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  • Writer's pictureBethany Huebner

The Path to Dr. Dr.

clinician to educator
Two roads diverged in a wood and I - I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference. - Robert Frost

I can honestly tell you that I have never wanted to get a PhD. The thought of going back to school again has my stomach in knots. I have already spent 7 years of my life in post high school studies and so many thousands of dollars, adding to those numbers isn't something I like to even think about it. Credentials behind my name have never been a motivator for me, but excellence has. I remember vividly on my interview for my current position, each faculty member asking me when I was going to get my PhD…not if, but when. What was going to be my path to finishing what was expected? One of the largest barriers for me to make the transition to academics was the fact that I never wanted to get a PhD. I love learning and I love a challenge, but I don’t like spending money or statistics and that is all I can see a PhD being. Thousands of dollars spent on a lot of classes that really haven’t taught me anything practical or usable. I didn’t see the value in getting a PhD. I couldn’t see the value because I was blinded by all of my negative view points, but mostly just fear.

I was afraid that now was not the right time for our family. I have a 2.5-year-old that is rambunctious, needy and independent all at the same time, stubborn, and the list could go on and on. I have a husband who owns his own business which he puts his blood, sweat and tears into daily. I have two step-daughters who need me less and less, but I still want to have time for them when they do need me. I have responsibilities at work that require focus and attention and high-quality execution. What if adding PhD studies causes me to falter in all of these areas or even just one? What if I can’t spend the quality time I vowed to give my child? What if I don’t have the energy left to spend quality time with my husband? What if…??? Those questions could go on and on and on. But, one thing I’ve learned is fear is a liar, fear is only false evidence appearing real, and fear will not win!

My grandpa use to always say that "all roads lead there." (He didn't have the best sense of direction, but man that saying applies to just about everything). My path to Dr. Dr. hasn't been straight and has taken a bit longer than most, but here are my 4 reasons why I chose to enroll in a PhD program this spring and begin my journey of becoming a Dr. Dr. (DPT, PhD).

clinician to educator
I didn't know what I didn't know.

1. I don’t know what I don’t know.

I remember my mentor asking me during my first couple years of teaching if I had any questions. I felt like I should have a million and a half because I had no clue what I was doing, but I literally couldn’t think of one. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I couldn’t ask questions about things that I didn’t know existed or occurred or were customary. I remember being asked to write out my teaching philosophy for my portfolio and I had to google what a teaching philosophy was. I’ve said it before, but I went to PT school to become a PT, not a professor. I didn’t have a clue on how to develop a syllabus or what Bloom’s taxonomy was. Enrolling in a PhD program will unearth many of the things I don’t know and provide me with skills to be successful in those areas.

clinician to educator
Growth comes in many different forms, this is just one.

2. To gain new opportunities.

In the academic world, a PhD (or any other terminal academic doctorate) opens many other doors and possibilities. Leadership roles like program director or department chair all require a terminal academic doctorate. Universities see the value in the PhD as skill building, knowledge gaining, and grit determining. I hope one day to find myself in a leadership role and being a part of developing a strong faculty with all the required skills sets for our students. Networking within the PhD program also provides benefits and new opportunities. Meeting others that are striving for the same goal can develop research partnerships, friendships, and interprofessional collaboration.

clinician to educator
My students deserve the best from me.

3. To be the best teacher for my students.

Outcomes, outcomes, outcomes. These are the most important aspects of a successful Doctor of Physical Therapy Program. Our students are counting on us to provide them with the type of education that allows them to pass the National Physical Therapy Exam and gain their license, but they are also counting on us to make them excellent physical therapists. Being successful as a clinician doesn’t always equal being successful as a professor. Just because I know the things that work well to help patients, doesn’t mean I deliver that knowledge in a way that transforms to gained knowledge to the students. I’ve learned in many ways that my chosen delivery of content hasn’t equated to knowledge transferred. In fact, I have felt disappointment in myself many times after seeing poor performances on exams because I thought my delivery went way better than it did. I’m looking forward to learning more about learning styles and how best to utilize various teaching strategies to create meaningful learning for my students. I truly believe this PhD will allow me to become the professor I hope to be for my students.

clinician to educator
Aaron, Michelle, and Bethany

4. I have to prove the birth order researchers wrong. (For those of you who don’t know my sense of humor…this is a joking reason.)

I am the youngest of three siblings and have been referred to as the “Golden Child” my whole life. I could do no wrong in my brother and sister’s eyes…complete and utter falsehood as I was disciplined similarly to my siblings. I also required the center of attention many of nights at the dinner table as to share my many jokes and interesting facts that I read in library books. (You may want to interview my sister or brother to see just HOW interesting my insights were…pretty sure they would say NOT interesting at all). My brother is very successful with his Bachelor’s Degree in Chemical Engineering. My sister is very successful with her Master’s Degree in Chemistry Education. Seeing all of the work they put into schooling…I knew I had to one up them with a Doctorate in Physical Therapy degree. Recently, as I have been sharing my thoughts on going back to school, my sister shared her thoughts too. She is going back to get her EdD. Well, I can’t let her one up me…the only way to solve this is to become a Dr. Dr.

Have you thought about getting your PhD? What is stopping you?

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