Alumni and Student Spotlight banner

We are very proud of you, our alumni and students, as you work tirelessly to make lives better in our communities every day. We want to tell your stories and celebrate your successes while also introducing you to some of the next generation of health care leaders.

If you would like to share your story, please email alumni@uthscsa.edu.

Sheena Marie S. Caramba - Alumni Spotlight

What year did you graduate from UT Health San Antonio? What degree did you receive?

I graduated with my Doctorate in Physical Therapy in the summer of 2020 during the height of the pandemic in a Zoom ceremony, which was something I definitely will never forget! 

What is your specialty?

I currently don’t have a specialty, but I am thinking of pursuing one in the future!

What inspired you to become a physical therapist?

I had an assignment in my wellness class in college that required me to interview a health care professional. At that time, I was part of a running group, and one of the ladies in the group was a pediatric physical therapist. She offered to take me in for one day and allow me to observe what a typical day was like for her in the pediatric therapy clinic. She worked with special needs children who had a variety of neurological diagnoses such as Down’s Syndrome and cerebral palsy that affected the way these children could move. After a few hours with her, I knew I had found my calling. I found an opportunity in which I could serve people and help them achieve things they wouldn’t think were possible because of their condition or illness.  I could help people get their life back and do the things we take for granted, such as walking or even getting in and out of bed. That is what inspired me to begin my journey to becoming a PT and help make lives better!

What is your current occupation and where? What’s a day on the job like for you?

I currently work as a full-time physical therapist at a rehabilitation hospital in the northeast Houston area in both the inpatient unit and the outpatient clinic, serving a wide variety of patients and diagnoses (orthopedic, neurological, and cardiopulmonary). I mostly work in the inpatient unit and work on the outpatient side whenever the team needs extra help. Patients in the inpatient unit stay in the hospital for about two weeks and work with a multidisciplinary team consisting of physical, occupational, and speech therapists in order to reach functional goals and maximize their ability to perform activities of daily living. 

 A typical day on the job starts with me walking into the unit office at around 8 a.m. to get my list of patients for the day, usually four or five, and putting in my times to see them on our scheduling board. The scheduling board helps all the therapists on the team to see which patients are being seen, by which therapist and type of therapy, and how long their session is. I work with each of the patients for about an hour to an hour and a half in the rehab gym focusing on mobility needed for everyday life, such as walking with or without assistive devices, moving in bed, and transferring (for example, from the wheelchair to the car.) After I wrap up with all my patients, I finish up all my documentation for each of them and call it a day. That is usually how a typical day will look like unless I am needed on the outpatient side which means I’ll be working in the clinic with patients who are post-illness or post-surgery coming in for an hour session of physical therapy, working on their mobility related goals. The days always look different which helps keep me on my toes and challenges me to always be thinking critically of ways to help these patients get back to what they were able to do.

As a recent graduate, what is your experience in transitioning into the COVID workforce? How has UT Health prepared you for the current climate or challenges ahead?

I’ll be completely honest; graduating and job hunting in the middle of a pandemic was a struggle! These unprecedented times were something that no one could ever be prepared for. I truly believe that the quality of the education and the diversity of my clinical experiences I received at UT Health San Antonio helped me stand out as a candidate during the job search and has helped me become a flexible and adaptable PT, which has made me a valuable addition to the rehabilitation team. 

What was the most valuable lesson – inside or outside the classroom – you learned at UT Health? Was there a lesson or message that stuck with you?

I had a clinical instructor and a few professors tell me, “Treat patients like you were treating a family member.” Moving forward in my career, that is one piece of advice I never want to forget. That phrase helps ground me, especially on the hard days of the job. 

What is your greatest professional achievement? What are you most proud of?

My greatest professional achievement to date was the moment I found I had passed my national licensing examination and all the hard work from the past seven years had finally all come together! 

What was your favorite or most memorable moment at UT Health (either in the PT program or in general)?

My favorite moment at UT Health was definitely our annual Physical Therapy Olympics that we hosted on our campus during a weekend in the spring semester. PT schools from all over the state of Texas come together to network and compete in a wide range of athletic events, such as sand volleyball, dance, basketball and so much more. The UT Health PT students got first place in the dance competition (which I was a part of) and that will forever go down as one of my favorite memories at UT Health. 

What advice do you have for students that want to pursue physical therapy or health care in general?

The biggest piece of advice I have for students that want to pursue PT is to observe and shadow a wide variety of PT settings to see if PT is ultimately the profession you want to pursue. It would also be great for them to find a PT that can guide and mentor you throughout their professional journey. The journey is not easy and having someone who has already been in their shoes can provide them with the inspiration and encouragement they need. 

How do you intend to give back and pay it forward to future students? (time and/or donation)?

I intend to give back to future students by allowing myself to be a mentor and a guide for any student who is considering pursuing a career in PT. I want to be able to inspire the next generation of clinicians who want to help make lives better.

Is there anything you would like to add?

