West Palm Beach, Florida
College:College of Health Professions and Sciences
Degree Program:Physical Therapy DPT
Research Focus:Exercise and rehabilitation science
Juan Rodriguez was always drawn to people and wanted to find a way to make a difference in their lives. Having a passion for exercise and rehabilitation science, he decided to become a physical therapist and combine his interests as a career.
Rodriguez completed a bachelor’s degree in Sport and Exercise Science with research honors at UCF in 2020. He is now working on his Doctorate in Physical Therapy (DPT). The first-generation student chose to remain at UCF due to positive interactions with the faculty, DPT students, and other community members. “I understood UCF DPT to be a program that has a “family feel,” a program that keeps their students up to date with the best available evidence and produces exceptional clinicians,” he says.
The mentorship Rodriguez received from the faculty has been significant in his life. Dr. Jeffrey Biddle, his first professor at UCF, encouraged him to get involved in clubs, volunteering, research, and more. He also credits Dr. William Hanney with helping him develop a love for reading, research, and critical thinking and to develop a healthy work-life balance. “He has been a major proponent of who I am today,” he says.”
Rodriguez is currently involved in three research projects and received the Graduate RAMP Fellowship to support his work. One project focuses on lasers to treat muscle and joint pain. Another study is on how the relationship between healthcare providers and patients can change patient improvements. Finally, his main project focuses on comparing how people learn to move when they are taught exercises through words versus when they are taught exercises by being asked to move around objects in the environment.
Conducting research has been a formative experience for Rodriguez. “I chose to participate in projects which I felt either questioned my beliefs or questioned common practices, and that exposed me to topics that would help me grow in my understanding,” he says. “I chose these projects because they resonated with my interests in managing pain, understanding the magic of speaking with others, and teaching exercises.”
Now, Rodriguez is on track for his dream career, thanks to his experience. “My program has prepared [me] not only with the fundamental skills of a practicing physical therapist; but also with the ability to think critically, to be deeply invested in the care of patients, and to have the desire to stay up to date with current science and evidence,” he says.
Rodriguez advises other students to spend time discovering how they learn best to make it easier to understand difficult material and seek other learning methods. “You can only get so much from a textbook and PowerPoint slides, but real-life experiences through volunteering or interactions, self-directed and selected learning on topics of curiosity, and conversations with peers, will always lead to a deeper knowledge and understanding,” he says.
After graduating from UCF in 2024, Rodriguez plans to complete a physical therapy residency to accelerate his skills as a Doctor of Physical Therapy.
- Graduate RAMP Fellowship recipient
- Second generation Colombian
- First in his family to attend university
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