Ohio Today: For Alumni and Friends of Ohio University

Jeremy Wachenschwanz
College of Health and Human Services

Jeremy Waschenschwanz

'I want to see the results in my work'

Hometown: Nelsonville, Ohio

College: College of Health and Human Services

Major: Exercise Physiology


What does it mean for you to be recognized as one of 10 outstanding and promising graduates? How do you describe this recognition to others?


It is an honor. ... There is significance to my explanation to people of what it means to me and how it changes me. I felt that I came from a small town, small school, where I didn't think much outside of it. I feel my progress in school toward my career goals shows my accomplishments, and (it) is self-rewarding to do something I strive to do. It also shows that no matter where you are from, you can accomplish anything if you choose to put forth the effort. This is why I feel I have made my own promise, to excel in life and follow my dreams.


Has there been a faculty member who has inspired you? 


Yes, Dr. Michael R. Kushnick (assistant professor in recreation and sports sciences). I've known him for almost three years. He has been an inspiration in my path, being that I've had a lot to juggle while I have attended OU. I've had to commute from an hour away and (balance) a full-time job, full-time schooling and family. He has helped me through times when I've needed a listening ear as well as being there as an outstanding professor. He has helped me stay focused on my course of action and has led by example, being an asset to the school and community.


What other experiences have helped you grow? What was their significance to you?


My own personal experiences and struggles have given me the most inspiration. My family has always been very supportive of me going to school and pursuing any career that suited my interest. Their medical issues and my own injuries had helped me choose my actual path in school, (as did) my experience along my schooling and career as a physical therapist assistant. Shadowing physicians and physician's assistants and working in the field of physical therapy have helped play a large part in (fulfilling) my promise. I knew working in the field I wanted more than my PTA license. I wanted to have more knowledge and control. I wanted to go somewhere to school that would promise me back the same education as what I was willing to put into it. OU was that place for me; they meet the aspects that I needed and demanded from a school. OU not only let me fill my promise of being the best I could be, but OU also promised back that it would make me the best I could be.


Finish these sentences:


I am most proud of ... my friends and family for being a great support system as I have progressed through school.


Someday I hope ... to be a physician and raise a loving family.


Describe what you have accomplished. What was your drive and motivation?


I'm 23 years old, and I have accomplished a lot in my life already.  I've completed an associate's degree from Hocking College to become a physical therapist assistant. This led to my current job with Fairfield Medical Center, where I have worked (for nearly four years) in outpatient, inpatient and school-based therapy settings. I've owned a home while returning to school to complete my bachelor's degree in exercise physiology, in which time I have also taken premedical classes and have taken the MCAT, which has helped me gain my acceptance into the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine. My drive to continue through all this chaos is the enjoyment and love of medicine. It is fascinating to work with medical technology and learn about the endless knowledge the body holds, but the greatest enjoyment comes with the feeling of giving someone back a part of their life: to heal them, to make them better, to give them back a part of their life they thought they may never have again. That is one of the greatest feelings a person can experience -- the enjoyment of giving back function.


What are your dreams?


To become a physician and help people. I find the body very intriguing. Nobody knows it all. Even specialists can't fully know their own specialty. I find that challenging and interesting. That will keep me motivated for a lifetime in my career -- to try to learn the body and become better at my profession. I want to see the results in my work, even though I know I can never know everything. It is daunting, but that comes along with it. I'm just going to try my best and be what I can be. I don't think you can ask any more from a physician than that. We are only human ourselves.


How did you first begin your pursuit and passion of this career?


It grew with my exposure. I was not geared toward it to begin with. I had personal family medical conditions and personal injuries. My dad started having more problems, and I threw out my back. A physical therapist helped me recover. I kind of took the scenic route, but it got me in the right spot.


You talk a lot about sacrifice in effort in order to excel. 


Effort is how much you are willing to put toward a goal. Sacrifice is giving something up to achieve a goal. Sacrifice is not necessarily effort alone but also giving something else up that you love. I gave up a lot of time with family and friends.


Does your family support this decision and sacrifice?


My mom, dad, grandma and brother, we are a small family, but tight-knit. We're very close. It's nice to see holidays come around so we can get together. It comes fast and goes quick. They are behind me 100 percent. They are excited that I'm doing something I wanted to do. They tell me they will be there for me and help me any way they can.


Can you share a story of an experience with a patient that changed you?


There was an older man in his mid-50s who had suffered a severe stroke. He couldn't talk or use his arms. He couldn't sit in a wheelchair without support. We were working on his mobility and functional activities, basically getting him up, getting him moving, trying to get his function back to do things he usually did. We worked with this patient three or four months. We got him to the point where he could walk again. He could walk into the clinic. It was daunting and challenging for the patient as well as for me.


His family was not keen on our approach. They didn't think it was the correct way to go about things. They thought he should jump right up and be at it, be able to do all these things. ... As they started to see his progress, they began to be supportive and backed us up. He regained function. He would walk in the clinic using a cane and was able to carry on short conversations. It was great to see him laugh and smile, see him get a piece of life back that was taken from him so fast.


This experience helped me and geared me to go back to school for more education. I was challenged, went back to the books, looking up things, asking coworkers for ideas. It was one of most severe cases I've worked with, and it took the largest jump of all I've worked with. He went from one extreme to another. Tragically, five months later, he had an accident. He was getting out of vehicle, and took a wrong step and got a head injury. He was just starting to get his life back. His family came in and thanked us for getting him back. They appreciated what they got, that they did have him for that short time. It didn't defeat me because not every story is going to end like that. He got a piece of life back before his life had ended.

Interview by Jenaye Antonuccio, BA '95. Photo by Travis Dove, MA '09.


Posted 05-16-08


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