Alumna Carves Her Own Path to Help Others

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Dr. Harding working on client's shoulder

You could say that the verb “thrive” is a theme of alumna Candice Harding’s life. It also happens

to be the name of Harding’s clinic in Arlington, Va. Harding (DPT ’16), OCS, COMT, PYT-c, is a

self-employed physical therapist who blends the practice of PT and yoga for preventative care.

Harding established her practice to provide health resources to a larger community and to

empower clients to achieve their lifestyle goals through education. She says that observing

other Black women in leadership roles led her to open her own practice after feeling unsatisfied

with patient interactions in past work settings.

“The biggest health issue in the Black community is that Black patients aren’t treated with

respect,” Harding said. “Historically, as a people, we aren’t listened to. As physical therapists,

we have a unique opportunity to use our wide scope of practice and our opportunities for patient

connection to be on the forefront of preventative care and patient education.”

Active listening and serving as an ally are key to improving the patient experience, she says.

Harding added that it is essential to give Black patients time to share their past experiences and

express any medical mistrust they may have experienced.

As a physical therapist of color, Harding says she sometimes worries that patients may have

reservations about working with her. While it doesn’t alter the way she practices, the concern is

a day-to-day reality. Like many U.S. health care professions, there is a lack of diversity in the PT

profession. According to the American Physical Therapy Association’s most recent workforce

analysis in 2020, only 2.5 percent of physical therapists identified as Black. As a racial minority,

Harding shares that it is hard to predict how patients will react to receiving care from a provider

who does not look like them.

Harding’s advice for future PTs of color? “There is space for you,” she said. “There are people

who need you. There are people who will connect with you because of your experiences. Even

if you are the only person of color in a room, you deserve to be there. You are a role model for

your patients and your peers!

American Physical Therapy Association. (2020, December). APTA Physical Therapy Work

Force Analysis: A Report From the APTA. APTA Work Force Analysis