Four GW DPT Professors Earn Terminal Degrees

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Congratulations are in order for Marisa Birkmeier, DPT, DHSc; Stephanie Hiser, DPT, PhD; Dhinu Jayaseelan, (GW DPT ’10), DHSc; and Erin Wentzell, DPT, DrPH, professors at The George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Program. They all completed terminal academic degrees this spring. Each is excited to use their newfound knowledge to improve the student experience and DPT program.

Birkmeier, who completed a doctorate in health Sciences (DHSc) in Leadership in Clinical Practice and Education with a concentration in education at GW examined in her dissertation how to improve student outcomes on performance tests and clinical performance measures. She wants every student to realize that they are a leader, and that leadership is not just about your position. Birkmeier hopes that the DPT program continues to stress leadership skills to reach collective goals. 

Hiser completed a PhD in clinical investigation from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Her research involving early rehabilitation in the ICU has already resulted in several publications and helped strengthen the GW DPT curriculum.  

Along with Birkmeier, Jayaseelan also completed a DHSc in Leadership in Clinical Practice and Education with a concentration in education at GW. During his DPT student days at GW, he never imagined returning to GW to teach, however, he has been back in the classroom as a full-time faculty member since 2014 when he realized his passion for helping students succeed. “Short term effort for long term gain,” was the mentality Jayaseelan said he used to maintain his stride throughout his doctoral program. He now hopes to use his knowledge to strengthen the DPT program coursework and increase the depth of faculty by providing a different perspective. Jayaseelan advises students that they should only pursue a terminal degree if they can identify how they will use it and why they are passionate about it. He points out that “it isn't just for letters behind your name.” 

Wentzell completed a doctorate in public health from The Milken Institute School of Public Health at The George Washington University to broaden her scope. Combining her love for physical therapy and community engagement, she plans to use her degree to facilitate behavior change and increase participation in communities where she works. Wentzell wants to bolster the focus on equity in the GW DPT program and the profession as a whole. She is committed to sharing that commitment in courses she teaches. 

“Never stop learning and always be open to possibilities in your career,” she added. That’s good advice for anyone.