WOC in PT: Isabelle Degraff, SPT
Welcome! Today, for the Women of Color in Physical Therapy series, we are featuring Isabelle Degraff, SPT. Isabelle is a first-year physical therapy student at Florida International University in Miami. She graduated from the University of Central Florida with a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science. Isabelle’s loving parents are of Haitian and Martinican descent, but she was born in New York and grew up in Florida. Isabelle loves adventure, traveling and physical therapy and she hopes to possibly start her own business one day! Without further ado, let’s meet Isabelle!
What moment made you decide to pursue PT?
I grew up participating in a number of sports and always staying active in and out of school. This cultivated a passion for physical activity and maintaining a healthy lifestyle at a young age. I always enjoyed the idea of treating people and being able to witness them progress and recover over time. I initially thought I wanted to attend medical school and become a sports medicine physician. As I progressed throughout my undergraduate years, I learned more about what the life of a physical therapist looks like and I fell in love. I wanted a career that allowed time for me to get to work with my patients one on one and really get to know them in the process of their recovery.
Was there a certain challenge you had to overcome as a WOC in PT school and/or at a professional setting and how did you overcome it?
Growing up with Caribbean parents and having many doctors in my family drove me to have high expectations of myself, but I wanted to make sure I loved my career and had a passion for what I did everyday instead of living up to an expectation. Figuring out what I wanted to do for a living without outside influence was the biggest struggle for me. I knew all along it was physical therapy, but it can be difficult when you are trying to please others. The biggest takeaway from this challenge was to always follow your gut and do what is right for you first. The people who love and care about you will always understand and support your decisions in the end.
What advice would you give a fellow WOC trying to break into the PT profession?
One piece of advice I would stress is to get involved during undergrad. I worked three jobs on campus, had leadership positions, played intramural sports and still had a social life outside of school. I think it’s so important to be versatile and well-rounded while still doing well in school. If your grades aren’t perfect and your GRE is a couple points below what you need, apply anyway. I only took the GRE once and felt a little bit discouraged after speaking with some advisors about my application, but I applied regardless and was accepted. You are just as capable as anyone else.
What woman/women do you you draw inspiration from?
The women I draw inspiration from are my two older sisters and my mother. They are all super successful in their own unique ways and have the most amazing hearts. They have always been there for me and are truly the reason I am the woman I am today.
In addition to being awesome, what do you like to do in your free time?
I absolutely LOVE to travel. Whenever the opportunity presents itself, I am there! I also enjoy working out, music and vlogging.
For the new readers, where can we find you on social media?
Thank you so much to Isabelle for sharing her experience being a woman of color in physical therapy! Be sure to follow her at the social media link posted above. :)
If you are a woman of color involved in the physical therapy world, whether you are just starting as a pre-PT or a practicing PT, I would love to feature you in my WOC in PT series! Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay tuned for the next series feature, we have an amazingly diverse group in the mix!
Peace, love & blessings,