WOC in PT: Maatra Henderson, SPT
Welcome! Today, for the Women of Color in Physical Therapy series, we are featuring Maatra Henderson, SPT. Maatra is a first year physical therapy student at the University of St. Augustine in Texas. She received a bachelor's degree in Kinesiotherapy from the Norfolk State University, an HBCU in Norfolk, Virginia. Maatra’s ultimate goal is to research and expand on the integration of nutrition in physical therapy. This is an area of the field that has not been utilized to its full ability. Her hope is to both heal and influence other therapists to consider using nutrition as a tool to treat patients. Eventually, she plans to open her own private practice to offer patients the most holistic approach to meeting their therapeutic needs. Without further ado, let’s meet Maatra!
What moment made you decide to pursue physical therapy?
I have wanted to be a physical therapist since I was 16 years old but I wasn't totally sold until college. What sold me was the ability to give people their independence back. I think independence is an innate desire that we are born with that allows us the ability to truly be free to go and explore where ever our heart takes us. But physical impairments have the potential to take that away from us. Movement is the cornerstone of life and I found so much passion in using exercise to teach others what it takes to maintain the absolute best quality of life.
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?
I think the biggest challenge that I face as a WOC in PT school is feeling this pressure to do everything right/perfect. Due to the disparity of WOC in physical therapy, I feel very blessed to be in the position that I'm in. But at the same time, I feel a certain responsibility to do everything right in order to make it easier for WOC behind me to be able to enter into the field. I have a tendency to question everything I do, like how I speak, how I dress, or even what styles to wear my hair in; it gets exhausting after a while. But as I progress through the program, I'm learning more and more to just perform well, loosen up, be myself, and that should be enough!
What advice would you give to fellow women of color trying to break into the physical therapy profession?
My advice would be to find a mentor who has already been where you are trying to go. We are literally on this earth to help and support each other, so don't be discouraged from asking for help when you need it. Applying to PT school is very competitive, why do it on your own and risk making mistakes when you can have someone guide you through the process. The access that social media allows us to have to each other is unbelievable. Use it as a tool for more than just idle scrolling and racking up "likes." Don't be afraid to reach out to someone you look up up and ask for support or advice. You'd be surprised at how much others will be willing to pour into you.
What woman and/or women do you draw inspiration from?
I draw my biggest inspiration from my mom. She was literally the strongest and smartest woman I ever knew. Growing up I saw her be an entrepreneur, work multiple jobs, and finish everything that she started. When she made up her mind to do something, she was going to get it done. She literally taught me that I could do anything that I wanted to do, but I would have to work for it regardless of how hard it was. I cherish those values every day and use them to push me forward through this roller coaster of a journey.
In addition to being awesome, what do you like to do in your free time?
I really love doing anything outdoors, even if its just siting outside or taking a stroll around the block. Living in Austin, I have everything I need to hike, kayak, canoe, swim, literally everything! So if i'm not cooped up studying, as long as the weather is nice, you will catch me outside!
For the new readers, where can we find you on social media?
You can find me on Instagram via my platform that I use to encourage current and future physical therapy students. I share all the details of what it's like to be an SPT and what it's been like on my journey to being a DPT! @TourDeDPT
Thank you so much to Maatra 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,