Each week in 2019, we're highlighting someone in the College of Public Health—students, alumni, researchers and beyond—for a feature we're calling Public Health in Focus. Click the photo for a portrait of Taylor Matsinger, a DPT alumna on a path to serve as a physical therapist in the U.S. Army, or read on for the full interview.
What goes into being a physical therapist in the military as opposed to being in general PT practice?
Physical therapy in the military is different because, in addition to seeing and treating patients, you also have a role as an officer where you are part of the chain of command and leading people beneath you. And one challenge of being a PT in the military is that you’re working with highly functioning people who have to get back to doing exactly what they were able to before so that they can function well as part of a team.
With the way that military PT is shifting, there’s a big push in the strength and conditioning and injury-prevention aspect. A PT in the military would have to be able to fill all those roles: You aren’t just rehabilitating injuries but also looking at how to improve troop readiness so that soldiers don’t get injured in the first place.
Only an exclusive group are selected to be a physical therapist in the military. What was it like to be one of the few chosen?
I almost don’t have words for it. I was so excited when I got the call. Most physical therapists go through the Army-Baylor program, where they are serving and they know they are going to be PTs. The Army only take nine direct accession PTs, which means civilians or people who served prior and who are not coming out of that program. I went into it thinking, “I’m putting my best foot forward, but I don’t want to bank on getting it,” because it is so highly competitive.
And when I got the call saying I was selected I just—was so excited and humbled and so grateful for everyone here who helped me along the way. Temple’s physical therapy program is amazing. I think sometimes as students in the program we don’t even realize how good it is until we go elsewhere and see that it’s pretty prestigious. I’m thankful to my professor, Dr. Bill Egan, who told me everything I needed to know to apply, and I’m thankful to my parents, professors, friends, and everyone who supported me along the journey. It’s an honor, and I’m so excited for what’s coming next.
What are those next steps?
So since I’m a student—when I was applying, I wasn’t just applying against students but also people who had been working in the field as established PTs for many years—but since I’m a student, I need to wait until I pass my licensing exam before I can actually commission. Then after I commission, I’ll have to go to Officer Candidate School (OCS) for officer training, go to Basic Officer Leaders Course (BOLC) for more officer training, and then finally I’ll go to San Antonio, Texas, for medical officer training. That’s three different places to learn how to be an officer and how to be a PT in the military, and then eventually I will be stationed somewhere and start working.
Do you have any favorite memories or experiences from Temple?
It’s going to sound like such a cheesy answer, but I truly loved my time here at Temple. I loved being in the city and having so many new experiences to explore. I played soccer on Temple’s varsity team, and that was an amazing experience. I love to play at such a high level. I think that has also helped me to prepare for being a physical therapist in the military. I have some experience functioning at a high level, so I think that will help me better serve the soldiers that I work with. Being a part of that team aspect was so awesome, and I’m looking forward to being part of a team again when I’m in the Army.
What do you do in your free time?
I love sports, so if friends are getting together to play sports, I’m in. But since I ended soccer I started training and competing in MMA. I do jiu-jitsu, which is groundwork and grappling; muay thai, which is similar to kickboxing; and I do MMA, which puts them together. That’s been my new love and passion since graduating and ending soccer.
Taylor Matsinger received her Doctor of Physical Therapy from the College of Public Health in 2019. She is one of a select group of individuals accepted to serve as a physical therapist for the U.S. Army. Check out all of the Public Health in Focus portraits so far.