Second-year Shenandoah University Doctor of Physical Therapy student Alisha Ladenburg ’24 has been selected by American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) as a 2023 APTA Association Leadership Scholar.
“This is a competitive program and an incredible honor to be selected, especially as a student,” said Division of Physical Therapy Director and Professor Sheri Hale, PT, LAT, ATC, Ph.D.
The program, which runs throughout the year, is composed of a cohort of 25 scholars and five mentors, selected from applicants nationwide. “The APTA Association Leadership Scholars Program is designed to foster new generations of leaders and thinkers by supporting the association leadership journey of APTA members and building a pool of future leaders who are diverse, prepared and sustained,” the APTA website states.
Ladenburg, who worked for a little under a decade in public health in the area of patient advocacy before pursuing physical therapy studies, said Dr. Hale both introduced her to the APTA opportunity and encouraged her to apply for it.
“I never thought that I would be able to work on my ‘why’ (the reason why I chose to pursue PT) during school. However, Dr. Hale showed me otherwise. Hands down, she has been such a significant source of guidance, inspiration, and mentorship. Without her, I would have never known about opportunities, like this one, where I have the ability to directly work towards my goal of making an impact in the health care space – and for that I will always be immensely grateful,” Ladenburg said.
“As a multiracial first-generation grad student, I am passionate about promoting better health outcomes for communities of color. To accomplish this, it is imperative to increase diversity in the health care space. Becoming an APTA Leadership Scholar will provide me with a pivotal starting point to directly work towards this goal as I will be collaborating with the top leaders in field, as well as gain mentorship, expand my network of health care professionals, have an opportunity for leadership development, become more involved with the APTA, and, overall, grow my skill set as a future clinician to increase my impact on my patients’ lives and the profession.”
Ladenburg’s insights about diversity within the health care space began when she was working in public health. “I learned how socioeconomic status, health literacy, and social determinants of health interplay with poorer patient outcomes in communities of color. Additionally, I learned more about the lack of diversity across the health care provider space and how positive patient outcomes are associated with increased diversity,” she said.
She then developed an interest in providing hands-on care that also utilized her public health background. Coincidentally, at this same time, she was involved in a car accident and needed physical therapy. “I was drawn toward my therapist’s compassion toward each patient, the patient-centered approach, and musculoskeletal focus to improve functional outcomes because it aligned with what I sought in a long-term career,” she said. “With physical therapy, I would be able to channel my passion for patient engagement, support others through tailored care, continue to learn and expand my knowledge, and utilize my public health experience to make an impact.”
And then, she found Shenandoah. “When selecting a program to pursue, it was important to me that its values and attributes directly aligned with mine and that I could truly envision myself there. Shenandoah’s evidence-based, patient-centric approach, program curriculum, licensure success rate, low student-to-faculty ratio, and overall passionate faculty members solidified it as my top-choice school,” she said. “With its emphasis on innovation, service, and professional advancement, Shenandoah University’s DPT program is unparalleled.”