Her first experience with PT was in high school when her club swim team worked closely with a physical therapist. Gioia had the opportunity to explore his clinic, and this sparked her appreciation for the benefits of athletic recovery and the teamwork and individual dedication that was valued in the field.
But although she appreciated the physical benefits of PT, Gioia didn’t truly understand another important aspect until she observed it firsthand. “It wasn’t until a loved one was diagnosed with M.S. that I realized how emotionally impactful physical therapy is for the well-being of those managing lifelong disabilities,” she said.
Gioia said she was drawn to PT because of the psychological aspect, where motivational tactics can change how a patient feels about their abilities. Through her major in psychology and minor in literature, she further explored the importance of psychological as well as physical healing.
“Most students entering a DPT program prepare through a science-only schedule, but through Hamilton’s open curriculum I was able to strike a balance for myself,” Gioia said. “Physical therapy requires high levels of empathy and strong communication skills, so a combination of psychology and literature classes was fitting to learn from an array of viewpoints.”
Through her four years at Hamilton, Gioia pursued a number of opportunities to explore PT careers. She shadowed a physical therapist at a local outpatient facility after her first year and volunteered at another outpatient facility the following summer. Last summer she worked as a physical therapy aide to finish up the hours she needed to apply for grad school. Gioia said these patient interactions further confirmed her dream to become a PT.
Along with the knowledge and expertise gathered through her courses and work in outpatient facilities, Hamilton also gave Gioia a newfound confidence. “I always thought because I was not the most outspoken girl I would not stand out as a prospective grad student. [But at] Hamilton, I learned how equally valuable being a good listener is. A successful friend, teammate, or student is constantly integrating information from others’ perspectives.”
Meredith Gioia ’22
Hometown: Charlottesville, Va.
High School: Northern Valley Regional High School at Demarest
Activities: Women's Swimming and Diving
After taking the “eye-opening” course Psychological Biases in the Criminal Justice System, she “began to consciously think about homologous systemic biases and barriers that need to be addressed in the PT field.” Gioia took her newfound confidence and turned toward advocacy, determined to correct the inequalities in the field.
Through its ties and proximity to the American Physical Therapy Association in Washington, D.C., George Washington University will allow Gioia to participate in advocacy issues while immersing herself in the GW community. Equipped with her expertise, confidence in her abilities, and understanding of both the physical and psychological healing process, she is ready to make an impact on the physical therapy field.