PT Profile: William Stokes

Aaand the incredible young leaders in PT keep on coming…If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of running into him in person at a conference or out there in the Twittersphere, williamstokesphotoallow us to introduce you to William C. Stokes, a third year DPT student at Wingate University, where he’s President of Student Government and a recent APTA Core Ambassador for North Carolina. He graduated from Wingate University with a degree in Biology in 2013, and looks to be a two-time alumnus in 2016 when he graduates with his Doctor of Physical Therapy this December. He’s been actively involved within his program, state chapter, and the APTA since he first began as a student, and looks forward to continuing that activism as a clinician.

Upon graduation, he hopes to enroll in an orthopedic residency to accomplish his goals toward practicing in the Veterans Healthcare System; treating our nation’s veterans and active service members. He comes from a long line of public servants, and is proud to serve his community and patients as a Doctor of Physical Therapy.

Please tell us a bit about yourself, your background and what you enjoy doing when you’re not studying/working in the PT field.

I grew up in Salisbury, NC where I was involved in our local Boy Scout Troop. I ran cross country, track, and was a swimmer throughout high school and then became a member of the Wingate University Men’s Swimming and Diving Team. When I am not busy studying, or away at APTA and our state chapter conferences and events, I enjoy spending as much time as I can with my wife (and college sweetheart!) Emily, traveling around North Carolina and cycling.

What made you decide to become a PT?

I have always dreamed of working in medicine, and I love being with people and having a strong relationship with patients. The field of Physical Therapy perfectly fits those aspects. Going through each of my clinical internships thus far, I firmly know this is the field of medicine I was meant to be in. I enjoy spending time with my patients and learning more about them. After my sister nearly lost her life in a traumatic accident and survived a deadly fungal infection, watching her return to her life as she knew it through physical therapy secured my passion to become a Doctor of Physical Therapy.

Is there an area of PT you’re particularly drawn to? 

I am drawn to orthopedics, specifically post-operative management, amputee rehabilitation, and trauma rehabilitation. I come from a family of veterans, so this area is also sentimental to me. I plan to join the Navy Reserves after graduation, to advance my career treating in the federal and military settings. My ultimate goal would be to practice within the Veterans Healthcare System to treat veterans and active service members with musculoskeletal impairments.

What kind of PT do you hope to be in the next few years? How do you hope to evolve in your field over the next few decades?

I hope to enroll in an orthopedic residency upon graduation and potentially a manual therapy fellowship in the future to learn and develop the skills necessary to provide the care our veterans and service members need. I also have been actively involved in many capacities as a student in the APTA and our state chapter, and hope to continue that involvement well into my clinical career with volunteer and leadership positions. Our professional associations have provided me with many blessed opportunities and support, and I want to return that support back in any way I can.

You recently won the @NCPTA Outstanding Student PT award—can you tell us a little about the nomination process and how you were chosen, and what it was like to receive the honor?

The nomination process was by submitting a letter from a faculty member to the NCPTA detailing the achievements of the student. The two faculty members that wrote a letter on my behalf have set great examples of professionalism and involvement within our profession and of our program. I was humbled and honored to have received the award at our recent state conference; especially hearing the credentials of my fellow student nominees. It was an honor to have been counted in that group of highly accomplished students. It is an award I will treasure forever as I continue pursuing the highest level of professionalism and activism I can.

What are some of the field-related issues/campaigns that mean most to you?

I am passionate about many campaigns our profession is currently promoting; one issue that has been vastly reaching the public is the campaign on the opioid epidemic and how our profession is trained to treat patients as an effective alternative to certain medications. I believe this campaign gives the general public a direct message of who we are, and what role we play in their short- and long-term health. We are trained medical providers who treat a multitude of conditions, with pain commonly thought as a common denominator of those conditions. If we can substitute our services on behalf of our patients, instead of adding to the issues that opioid medications entail, then I believe we are representing our profession well and doing what is best for our patients. This campaign also shines light into other issues we face, like veterans’ access to our services within the civilian and federal healthcare systems. I hope the attention brought to this campaign will develop momentum to provide the resources needed to address other important issues where our services are needed.

Do you think it’s important for students and PTs to get involved in the APTA and other field-related initiatives?

I believe there is nothing more important for a Doctor of Physical Therapy, or an Assistant, than to be involved in our professional associations. Our associations govern and support our profession night and day to ensure we have both the legal and clinical resources available to promote a positive change in the field of medicine. Being active also sets an example for our colleagues and patients; that we hold service to others above ourselves; that a true professional is one who provides service to others, without expecting service in return. Our professional associations, and many similar organizations, are in need of continual support from their members to assist in any capacity for the greater good of our profession. I am a proud member of several organizations and have volunteered and held many leadership positions as a student, and I hope to continue setting an example for others on why it is important to get involved.

How would you recommend others become more involved?

There are many opportunities available to get involved with the APTA or your state chapter. The APTA frequently requests groups of students and clinicians to assist them with projects and actions within the association. However, involvement does not have to start at the national level, sometimes the most profound involvement begins with you. Simply being a member of the APTA is the single most important way to get involved. Being a member assists the APTA in providing countless resources to its members and the profession. From there, look for areas within your community where you can join colleagues to assist your state chapter with community service events or advocacy issues. The sky is the limit with involvement, and it only takes one step forward to head in the right direction.

What are some of the changes you’d like to see made in PT in the next decade? How do you think those changes can be achieved?

Our profession has made significant changes over the past few decades, and our trajectory looks to keep that path. I would like to see more restrictions be lifted with regards to direct access. Even though all states have some form of direct access, there are some states that have more red tape than others and that would improve patient access to our services. I would also like to see a universal license, where a clinician can practice throughout all states with one active license. Other changes like the ability to order x-rays when appropriate are slowly being integrated in several states. This authority will also improve continuum of care for patients without unnecessary delays. These changes have all been addressed by the our profession, which is why it is important to be a member of the APTA to stay up to date with these changes and support your state chapter on these issues.

Do you have a motto or mantra in regards to our field?

I found my motto many years ago when I was in high school and it has led me to opportunities and to people I never dreamed were possible. My motto is, “Keep Moving Forward.” Coined by Walt Disney, this motto led him to an entire world of success, and I hope it will have the same effect on me. This motto is also synonymous with the success of my patients, providing them with the needed motivation to always keep moving toward their goals. My motto has provided me with the mindset that as long as I was moving forward, I would always reach whatever goal or dream I put my mind to. However, a simple motto does not provide all the necessary resources needed to accomplish those goals, I will always be in debt to the many individuals along my life who have given me an opportunity on a whim, and became proud of me on my return on their investment. So my final words of wisdom to those who seek professionalism, or have dreams and aspirations within our profession, all you have to do is seek guidance from friends and family, never pass up an opportunity, and always remember to “Keep Moving Forward!”

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