Celebrating Accomplishments During the 2022 Graduation Weekend

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Picture of the DPT Class of 2022 in their regalia

The George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Class of 2022 finished the program the same way they started: in person and together. The cohort began their studies as all previous DPT students had, with an in-person first semester. However, during their second semester, in the Spring of 2020, they transitioned to virtual learning due to the pandemic. The rest of their training came as a mixture of virtual and in-person experiences that culminated with a traditional weekend of graduation celebrations in Washington, D.C., this past May.

DPT Program Director Ellen Costello, PhD, PT, was ecstatic to welcome the Class of 2022 back to campus for graduation, noting that this cohort was probably the most affected by COVID-19 in terms of disruptions to their schedule and an inability to connect in person. “It was lovely to see everyone back together and celebrate each other’s accomplishments,” said Costello.

Students and families flew in from across the country and abroad for graduation. The events included the DPT program awards ceremony, the SMHS Graduation Celebration, where the students experienced their doctoral hooding, and the GW Commencement Ceremony on the National Mall. 

During the DPT awards ceremony, Rachel Wilcox, DPT ’22, received The Jean Johnson Award for Leadership, Excellence, and Quality, which is given to a student who ultimately fulfills and advances the mission of the program. Throughout her time in the program, Wilcox dedicated herself to various volunteer opportunities with the military, Veterans Affairs services, and the MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital wheelchair rugby team. In addition, she was named a Pat Tillman Scholar for showing a commitment to lifelong learning and having a passion to develop her career field. 

Reflecting on winning the award, Wilcox said, “It was incredibly humbling and very exciting. I tried to do what everyone else does in DPT school: find what you’re passionate about and go from there.” After graduation she will remain at GW to complete a MedStar/GW Neurologic Physical Therapy Residency.

This year’s Outstanding Alumni Award recipient was Paige Rothblum, DPT ’18. Since graduating, Rothblum has been busy. She is a clinician at GW Hospital and served as Vice President for the DC chapter of the American Physical Therapy Association for three years. She continues to maintain ties with GW serving as a clinical instructor for GW students in part-time and full-time clinical placements. 

In the spring of 2020, Rothblum was hired as an adjunct faculty member. She was essential in transitioning to virtual learning, where she worked behind the scenes to make sure students’ needs were met. The Class of 2022 was the first cohort Rothblum taught, and she noted the experience made her feel as though she had come full circle. “It was incredibly special to be honored alongside them and for someone to recognize the work that I’ve done,” she said. 

For Wilcox, the weekend was a welcomed celebration of three years of hard work and uncertainty. She recalled the overall feeling of excitement and relief amongst her peers to finally be together again. Wilcox’s favorite part of the weekend was commencement on the National Mall, “Even though I was exhausted by the end of the weekend, it was really unique to be on the mall to celebrate with my classmates, the faculty, and my family.”