreme adversity. It exemplifies what Black people can accomplish. They made sacrifices and did it with a purpose, one which comes with responsibility. They paved the way for the Black community. I believe there is a responsibility to honor that and continue doing great things through representation and sharing the blueprint for success. Each one, teach one.
As far as leaderships roles within CU DPT, I find myself more interested in the volunteer opportunities. I want to be a role model to children that look like me, Black youth. I didn’t have many like that when I was growing up. I didn’t even know that Physical Therapy existed. Children look up to those they have things in common with, and one of those things is people who look like them. When I go to underserved communities and see my people struggling to get by, it breaks my heart. We all have the potential to be great. Unfortunately, there are people out there just trying to survive due to the variety of systemic inequalities. This is one of the things I’m most passionate about and one I’ve tried emphasizing and making time for. I enjoy volunteering and working in those communities. I see them, they see me, and their entire demeanor changes. There’s a sense of connection within these communities. I just want Black youth to know that there are plenty of routes they can take after high school, physical therapy is just one. Maybe they’ll believe it’s an option if they see me doing it. Representation matters.
What words of encouragement do you have to share with future students of color pursuing careers in healthcare?
To put simply, healthcare needs you. Your thoughts, ideas, life experiences, everything that makes you different. You’ll bring those qualities to the profession and healthcare will be better because of it. You will have a positive impact on many people. Know that you’re a role model for those within your community. Wherever you are, know that it’s okay to be vulnerable with patients. There are many ways which lead to positive patient results and experience, be willing to learn from other professionals to expand your skillset. Ask questions, be curious, and enjoy the journey.