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Soon-to-be D.P.T. Grad Seeks to be a Pediatric Physical Therapist

D.P.T. Class of 2023 Student Commencement Speaker, Jena Schoenherr, is Devoted to Providing Physical Therapy to Children

May 08, 2023
Jena Schoenherr, Doctor of Physical Therapy Class of 2023 in a blue dress and white coat outside in front of the Sunshine Building
Jena Schoenherr

What inspired you to pursue your degree?
I went to UMass Amherst for undergrad and got a degree in kinesiology, which guided me to physical therapy (PT) school. I always knew I wanted my career to involve helping others hands-on. While I was applying to PT school, I started working more with children and I realized that I wanted to be a pediatric physical therapist.
What type of research have you been involved in during your time at NYMC?
My doctoral project was working with Touro College of Dental Medicine. We researched the prevalence of work related musculoskeletal pain in dentists and then we looked at posture, ergonomics and body mechanics and how we could implement this at the dental school. My group worked with the first-year dental students. We watched them in their lab working on mannequins for one session to identify any risk factors for developing musculoskeletal pain. Then we taught them five different workshops at their school in a group setting. The other DPTs in the group also helped one-on-one with the students. We discussed five main concepts: posture and ergonomics, neck and upper thoracic spine, upper extremities, low back and core, general wellness, and other concepts.
What has helped motivate you along your educational journey? Have you encountered any challenges along the way?
Something that has helped motivate me is looking back as to how far I've come. Going to undergrad and then taking some time off to apply to PT school was a long process. I look around and a lot of my friends all have careers. Being reminded of how bad I really want this and how hard I’ve worked is a major motivator. I started PT school during COVID-19 and we were completely online, which came with its own challenges. But I do think it was easy to adapt because our school was able to quickly come up with a plan and I was able to remind myself how badly I wanted to become a PT, regardless of the situation.
After you graduate, what is your dream career?
My dream career is pediatric early intervention physical therapy, which I’d be working with children from birth to three years old. I don't think that's something I'm going to do right away because I want to work somewhere where I have a lot of learning opportunities and can be mentored other PTs. Usually, early intervention is in a home-based setting where you don't get to learn from other PTs as you are the sole practitioner, so that is something that I ultimately want to work towards for the future. My dream for when I graduate is to get a job working with children.
What made you choose NYMC?

I was looking for PT schools in the area. I live very close to campus in White Plains. I applied to different schools all throughout New York. When I was applying to NYMC, I thought it would be a great school to get into. It's so close and having a nice commute is a benefit. Once I interviewed with NYMC, I knew I wanted to go here. I was really impressed by how the interview day went. It felt very personable, whereas other schools I went to it felt like they were passing through students to see as many as they could. I felt like a connection with the school. It was like a nice glimpse into what the school could offer.
What has been your favorite aspect of being an NYMC student?

I've made lifelong friendships at NYMC. Also, I enjoyed my classes here. People say if you go to PT school or grad school it’s going to be so hard. But I found that since this is something that I'm so interested in learning it doesn't feel like a chore. This is something I enjoy doing. The curriculum and getting to learn new things really opened my mind. I’ve learned a lot more about what PT can be, all the different realms of it. Making friends and gaining new knowledge has been great.
What faculty member has had the greatest influence on you here?
All the professors that we had in problem-based learning, where you're working in smaller groups, have been really great. Dr. Susan Ronan [P.T., D.P.T., M.S., former assistant professor of physical therapy] had one of the biggest impacts on me. She’s a pediatrics physical therapist and because that’s something that I was so interested in, I learned so much from her. She was really hands-on and extremely devoted to the students. 
What advice would you give applicants or incoming students?
I would say make sure this is something that you want to do, especially since it is a three-year program. Make sure this is something that you want to do for the rest of your life because there are those highs and those lows. When there are lows, it's nice to remind yourself that this is where you're supposed to be and what you want to do. It makes it all that worth it. I would also say try not to listen to negative advice or a negative perspective on physical therapy school or any type of like higher education. Yes, it's going to be hard and times where you have to sacrifice things so that you can study, but in the long term you're going to look back and realize that it was a great decision. 
Outside of your studies, what are your hobbies or interests?
I do competitive powerlifting. It's a great outlet to deal with any stress. Going to the gym and working out refreshes my mind so I can go back to studying with a better mindset.  I'm preparing for the board exam, so it gives me like a nice little break where I can forget about school as much as I can, and then get back to it. 
Are you a part of any student organizations or interest groups?
I’m the president of the D.P.T. club, which we started last year. We host events and invite speakers who may specialize in an area of PT club members are interested in. We develop relationships with local practicing clinicians and NYMC DPT faculty and alumni, help with professional development and be another source for educational resources. 

What is a fun fact about you?
Fun fact about me is that I love dogs. I rescued a dog in 2020 during COVID-19 and since then, it opened up my mind to how much dogs need help and how there's so many dogs out there that need to be adopted. I've been working with a local rescue called, Strong Paws Rescue. They host events at gyms, which are a lot of fun. They save a lot of dogs from the south because there's a huge issue there. They get those dogs out of kill shelters and off the street. We get them healthy and send them to people who foster them. Then they find families for the dogs. I enjoy promoting for dogs to get adopted and helping foster dogs in my free time.