As an undergraduate student in a physical therapy program at another Michigan university, Rachel Michalski volunteered her winter break to help others.
She joined an inpatient physical therapy rehabilitation unit at a local hospital, just wanting to lend a hand in patients' recoveries.
That three weeks changed her life.
"On my last day, a patient I had watched recover for three weeks from a terrible car accident, started walking for the first time. I instantly got the chills!" Rachel said. "Seeing a patient's excitement and being able to share that special moment with them was the moment I knew physical therapy was going to be my career. I will never forget that day."
It's why after earning her bachelor's degree, she immediately enrolled in CMU's graduate program en route to her doctorate in physical therapy.
"I was drawn to CMU because of its prestigious physical therapy program, beautiful library and campus, and its location to my hometown," she said.
She also knew she'd find a plethora of opportunities for her to learn in the field.
"CMU's physical therapy program has given me many opportunities to practice my skills not only within the classroom and laboratories, but also within a clinical setting," she said.
In her first year at CMU she shadowed a second-year student physical therapist. She was active in CMU's Hands for Health clinic, a free, student-managed physical therapy clinic on campus.
She took part in mock clinics, where students role-play as physical therapist and patient with mock scenarios. The Physical Therapy Student Organization schedules various volunteer opportunities, such as student physical therapists assisting with a home exercise program for Mount Pleasant's community partners.
Rachel also co-founded the MOVE! for Health exercise class for patients diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, a disorder of the central nervous system that affects movement. Exercise can help a patient manage symptoms.
"These interactions have greatly increased my confidence in treating patients, and I feel well prepared for my clinical rotations," Rachel said.