Class of 2024 Finds Balance Outside of School

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Members of DPT Class of '24 posing after winning Volleyball Championship

Jumping out of a plane at 14,000 feet. Running 10 miles in Washington, D.C.’s, most iconic race. Competing in five different intramural sports. No, this isn’t a summer adventure series; these are just a few of the activities that the George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Class of 2024 has been up to throughout their first year in the DPT program.

The transition to graduate school is no easy feat. It can be difficult to find work-life balance while adjusting to the rigorous coursework and demanding schedule. Penciling in time for friends, hobbies, and exercise, however, is crucial to managing stress and finding success. Over the course of their first year in the program, members of the DPT Class of 2024 have managed to find that balance. 

Initially, rising second-year DPT student Hannah McDermott, found the transition difficult. “First semester was all about adopting a new thought process for learning,” she recalled. “After leaning on faculty and my cohort, I’ve learned how to study, and I feel well adapted as I start my second year.” 

McDermott found support from her classmates and peace of mind through running. Together with several other classmates McDermott took part in D.C.’s most popular road race: the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run. McDermott recalled her excitement about running with her cohort because “being active is a big part of physical therapy, so running together was our cohort’s way of practicing what you preach. Running is a way to chat and get to know people, so the race really brought our cohort closer together.”

For fellow rising second-year DPT Josh Stallings, the transition to graduate school was fairly smooth. Stallings was excited to be taking coursework that he was passionate about. Stallings stated that “in undergrad, it was easy to become detached from electives and core curriculum not related to becoming a physical therapist. Whereas here, everything we learn is directly applicable to becoming a good clinician, which helps me remain focused.” 

To help find his work-life balance, Stallings spearheaded a skydiving trip with peers between their spring and summer semesters. “I came up with the idea to go and was able to convince some like-minded crazy classmates to come along. It was an amazing experience to share with my friends, and it gives us something to look back on, talk about, and be proud of,” said Stallings. 

Rising second-year DPT student Meredith Branch, found the first few weeks of first semester were the most difficult. She said that living with two of her classmates helped ease the transition to school, because everyone was operating on the same schedule. For Branch, intramural sports at GW was a great way to bond with classmates and blowoff steam during the busy first year of DPT school. She and classmates formed, The Gait Keepers, and competed in five different sports throughout the year. Branch looked forward to weekly intramural games as a welcomed study break. 

“We are surrounded by each other all day, but I finally got to see people’s personalities come out while playing sports. We learn that physical activity is just as important as sleeping enough and eating well, so it was great to experience these games with my classmates,” said Branch. Among the memories she forged that year, Branch said her favorite was not the two championships the team brought home (in volleyball and flag football), but rather, when she got her first touchdown in flag football. 

When asked if the Class of 2024 has any big plans for their second year in the program, McDermott shared that “a handful of us are doing the Annapolis Ten Mile Run this fall. There are plans in place to run the Cherry Blossom again in April. Hopefully we can convince a few faculty to join us next time as well.”