Classroom project reveals career path for Diboll student

Allen Alvarez and Joanna Serafica
Allen Alvarez and Joanna Serafica

LUFKIN, TX (Memorial Health System press release) - Increasingly, high school students are encouraged to determine a career path at an early age.  Fortunately for Allen Alvarez, a Diboll senior, he had the opportunity to experience first hand the responsibilities in his area of interest.

Although interested in helping people, Alvarez was uncertain that training in the physical therapy field is what he wanted to do.  Then as an English project, he was required to select a profession and job shadow in that position for an entire school day.  That one day made all the difference for Alvarez.

Memorial Health System of East Texas' rehabilitation and physical therapy department personnel welcomed the opportunity to teach an interested youth about working with patients.  Alvarez spent the entire day learning from Joanna Serafica, Physical Therapist at Memorial.

"It is nothing like I expected.  Physical Therapists have to know what kind of surgery the patient had, how much weight they can bear and different movements to help them recover," said Alvarez.  "I am glad I went through this program.  It helped me know physical therapy is interesting and I want to do this."

Serafica says the nation has a shortage of therapists and it is good young people are interested in attending school for physical or occupational therapy.  Students should expect 7 years of college and are required to obtain a doctorate in physical therapy before becoming certified.

Centered on helping patients return to a near normal quality of life, physical therapy rehabilitates patients to walk, move around by themselves and do what they used to do.  Hospitalized patients generally have experienced a stroke, joint replacement or other debility.  Inpatient therapy's goal is for the patient to go home and from there outpatient or home health therapy helps the patient continue to improve and function more independently.

Patients who are in an acute or long term care setting have the same goal but have a choice in going home or moving to a skilled nursing facility or nursing home.  A team of health care experts, family members and the patient determine what is best for the individualized patient.  Home health therapists work with patients who go home but cannot leave the house for treatment.  Outpatient therapy, such as Wilson McKewen Rehabilitation Center, continues rehabilitation for decreasing pain, regaining strength and independence for patients who are able to move about.

"Since I was little, I have loved helping people and always wanted to do something to make people feel better.  Physical therapy actually impacts another person's life.  With physical therapy, I can help make patients comfortable and get them back to where they used to be," stated Alvarez.

"After feeling nervous at first, the physical therapists and rehabilitation team made me feel comfortable.  I enjoyed working with them and would definitely come back to Lufkin and work at Memorial."

Alvarez gave a presentation about his experience and received an "A" on the project.  He will graduate from Diboll High School this month and looks forward to attending Angelina College in the fall and then transferring to UT Tyler for the physical therapy program.