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Elon celebrates accomplishments of newest Doctor of Physical Therapy Program graduates

Forty-seven students received their doctor of physical therapy degrees at a commencement ceremony in McCrary Theatre on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017.


PHOTO GALLERY: 2017 Doctor of Physical Therapy Commencement

Elon University's Doctor of Physical Therapy Program welcomed the Class of 2017 into the ranks of its alumni on Sunday as 47 students received degrees at the program's annual commencement ceremony.

These newest Elon alumni completed the academic and clinical challenges they have faced during the past three years and are prepared to begin their professional careers in this health care field, said Nancy Garland, executive director of the N.C. Physical Therapy Association, in her commencement address. They're also tasked with being advocates for their profession by taking time to help the public understand the vital role they play in health care and in supporting fellow practitioners and patients. 

Nancy Garland, executive director of the N.C. Physical Therapy Association, delivers the commencement address.

"There is no obstacle that you cannot overcome with determination and faith in yourself," Garland told the graduates. "When you seize the initiative and put your spirit to work with perseverance, you will overcome challenges and the children you treat will play again, the athletes you treat will return to the playing field, and the senior citizens you treat will walk again."

Garland noted the diverse backgrounds that these students brought to their studies, with college majors that spanned the disciplines, and hometowns from around the country. While completing the program, the students immersed themselves in global learning opportunities as well as hours of time spent caring for patients in the student-run HOPE Clinic. 

Among the accomplishments of individual students were a walking program developed for residents at a Native American reservation, research into motor imagery in Alaska and educational outreach through the media on physical problems associated with wearing backpacks incorrectly. During clinical assignments, the Class of 2017 exhibited professionalism and compassion, with Garland quoting one professor who said, "this class will be an asset to the profession."

Garland encouraged them as they begin their professional careers to remember their patients and their professionalism while always providing quality care. In clinical settings, they should feel empowered to speak up when care is not being delivered professionally, as "doing nothing is sometimes worse than doing something intentionally wrong."

"You have so much to be proud of," Garland said. "Now you are doctors of physical therapy, you are professionals, and with that comes responsibility, a responsibility that you can ensure that the care you provide is the best care you can provide."

Stephen Folger, program director, department chair and professor of physical therapy, took the opportunity during the ceremony to celebrate what President Leo M. Lambert, who will conclude his service as Elon's eighth president in the spring, has meant to Elon's physical therapy program since it launched. He noted that Lambert has conferred the diplomas to all 800 program alumni during his service. 

"His outstanding leadership provided fertile ground for the program to flourish," Folger said. 

Commencement offered the chance to commend those who stand out for their achievements in the classroom, the lab and the clinical setting. The ceremony included the presentation of the following awards to members of the Class of 2017 and to a member of the program clinical instruction team: 

  • Outstanding Research Award — Carleigh Machelle High
  • Outstanding Service Award — Tess Erin Brackett
  • Outstanding Clinical Performance Award — Garrett Philip Hoanin
  • Overall Outstanding Student — Alys Juliene Cook
  • Outstanding Clinical Instructor Award — Ben Fisher G'12 PT

New this year are the program's Rising Alumni Awards, which are presented to graduates of the Doctor of Physical Therapy program who positively reflect the valued of the university and the profession. The inaugural awards were presented to Amber Anderson G'11 PT and Matthew Anderson G'07 PT. 

Candidates for the Doctor of  Physical therapy degree

Christopher Mark Antonelli
B.S., Purdue University

Laura Brooke Bissing
B.S., Northern Arizona University

Brittni Nicole Bly 
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Tess Erin Brackett
B.A., Syracuse University

Jonathan Mark Burdett Jr.
B.S., Wheaton College

Robert Duard Calhoun
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Wilmington

Rae Ellen Canfield  
B.S., Indiana Wesleyan University

Alys Juliene Cook
B.S., Slippery Rock University

Mackenzie McCarl Craig 
B.A., Goucher College

Elizabeth Anne DeKraker
B.A., Calvin College

Shea Elizabeth Dineen
B.S., East Carolina University

Nathan Leo Foster
B.S., Appalachian State University

Jessica Lynn Francois
B.S., Samford University

James Matthew Capulong Hale  
B.S., Washington State University

Jenna Lynn Heethuis
B.A., Calvin College

Carleigh Machelle High
B.S., Georgia Institute of Technology

Garrett Philip Hoanin
B.A., Fort Lewis College 

Joshua Benjamin Hogg
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Sarah Kelly Humphrey
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Amy Elizabeth Klinepeter
B.S., University of South Carolina

Meredith Holder Lane
B.S., Wake Forest University

Rebecca Lynn Matalon
B.A., Saint Mary’s College of California

Natalie Proffit McAveney
B.A., Goucher College

Matthew Wesley McDougal
B.S., Appalachian State University

Hannah Fernald McHugh
B.S., Elon University

Amber Marie McKee
B.S., Washington State University

Jillian Paige Meyer
B.S.,  The  Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina

Stephen Christopher Mills
B.A., Stetson University

Mariah Jae Moger
B.S., Bradley University

Brian Russell Nelson
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Alec Cary Palermo
B.A.,  The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Brooke Elizabeth Powell
B.S., James Madison University

Wesley Vaughn Rissell 
B.S., West Chester University

Linsey Erin Rock
B.S., University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana

Taylor Gwaltney Rose
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Kellie Michelle Ruffer
B.S., University of Dayton

Christopher Mark Scott
B.S., University of Virginia

Stephanie Lynn Sipes
B.S., Washington State University

Meredith Harriet Smith
B.S., College of Charleston

Walker James Smith
B.S.,  The  Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina

Daniel Anthony Stirparo
B.S., University of Delaware

Brittney Lynn Stribrny
B.S., The Ohio State University

Janelle Sununtnasuk 
B.A., University of Florida

Amanda Marie Tocci
B.S.,  The  Pennsylvania State University at University Park

Elizabeth Barker Van Fleet 
B.S., College of William & Mary, M.S., West Virginia University

Ian Versmissen
B.S., Appalachian State University

Valerie Lynn Wacker
BBA, University of Alaska, Anchorage


Owen Covington,
12/7/2017 9:30 AM