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An Accelerated Path for This Future Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist

April 2, 2024

As the oldest sister of six kids, Stephanie Morel grew up caring for her siblings and other members of her close-knit Dominican family.

Stephanie Morel seated next to skeleton

“I was born and raised in a little neighborhood in Brooklyn called Bushwick. My mom’s side of the family had a history of cardiovascular disease and orthopedic problems, like knee and back pain. Living in a third-floor apartment, my aunt, grandma and a lot of family members had to go up and down the stairs every day, and it took a toll on them,” Morel said.

Her experience taking care of her loved ones and watching them battle medical issues was what sparked Morel’s interest in pursuing a health care career. As a teenager, she was conflicted—torn between wanting to be a nurse and wanting to be a doctor. She began looking at nursing and medical school programs in New York.

“Then, in high school, I took a two-year, international baccalaureate course in sports exercise and health science. I learned a lot about sports science, anatomy and physiology of sports-related injuries. From there I developed a love for the physical therapy (PT) profession,” she said.

Morel is now enrolled in Drexel University’s BS/DPT Bridge Program for Physical Therapy, a concentrated track that will enable her to complete her undergraduate and graduate programs in six years, instead of seven. First, she’ll pursue her Bachelor of Science (BS) in Health Sciences. Then, as long as she meets all requirements, she’ll continue directly into the graduate program to earn her Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree.

“While students graduate with their BS after their fourth year, they actually start their graduate work in year four,” said Jodie Haak, PhD, chair of the Health Sciences Department.

“I’m someone who likes to academically challenge myself and take on new opportunities,” Morel said. “The idea of getting my foot in the door and starting earlier was what attracted me to Drexel.”

In addition to the accelerated structure of the bridge program, Morel was drawn to the flexibility the Health Science major offered and the fact that she can count on being granted an interview to the PT school after submitting an application to the program through the PT centralized system.

As a bridge student, Morel must complete a required number of hours shadowing professionals in her field of study. She did a physical therapy internship over the summer at New York University (NYU) with “very advanced and creative physical therapists,” accumulating over 100 hours of shadowing experience. Additionally, she shadowed experts at local Philadelphia clinics and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia during her first two years at Drexel.

Stephanie Morel seated holding bone model“I also studied abroad in Cuba as part of a two-week course under Drexel’s Dornsife School of Public Health,” Morel said. “We studied the community, Cuba’s health system, the economy and what factors affected public health. That was one of my most memorable accomplishments so far.”

As someone who loves to travel and explore new cultures, Morel hopes to take advantage of additional study abroad opportunities while at Drexel.

Going to school in Philadelphia holds personal meaning for Morel, who lived here for a short time as a baby. Her younger sister, who was born in Philly, currently attends college in the city, and several other family members live here as well. Morel also spoke about the professional advantages of choosing Drexel.

“Going to a program in a city that’s a hotspot for other medical institutions, such as Jefferson, Penn, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and others can definitely benefit students who want a diverse experience. We’re in a city with tons of different clinics, and that exposure and accessibility can really help someone make the most of their undergraduate experience by doing internships,” she said.

After completing her DPT graduate program, Morel plans to return to New York to look for a job. Drexel’s DPT graduate program has a high success rate: 100 percent of its students have passed the state board licensure exam since the program launched 43+ years ago, and 100 percent are employed within six months of graduation.

Morel’s long-term goals include opening a private practice that specializes in women’s health and wellness. After shadowing at a pelvic floor PT clinic, Morel is particularly interested in treating individuals with pelvic floor dysfunction. She has a passion for maternal and women’s health, especially in communities where women are part of an underserved demographic.

She pointed out that many women are uneducated about or unaware of medical issues, which makes them vulnerable to health problems in the future. Based on personal experience, Morel also recognized that others may not be able to access medical treatments due to a lack of accepted insurance or other socioeconomic barriers.

“It’s hard, especially for minority and first-generation families, to receive quality health care and education. I want to help close that gap in equity on the health care side,” Morel said.

By Abby Alten Schwartz