SHU Student Receives Minority Scholarship from Connecticut Physical Therapy Association

News Story:

Chilean doctoral candidate boasts impressive record of professional and volunteer experience

Wishes came true for Sacred Heart University doctoral student Juan Morales this past spring. At the Connecticut Physical Therapy Association’s (CPTA) Spring Conference, he was awarded a Minority PT Student Scholarship.

“I was hoping I was going to get it, but you can only wish for these things,” Morales said. “When it happened I was really happy—I called all my family and my closest friends.”

Morales, 26, was born in Port Chester, New York, then moved to his family’s homeland of Chile later in his childhood. After attending two years of college in Chile, Morales moved to Connecticut in 2004 to continue his studies at SHU. He completed his Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science in 2006, and is now pursuing a doctorate in Physical Therapy.

“Juan is a hard-working, responsible young man, in addition to being a scholar of significance in the Physical Therapy program,” said Salome Brooks, a clinical assistant professor of Physical Therapy at SHU. “He valued coming back to the United States to complete his studies, did so without his family being around, and figured out how to negotiate the system and get himself into school. I don’t know how he did it, because even the folks who live here don’t know half the opportunities that are available.”

Morales’ international resume includes working as a physical therapy aide at San Martin Hospital, Coniquiem Burn Unit Hospital de Santiago and Sportsmedik Orthopedic Sports Medicine Center, all in Chile. Morales’ U.S. work has included serving as a physical therapy aide at Integrated Rehab Services and a wellness instructor at Crosby Geriatric Wellness Center (both at SHU), and volunteering for over 100 hours each at theBilingual Education Bridgeport Program and Habitat for Humanity Bridgeport. Concurrently, Morales has maintained a 3.9 college grade point average.

“Because he’s bilingual and because he’s lived in Chile, it’s not only a language advantage that he has, it’s a cultural advantage as well, in that he’s worked with South and Central American folks,” Brooks said. “He stated in his letter to the CPTA that he would contribute a solution to the problem of under-representation of bilingual minorities in the field of physical therapy. Less that 1.5 percent of licensed physical therapists are Hispanic, and less that 1 percent are black. So Juan recognized that he could contribute to making the field more diverse.”

Morales said that after he finishes his doctorate, he plans to work in the Bridgeport area either in geriatrics, neurological rehab or sports medicine, and that he’d also like to work with minority populations and in public health. “I plan to work here for a long time,” Morales said. “But eventually, in the future, I’d like to have a center in Chile similar to Gaylord Rehabilitation Center [in New Haven, Connecticut]. That’s my long term dream.”

Nominees for the $500 Minority PT Student Scholarship must be students in good standing at SHU, Quinnipiac University, University of Connecticut or the University of Hartford, or be a Connecticut resident attending a physical therapy program at an out-of-state university. The awardees are chosen based on scholastic achievement, professional involvement and community activities.