Meet Isabel from the Grand Canyon State, Arizona who is a beauty queen, practices martial arts, volunteers with various charities all while being a physical therapy student. We were able to talk to Isabel about her journey to physical therapy school, other activities she's involved in and how she manages to balance it all.
Did you always know you were going to go to physical therapy school? What inspired you to go to physical therapy school?
I originally graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Marketing with Minors in Communications and Dance in 2016. I was incredibly grateful to get a job straight out of college where I then spent the next six years working for a Fortune 500 technology company as a marketing specialist. Then, thanks to the scholarships provided through pageantry, I was able to obtain my Masters in Business Administration in 2020, debt-free. I loved working in business, where I learned a lot about how to be a proficient leader, how to communicate effectively, and how to manage complex tasks, in addition to other critical life skills. However, I’ve always had an affinity for helping people. I knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my career in a field where I could provide hands-on, therapeutic care to improve the quality of life of those in my state. Having volunteered with the blind and visually impaired community for 11+ years, I often met and worked with people who had vision loss coupled with other neurological or physical challenges. While vision loss is something they had to adapt to, many were able to live more independently thanks to the help of physical therapy interventions. So, I started taking night classes after work to explore some prerequisites in preparation for applications. Today, I am thrilled to be a first-year Doctor of Physical Therapy student on track to graduate in December 2023.
What's your favorite part about physical therapy school?
Doctors of physical therapy have an incredible scope of practice across a multitude of specialities, including but not limited to: orthopedics, neuroscience, pediatrics, pelvic health, wound care, geriatrics, and cardiopulmonary. Physical therapists can also work in various settings such as acute inpatient hospitals, outpatient clinics, skilled nursing facilities, homehealth, and schools. I’m always amazed by what we learn in our courses, from anatomy and pathology to biomechanics and neuroscience. Without a doubt though, it’s the kindness of my peers and dedication of my professors that inspire me every day. This is a small cohort of only 49 students, so everyone gets along well. Our teachers are leading the industry with cutting-edge research and they take time out of their busy schedules to make sure we have everything we need to become proficient, compassionate therapists. I’m also appreciative of the plethora of leadership opportunities this program offers. Some roles I've engaged in this year include serving as:
-Student Secretary for the Arizona Physical Therapy Association
-Class Rep for my 2023 cohort
-Vice President of Fundraisers for my school’s Student Physical Therapy Association
-Mentor in the Pre-Health mentorship program
-Social Media Director for my campus
-Fall 2023 Teaching Assistant
Do you participate in any research? If yes, tell us about it.
I recently had the opportunity to present at the annual, interdisciplinary Three-Minute Research Competition. It was such an honor to make the Top 10 as a first-year student! I was blown away by all of the topics shared and was particularly pleased to see that the finalists were all women. My presentation was on stroke severity and the socioeconomic disparities leading to more intense outcomes for minority groups. Hopefully, with continued research, we’ll be able to improve equity of patient care for all.
Congratulations on winning Miss Phoenix, that's incredible! What year did you win? Why did you decide to enter the pageant?
Thank you very much! I’ve competed in pageants for the past seven years, with my current title being Miss Phoenix USA. Throughout my journey, I’ve been able to share the stage with some of the most brilliant women: medical students, engineers, artists, actors, musicians, teachers, realtors, and everything and anything in between. I fundamentally believe that these inspirational women have helped me become who I am today. It’s a true sisterhood where the participants go out of their way to lift each other up, the directors are so kind and inclusive, and there are endless opportunities to grow through improved interview skills, volunteerism, and confidence building. In pageants, you don’t have to compromise any aspect of who you are; you get to be your authentic self – strong, smart, and glamorous.
We saw that you are involved in martial arts, we would love it if you could share why you got involved and what you love about it.
I’ve always loved the beauty and intensity behind martial arts, but never found the time to get involved at an earlier age. However, in college, someone I love was attacked and mugged. Getting that phone call was heartbreaking and I couldn’t help but wonder if self defense knowledge could have been helpful. So, I signed up for Taekwondo in 2020 and am now a proud red belt. I particularly love learning weaponry and forms and hope to pass my black belt exam soon (fingers crossed!)
Tell us about some of your charity initiatives and some of your recent give back projects.
For more than a decade, I’ve been a volunteer with the blind and visually impaired community through the Lions Club – an international organization which was personally challenged by Helen Keller to be the knights for the blind in the crusade against darkness. We’ve worked for years to collect eyeglasses and sponsor vision screenings for low income families. I’ve also had the chance to work with several other organizations such as Feed My Starving Children, the Children’s Miracle Network, HopeKids, the Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona, and more. A personal passion project I started last year was writing and illustrating my children’s book “One Nice Thing a Day” with proceeds benefiting food pantries.
It’s incredible how you manage everything you are involved with, do you have any time management tips to share?
(Haha) it’s tough sometimes! Being a first-generation American and seeing where my parents come from, I’ve developed a sincere appreciation for all of the opportunities I’m granted here in the states. I think that has been a driving factor in my desire to be involved with everything around me so that I can touch more lives, help more people, and fulfill more dreams. I think the best thing that works for me has been my handy dandy agenda. EVERYTHING goes in there as soon as I’m aware of an upcoming event or assignment. I also create daily to-do lists that are time blocked to help me stay on top of school expectations, work (I work part-time as a virtual game show host!), health and wellness, friends and family, volunteerism, hobbies, and such.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I have a younger sister who I can tell is also a Type A person. I would share with her the same advice I wish I had known as a child: You can’t always control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to it. Life is such an unpredictable and dynamic journey. Sometimes things don’t go your way, sometimes there are more lows than highs, and sometimes the anxiety surrounding it all is unrelenting. Breaking the stigma around mental health and acknowledging it is often the first step toward healing. It’s something I’m working on too. Ultimately, I believe that if you take your time, go at your own pace, and remember to react with compassion and kindness in your heart, your outlook on life can drastically change for the better.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
I’m honored for this opportunity and hope more young women reading this remember to embrace the glamor of life! Let’s continue to tell each others’ stories to inspire change makers around the world to continue taking up space and use their voices for positive change.