My years at UT Health have molded me into the clinician I am, and I am truly grateful for the opportunities that the institution has given me. I have found lifelong friends in my cohort and have made a network of connections with my professors and instructors who are truly passionate about advancing the profession and changing lives for the better, in students and in patients.

Helen V. Fleck - Student Spotlight

What is your anticipated graduation date from UT Health San Antonio?

May 2021

Helen V. FleckWhat first prompted your interest in physical therapy?

As a dancer, I connect with movement in an almost spiritual way. When you dance, you have the unique opportunity to show on the outside what your soul is experiencing on the inside. Physical Therapy combines my talents for movement, experience as a dance teacher, and my fascination with the human body, giving me an outlet in which I can use these traits to help my community improve and appreciate movement, as I do.

Why did you choose UT Health San Antonio?

UT Health San Antonio was my first choice due to its reputation for exemplary health care, community involvement, and commitment to education. I first heard of UT Health when I moved to San Antonio in 2009 and was impressed with the school’s renown. I had not yet selected Physical Therapy as my chosen field but was considering a job in the health care field. 

What has been the most impactful course you have taken at UT Health? If you cannot identify one – what is a lesson or message that stuck with you?

The Anatomy and Physiology cadaver lab has impacted me more than I can describe. It amazed me to find that someone, somewhere, who had never even met me, believed in me and invested themself in my education. They had not only faith in my potential, but surety of my success. Someone so sure that I would have need of them, that they donated their body as a final act of that faith. A patient teacher, at peace, surrounded by the students they believed would make the future brighter.

What has been your most memorable moment at UT Health (either in the PT program or in general)?

After we complete cadaver lab, UT Health hosts an internment ceremony, where the friends and family of the wonderful people who have blessed us with their bodies can be laid to rest surrounded by the lives they impacted while here on earth. I was nominated by my class to be our Speaker for the Dead, to celebrate their life and mourn their loss, to thank the people who knew them before us and commemorate a life well lived. I was truly honored my class chose me to represent their voices of gratitude and truly humbled by the kindness shown to me by the family and friends gathered there that day.

Which student organizations did you participate in? What did you learn from them?

My most notable involvement was serving in the Executive Board for the 2019-2020 Student Government Association here at UT Health. As Secretary for the SGA, I learned the importance of the role students play in the everyday life of UT Health and the impact we can make if we decide to act together as a united front.  Students are a driving force behind many decisions here at UT Health.

I am also a member of the Student Legacy Council, which works in collaboration with the Alumni Engagement team to enhance student experience through establishing connections and works to foster a culture of philanthropy by developing and engaging future alumni.

What advice do you have for incoming students who are interested in the PT program?

Apply early! If at first you don’t succeed, apply, apply again!

Be sure of yourself and your commitment to learning. This is a Doctoral Program. It’s supposed to be this hard. It should challenge you and you need to be prepared for growth under flexible conditions. If you are too rigid, you will snap under the pressure. You need to bend when the winds of adversity overpower you, so that you can bounce back after the storm has passed.

Who is your favorite professor, mentor or staff member? And why?

Selina Morgan, PT, DPT, has truly made a positive impact on me as a person, a student, a teacher, and a future physical therapist. She teaches students in the classroom in the same way she interacts with patients in the clinic. She is knowledgeable, enthusiastic, supportive, patient, kind, strong, and extremely capable. She exudes love for others and creates such a positive learning environment, free of judgment and open for discussion. Dr. Morgan answers questions in a way that makes you glad you asked. I could not have asked for a better role model and am grateful for her influence in my life.

What is your plan for after graduation?

After graduation, I plan to specialize in Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy and help educate as many people as I can on the benefits of physical therapy and physical activity.

How do you intend to give back and pay it forward for future students?

For the students, I plan on becoming a certified clinical instructor so that I can begin taking students for rotations and observations hours. The best way to show your gratitude for what you have learned is to take the time to teach it to someone else. That is how we change the world.

For the community, I plan on combining my past experience as a dance instructor and my current profession as a physical therapist in as many ways as possible to get the community moving and grooving together. Some of my ideas include a dance class for Parkinson’s patients emphasizing large movements with a steady tempo, modified yoga for chronic low back pain to encourage motion as an alternative to medication, and prenatal belly dancing as a good low-impact option for activity that can be continued after pregnancy as well!

Describe UT Health SA in three words.

Student-driven, dedication, community

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I am so thankful to have been given this opportunity to share a little of my story and relay my everlasting gratitude to an institution, its faculty, the staff, my fellow students, and this wonderful community who have welcomed me in, embraced my desire for knowledge and invested in my education. I cannot repay you, but I can do unto others as you have done unto me.

It’s your turn in the spotlight!

If you would like to nominate yourself or a fellow alumni or student to be featured in our next Spotlight, please email alumni@uthscsa.edu. Nominations should include: name, graduation year and degree, notable career achievements, current occupation.

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