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Rewards of a “second act” career path

Non-traditional physical therapy student wins award from
Appalachian health organization

From left, Wayne Carlsen, D.O., AHEC Medical Director at OU-COM, and Ann Tomsu, CHEAO
Board President, present Shawnee State physical education student Beth Shepherd with her
$500 award.

May 12, 2009

Shawnee State University physical therapy assistant student Beth Shepherd of Kingston, Ohio, received a $500 award Thursday, May 6, from the Consortium for Health Education in Appalachia Ohio (CHEAO), housed at the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine (OU-COM).

A 43-year-old mother of three sons, Shepherd returned to college three years ago to earn a physical therapy assistant degree after a young relative suffered a spinal cord injury in a motorcycle accident.

“As I learned more about his injury and medical care, I became fascinated with how the human body works and the role of physical therapy,” Shepherd wrote in an essay about why she should be given the award.

“Although I did not pursue a formal education until I was older, education has always been of great importance,” Shepherd said. “My plans are to use my knowledge of therapy to give the people in my community excellent health care, and instruct them on the benefits of good health habits.”

Shepherd also uses the knowledge about physical therapy she has gained through her education as part of her volunteer work as a youth gymnastic coordinator at the Ross County YMCA. 

“Not only has Beth been able to juggle work, school and home-life, she has been able to maintain a 4.0 grade point average through the program,” said Neil Evans, PT, DPT, CSCS, one of her physical therapy instructors. “She is truly a leader that the physical therapy profession and Appalachia will be blessed to have.”

Shepherd was recognized and received the award at CHEAO’s spring board meeting held in Athens. According to Kathy Trace, director of the Area Health Education Center (AHEC) and the Office of Community Health Programs at OU-COM, the annual award is given to a student working toward a health care profession degree in the 20 Southeastern and Southern Ohio counties served by CHEAO.

The CHEAO board of directors is the governing body of the local AHEC. Created by the U.S. Congress in 1971, the national AHEC program was developed to recruit, train and retain a health professions workforce committed to underserved populations. AHEC has regional centers across the country, including the one at OU-COM.

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