WOC In PT: Shaena Wizzard, PT, DPT
Welcome! Today, for the Women of Color in Physical Therapy series, we are featuring Shaena Wizzard, PT, DPT. Shaena is Jamaican American, born and raised in New Jersey. She went to Saint Peter’s University for undergrad, where she also competed as a Division 1 track and field athlete. Shaena also went to Dominican College for DPT school and earned her doctorate degree in physical therapy in 2018. She is currently in the process of moving to Texas to become a traveling physical therapist. Without further ado, let’s meet Dr. Shaena!
What moment made you decide to pursue physical therapy?
The moment that made me decide to pursue PT was summer after my sophomore year in undergrad when I started interning to become a physician assistant. I was in the OR watching a routine laminectomy an the smell of the burning flesh made me pass out on the OR floor. For the last 4 summers prior I had been a track coach and also a division 1 track athlete at my college Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City. That moment sophomore year I realized I was meant to be working in the medical field just not as a PA, but rather a physical therapist because of my love of exercise, body improvement through non-surgical techniques, and joy of working with others.
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 did face challenges as a WOC in PT school and in professional clinical affiliations. I was the only African American person in my class of 18 students. I always felt the need to do well because I did not want to have a stereotype on my race that we could not achieve as much. I wanted a successful representation of the African American community to be portrayed with more students of color but since I could not control that I just made sure I passed! Besides the pressure to graduate, I did face racial issues in clinical rotations where patients may have felt I was not educated enough to be a competent physical therapist and I definitely proved those patients wrong. I overcame it by using great evidence based practice and an energetic personality that gave the patients peace of mind that I am more than capable to be in this profession.
What advice would you give to fellow women of color trying to break into the physical therapy profession?
Advice I would give to a fellow WOC trying to break into PT is to go for it and be the best at it. This profession was literally founded by women due to their nurturing qualities and ability to care for others. All colors need to be represented especially in this melting pot we call home. We need to represent more than ever to diversify the profession.
What woman / women do you draw inspiration from?
I draw inspiration from my mother, as she was an immigrant from Jamaica who came to America and became a registered nurse as a single mother of 2. My friend Lindsay who is another PT that was the only black person in her graduating class also inspires me. I met her in the library one day reading the boards prep book and it was history from there. We studied and passed the boards together.
In addition to being awesome, what do you like to do in your free time?
In my free time I love to try new restaurants. Eating is more fun than anything to me!
For the new readers, where can we find you on social media?
My instagram is @shayliterox and my facebook is Shaena Wizzard.
Thank you so much to Dr. Shaena for sharing her experience being a woman of color in physical therapy! Be sure to follow her at the social media links 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 email@example.com. Stay tuned for the next series feature, we have an amazingly diverse group in the mix!
Peace, love & blessings,