January 6, 2016 | Erin Bluvas, email@example.com
The Arnold School of Public Health’s Doctorate in Physical Therapy program in the Department of Exercise Science is extremely competitive so Sarah Fitz-Maurice was thrilled when she received her acceptance letter. The Camden, S.C. native and December graduate was excited to become a Gamecock and valued the program’s small class size, a factor she’d come to appreciate at the small liberal arts college (Converse College) she attended for her Bachelor of Science in Biology degree.
“The other large factor was the amount of time allocated for clinical experience,” she says. “Being able to learn with a lot of hands-on experience was important to me.” With rotation locations such as Colorado and Alabama, Fitz-Maurice’s clinical experience came in a format that matched well with her personal interest in travel.
One of her rotations, Carolinas Rehabilitation Hospital in Charlotte, N.C., turned out to be a particularly good match as she recently accepted a full-time position there. While she has enjoyed all aspects of physical therapy that she encountered throughout her program, Fitz-Maurice has developed a passion for working with individuals with neurological injuries and individuals in the acute inpatient rehabilitation setting.
Fittingly, her new position will allow her to work with spinal cord injury, brain injury and oncology teams. “I couldn’t be happier to be a part of such a great hospital and team and use the knowledge and experience I have gained at USC to help individuals I will be able to work with there,” she says.
Fitz-Maurice’s interest in working in a health field began when she was just a child. As a gymnast and dancer, training and conditioning to enhance her capabilities, as well as injuries and rehabilitation, went hand in hand with the fun that she had engaging in those activities. She also witnessed how physical therapy impacted a close friend.
“One of my best friends spent a lot of time recovering from an accident and always spoke of her physical therapists and the relationships she developed with them and how they helped her,” she says. “One thing I really love about the profession is the amount of time physical therapists are able to spend with patients, not only during a visit, but throughout their rehabilitation—whether it be days, weeks, or months. Through the years, my interest grew, and I knew I wanted to help people through physical therapy—the natural interest I had has truly developed into something that I love.”
Fitz-Maurice shares her success with physical therapists she’s worked with, professors, friends and family—particularly her three older sisters (a cardiovascular sonographer and two pharmacists) and her supportive husband, who have each played a major role helping her complete her program and achieve her dream job.
Having reached her goals, she has some advice of her own now. “Make sure you choose something you love,” Fitz-Maurice says. “Knowing your career is something to make you happy and are passionate about and using your skills and knowledge to get to help people makes the studying, etc. all worth it.”
She also stresses the importance of enjoying free time as she has done through hiking and camping with her husband and their two dogs as well as volunteering with the Ronald McDonald House. “You will spend a lot of time in the classroom and studying at home,” she says. “It’s the little moments with your classmates and loved ones that will get you through it.”
With the right program and the right support and balance, Fitz-Maurice has found the formula for success and wouldn’t change anything about her path to get to where she is today. “I am so glad I made the decision to attend the Arnold School,” she says. “The faculty’s knowledge and dedication is unmatched, and I was able to learn alongside brilliant, genuine, and diverse peers that have become lifelong friends.”