SPOTLIGHT Alum: Shahed Sbeta, from MD to DPT

Shahed Sbeta was easily one of the most involved students in CGH programming during her tenure at Earlham. Even so, the career she was preparing for did not end up being the one she is currently pursuing. Shahed said, “In terms of PT [Physical Therapy] at Earlham, I’d never even considered it.  I feel like I came in with a pretty narrow idea of what I wanted to do. Post-college I wanted to go to med school and that’s specifically because of my upbringing. My situation is weird, I’m technically a domestic student because I moved from Libya to California, but it was only a year before I went to college. Back home, you go to medical school or pharmacy school, and then I went to Earlham so I had to be pre-med.”

Shahed’s initial career interest is one that a lot of students can relate to, especially students who may feel familial or cultural pressure to pursue a specific career. Even though she was a part of the Health Externship Program early on, once she said she was only interested in becoming a doctor, very little exploration into other areas of healthcare actually happened. As she reflected, she actually ended up volunteering in a pediatric and geriatric PT clinic but because it was part of the Reid volunteer track (a requirement to complete before shadowing specialists), the field was not intentionally introduced to her. At the time, she may not have been open to a career outside of medicine, but suggests that we “share stories from other international students especially that are similar culturally.” Because many students believe going into healthcare “only means medicine. Nursing and other areas are secondary and [are seen as] not good enough.”

Even so, her connections with the CGH aided her in a position working with Oak Street Health immediately after graduation. Shahed said, “I worked there for a year-and-a-half – that was intense, to say the least. But, I did learn a lot. When I moved back to California, I continued working remotely during my first year as a clinical documentation specialist which basically reviews charts to see if there are any misdiagnoses. The position taught me about medical HCC hierarchies, proper clinical documentation, and chart review.” Oak Street supported her in the transition to applying to graduate school, even sponsoring her GRE test. But before she could apply, she also needed to complete some prerequisite courses.

Because Shahed decided on Physical Therapy a bit later, she had a few extra steps to take, but here is her advice for those who think they are PT bound:

  1. No description available.Take all of your prerequisites – especially Kinesiology, Exercise Physiology, and Anatomy.
  2. Explore different areas/specialties of PT – there’s way more than just orthopedic injury and sports med! Shadow as many different kinds of PTs and settings as possible.
  3. PT is very dependent on patient cooperation and buy-in – practice those soft skills. Medical Anthropology was particularly helpful for this.
  4. Make good connections, especially with at least 1 Physical Therapist because you will need that recommendation letter.
  5. Use your resources – especially while you are at Earlham and have them right in front of you!

Shahed is currently about halfway through her program at Azusa Pacific University, “I have completed one and a half years so far, so I have one and a half years left and after that, I’m planning to get my license. Then I’m thinking of doing a residency program because I want to go into a pelvic health specialty, which aligns really well with an orthopedic residency.”

By Jessie Pilewski
Jessie Pilewski Associate Director of the Center for Global Health