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Saturday, Nov 01, 2014

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Holding their trophy, from left, are second-year Ohio University physical therapy students Dale Smerglia, Jodi Krause, Josh Becker and Tim Guiden, who won the Ohio Physical Therapy Association’s Student Challenge on March 30, 2012.

Photographer: Heather Haynes for the Ohio University College of Health Sciences and Professions

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Physical therapy students win statewide competition


A group of Ohio University graduate students attended the Ohio Physical Therapy Association’s Annual Conference last month and walked away with a first-place trophy in the event’s Student Challenge competition.

The Jeopardy-style competition challenged students on their knowledge of physical therapy (PT), the state association and basic health practices. The group of second-year graduate students – Josh Becker, Tim Guiden, Jodi Krause and Dale Smerglia – were tops in a 12-team field, overcoming Walsh University and the University of Cincinnati (UC) in the final round. Smerglia clinched the win during a tie-breaker question against UC by buzzing in the quickest for the final answer.

“Considering last year when we did it – we got knocked out in the first round with a negative score – it was pretty nice to redeem ourselves and actually win it,” Smerglia said.

The March 30 victory is the latest sign of the increased presence of the Ohio Physical Therapy Association (OPTA) student group’s presence on campus. The group has grown “exponentially,” said Gary Chleboun, professor of physical therapy and interim director of the School of Recreation and Communication Sciences, part of the College of Health Sciences and Professions. He added that the group provides students with an outlet to get a head start on their careers.

“It allows students to get involved in the (state organization),” Chleboun said. “They get to learn what the association is all about and what PT is about, and get involved in all of the activities that the organization is doing.”

Though the team is the first from Ohio University to win the competition, it isn’t the first example of OHIO students turning heads at the conference. The delegation from Athens has taken to wearing matching outfits to the annual event and are known in the association as the “the sea of green.”

“Last year when they were at (the conference), they all wore their green shirts and khakis, and it really made an impression at the business meeting,” Chleboun said. “Having a whole section full of green shirts was pretty impressive. That really influenced the first-year class to do it again.”

The conference is an important networking opportunity for aspiring physical therapy professionals, and Becker, another member of the winning team, said victory in the competition came with an added bonus.

“We stayed at a hotel,” he said, “and carrying the trophy around was a nice way to talk to a lot of the PTs that were there. It was a good icebreaker.”

The competition provides participants with an array of different solutions to questions, and it forces them to think outside the box. For some, it also confirms that they are at the right place.

“For me, (the competition) just reaffirmed how good an education we are getting here,” Smerglia said. “Even the questions that we didn’t buzz in in time, we knew the answer. There were very few questions we didn’t know the answers to.”