Ready to get inspired for your job, internship, or career search? Each month we will spotlight an OSU student that has inspired us when it comes to their career development. Check out their success stories—besides inspiration, they also show that academic major does not have to restrict your goals and that there are many ways to define success.

Want to nominate an OSU student or alum for the Student/Alum Spotlight series? Or do you want to share your own success? Then please fill out this quick form and Career Services will contact the person nominated.

Name: Tomoko Iwanaga

Major: Exercise & Sports Science- Pre-Physical Therapy Option

Year you graduated: August 2011

Graduate Program: Doctorate of Physical Therapy Program at George Fox University

1. Tell us about yourself.
If I were a food product, my label would probably say the following: made in Singapore, product of Japan, and distributed in the United States. I was born in Singapore and at the age of three, I came to the United States. My exposure to diversity continued as my parents taught Japanese and raised me in their unique traditions.

My initial interest in the health care field was when I took Human Anatomy when I was in high school. I was soon fascinated by the way our human bodies are structured and organized. However, at that point, I was not able to specify what I truly wanted to become within the broad health field. As a start, I decided to take the certified nursing assistant (CNA) class when I was a senior in high school. When I started to work as a CNA and exposed myself to diverse health careers, I noticed that I was especially interested in physical therapy. I fell in love with everything about physical therapy. I strongly believe that physical therapy has an immense amount of power and potential especially when it comes to quality of life. I consider physical therapy as a medical treatment without any side effects. It is a preventative care by introducing proper exercises and healthy life style to the patients.

Now that I am finally making a huge step towards my dream, I will do anything to become a “good” physical therapist: someone who is dependable and can serve the community. Further on, I am hoping to specialize in orthopedic manual therapy (OMT) and geriatrics. My dreams and desires never end. I am excited for this upcoming opportunity and to start a new chapter in my life!

2. How did you prepare for the physical therapy school application process?
To obtain first-hand experience in the health field, I started to work as a med aide and as a care giver at West Hills Assisted Living. Working as a med aide was a great turning point for me. I became more confident, professional, and able to handle stressful situations more easily. Such characteristics are something that I cannot learn from just sitting in the class and reading textbooks. I was also able to meet with wonderful supervisors, who wrote great reference letters and even conducted a mock interview with me. I strongly believe that the support from them helped me to prepare for the application process.

To further prepare myself, I also volunteered as a coordinator at Community Outreach. Community Outreach is a multifaceted human service organization that provides hope for people who are homeless and low income by offering a wide range of medical services, including physical therapy. The best part of volunteering at Community Outreach was to be able to observe numerous inspiring physical therapists. Unlike other internship settings, Community Outreach was more flexible and allowed students to get more involved with the patients.

I believe my working experience as a med aide at West Hills and volunteering at Community Outreach made my application more competitive.  Such experiences made me stronger as an individual and reassured me once again that a physical therapist is certainly what I want to become.

3. What advice do you have for others who are interested in applying to graduate or professional school?
Based on my personal experience, my biggest advice is to never compare yourself to others. When I got rejected to one physical therapy school last summer, I was extremely disappointed and confused. One of my friends who I helped with class assignments got accepted, and I did not. What about me was lacking? Feelings of jealousy, frustration, and all sorts of negative emotions took over me. The feeling of being left behind by my classmates and friends broke my heart into pieces. However, by taking a year off and working as a med aide, I have become more determined to pursue my dream.  Looking back now, I can understand why I did not get accepted. I only put effort to become a “better applicant” and that was not enough. I believe the biggest reason why I was accepted this year was because I focused on becoming a better health care provider to work with my future patients. Everyone has their own different ways to accomplish their dreams. Some people are capable to go straight to graduate school after college. And some people like me need extra time to fully prepare for their dreams. The pathway that you think is the longest and most difficult is actually the shortest route to accomplish your dream.

4. Did Career Services assist you anyway? If so, how?
“Nice to meet you, my name is Jen.” I can still vividly remember when I first met with Mrs. Jennifer Busick. When she reached out to shake my hands and smiled at me, I knew I found the right person. At that time, I was overwhelmed and insecure with everything- school applications, GRE, family, job, etc. I felt as if I was walking in the dark, not knowing whether there would be any light waiting for me at the end. To change the negativity, I decided to make an appointment with Mrs. Busick at Career Services. Mrs. Busick has everything one can ask for: great listening skill, sincere, genuine, caring, knowledgeable, and many more. She not only helped me for hours to polish my application essays, but she also bolstered my confidence. Lack of confidence was what I struggled with throughout my life. However, she completely changed my mentality when I met with her a week before my interview at George Fox University.

“I want you to be yourself,” she stated. “What makes you special from the crowd is that you never give up. Enjoy your moment and tell them that you REALLY want this.”

Two weeks later after the interview, I received an acceptance phone call from George Fox University. I can say with confidence that I would have not been standing where I am at without Mrs. Busick. She has changed my life! My wonderful experience with her taught me an imperative life lesson-as long as you never give up, there will always be a light of hope at the end of the tunnel.

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