Springfield College Student Named Finalist in National Physical Therapy Essay Contest

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield College doctor of physical therapy (DPT) student Xavier Gibson has been selected as one of two finalists in the annual physical therapy essay contest, co-sponsored by the American Council of Academic Physical Therapy Consortium for the Humanities, Ethics, and Professionalism (CHEP) and the Journal for Humanities in Rehabilitation (JHR). Gibson’s essay scored in the top three after two levels of judging, and will be published in JHR’s fall 2021 issue.

“It was such an honor to work with Dr. [Julia] Chevan in submitting this essay,” Gibson said. “Our physical therapy program offers such a great avenue for us as students to not only learn but engage in real, impactful conversation. All of the faculty and students alike strive to make the program inclusive, rigorous, and nurturing. At the end of the day, our goal is to become authentic, value-based, competent practitioners.”

Gibson’s essay highlights his responsibilities and obligations as a DPT student of color — the only student of color in his cohort — to come to terms with addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion issues in society and inequalities in healthcare.

“In a few hundred words, Xavier wrote a reflective essay that conveyed the struggle of BIPOC students in physical therapy and his own personal struggles to excel academically while being an activist demanding structural change to systems imbued with racism,” said Chevan, who chairs the Springfield College Department of Physical Therapy. “His writing is strong. I wasn’t surprised that he was recognized by the judges for this essay; his work is exceptional.”

The mission of CHEP includes advocating for the importance of the humanities in physical therapy education because excellence in clinical practice requires the ability to make a meaningful connection with patients.

“The questions he raises, and his feelings about how to address these issues as a DPT student, is deeply felt and leaves no doubt of the author’s authenticity,” the judging panel noted. “The issues and struggles lead to his involvement with campus-wide initiatives to study the issues. This narrative is one of the best we have read.”

The judging panel went on to add that “Xavier is very articulate in expressing the students’ unique struggle dividing focus between the intensive curriculum and excruciating social circumstances demanding immediate action. He is not only presenting the problem, but expressing the way he was able to find a solution by participation in the college committee to bring about a change in his zone of influence.”