Daniel LaFontaine '17HS: Why I want to be a PT

October 26, 2015

Lafontaine Daniel

In honor of Physical Therapy Month, we asked Dan a few questions about what led him to the Simmons DPT program.

What are you studying?

I am in my second year of the Doctor of Physical Therapy program. This semester I'm on the first of my three full-time clinical experiences. My internship is at an outpatient orthopedic clinic in Malden, MA. I'm getting a chance to put the skills I learned in class and in lab to the test with patients.

What made you want to be a physical therapist?

I've always wanted to work in a helping role - particularly a hands-on one. I've been fascinated with medicine ever since I read Oliver Sack's The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat years back, but it wasn't until after I graduated from college when a former professor told me she thought I would make a great PT that I began to think seriously about entering the field. My conversations with other mentors, friends and physical therapists ultimately helped me to decide that physical therapy had everything I was looking for in a career. It's hands-on, varied, team-oriented and allows me to be creative.

What made you choose to come to school at Simmons?

The Simmons program has a number of similarities with my undergraduate program. I went to Bates College, a small liberal arts school in Maine, and I benefited greatly from the small teacher to student ratio. I was able to seek out my professors whenever I had questions or if I wanted to bounce ideas off of them. During my search for PT schools, I was looking for a place where I could have that same close connection with my professors that I'd enjoyed in college. A family friend was a student in the Simmons DPT program and he couldn't talk up Simmons enough in regards to the professor-student relationships he had been able to build. I was also intrigued by the tutorial aspect of the curriculum. The emphasis on team work, both with classmates and professors led me choose Simmons.

What's been the most rewarding part the Simmons DPT program so far?

My newfound confidence in applying what I've learned in class to patients in the clinic over the past few weeks. It's pretty cool actually being able to help patients.

What's your favorite class you've taken so far? And why?

Although it was absolutely the toughest class I've taken in my life, I loved the Gross Anatomy course during my first summer. Being able to touch the bones, muscles and other tissues that make up the human body, and seeing how they interact with one another helped me to gain a fuller appreciation for how incredible our bodies are. We are the most elaborate, complicated and durable machines ever constructed!

What part of your upcoming clinical experiences are you most looking forward to?

For my upcoming in-patient clinical, I'm looking forward to seeing the interplay between PTs and other healthcare professionals in a more direct way than I've been able to in the outpatient setting. I'm also excited about working with a different patient population, and I'm looking forward to becoming even more confident in my hands-on skills. It will be cool to be entrusted with more responsibilities and get a real sense that I belong in this field.

The theme of this year's Physical Therapy Month is #AgeWell. With that in mind - what tips can you offer the Simmons community?

Make staying active fun. Everyone knows that active people live healthier, longer lives, but it's tough to exercise when it feels like a chore. Find ways to make it something to look forward to, whether it's going for a bike ride or hike to a cool destination or even walking with a friend.

Take an active role in preparing your own food. This helps me to understand what's going into what I'm eating, and gives me more power to make healthy choices.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Obviously things could change, but in 10 years I see myself being a dad, returning home to an apartment with more than 3 rooms, and running faster than I do now. I hope to be working in an office with therapists who I enjoy spending time with, who I can learn from and who are excited about learning from me. I see myself with a varied caseload, but I could be in either a hospital or an outpatient setting. I will look forward to the challenges I face at work.