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Health Sciences Student Finds Her Passion in Physical Therapy

February 3, 2022

Undergraduate Health Sciences student Amy Kwok has already gained more valuable, applicable experience in health care and research in three years than many students do in their entire college careers.


  • Becoming a Patient Care Ambassador and shadowing physical therapists at Magee Rehabilitation.
  • Working on a qualitative study on chronic pain management among community-dwelling adults with dementia.
  • Conducting independent research to assess the relationship between dietary protein intake and sarcopenia from a national population-based cohort (NHANES).
  • Becoming a certified Emergency Medical Technician (EMT).
  • Completing a six-month co-op as a research assistant at Tridiuum.
  • Working as a student administrative assistant in the Pennoni Honors College.

As far as a career or a plan of study, when she arrived at Drexel University in 2019, Kwok only knew she wanted to pursue something healthcare-related. "I knew that the College of Nursing and Health Professions' Health Sciences department offered accelerated tracks in both physician assistant (PA) or physical therapy (PT)," she mentioned. The concentrated academic track option appealed to her, but her curiosity in physical function led her to select the BS/DPT Bridge Program. Amy Kwok, a Health Sciences student in the BS/DPT Bridge program standing in front of the Philadelphia Water WorksKwok will earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Sciences and Doctor of Physical Therapy degree in six years instead of the seven it usually takes. "I was really interested in physical therapy—I found that it connects my interest and fascination with human health, my desire to help people and improve their quality of life, and my appreciation for how movement really improves our well-being, both physically and emotionally," Kwok said.

A member of Drexel's Pennoni Honors College, Kwok is pursuing minors in exercise science and nutrition while also seeking out additional occasions to increase knowledge and understanding. She realizes how many paths PT offers, so when the COVID-19 virus disrupted academics, she found herself drawn to research. "I really wanted to find a way to stay engaged and learn more."

With limited in-person opportunities at Magee because of the pandemic, Kwok reached out to Annalisa Na, PhD, PT, DPT, an assistant research professor in the Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science, about helping with her research in developing non-pharmacological pain management strategies that would prolong physical function and mobility while aging in the community. Na was excited, like many research faculty, to have students curious about her work and welcomed Kwok's help. "Faculty genuinely want us to succeed," Kwok commented. "When you show them that you're driven and engaged in the work that they're doing, they'll collaborate with you on their projects."

In addition to her work with Na, Kwok developed an independent research project through Pennoni with Michael Bruneau, Jr, PhD, an assistant teaching professor in the Health Sciences Department. Culminating in a presentation of her findings at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine (MARC-ACSM) conference in 2021, Kwok embraced a personal growth situation it offered. Acknowledging a need to improve her confidence while speaking or presenting publicly, Kwok pushed out of her comfort zone this time by opting for the oral instead of a poster presentation. "I wanted to challenge myself," Kwok admitted, adding that "learning how to communicate my work, trusting myself and applying what I learned are important skills to practice, especially for my professional career."

Kwok had other possibilities to discover various aspects of health care. Drexel University is well-known for its cooperative education program and the opportunities it affords students to gain hands-on experience while getting paid as employees. Kwok is doing her co-op outside of physical therapy. She is a research assistant at Tridiuum, a digital behavioral health company in Philadelphia dedicated to advancing the treatment of behavioral health conditions. "While my positive experience here has allowed me to build professional skills, it also provided me with a unique perspective of how behavioral health and physical health interact and integrate"

 A group of students including Nicholas Eltman and Amy Kwok, Health Sciences students, and professors Michael Bruneau, PhD and Steve Vitti, PhD, at the MARC-ACSM conference.
Nicholas Eltman and Amy Kwok, Health Sciences students, with professors Michael Bruneau, PhD and Steve Vitti, PhD at the MARC-ACSM conference.

Kwok, who grew up in nearby Cherry Hill, NJ, shared the university's campus in the heart of the vibrant city of Philadelphia was part of the reason she chose Drexel. Living in the fast-paced city has not only helped her learn to manage her time better, but it is also home to numerous health care companies, providers and clinicians, centers of excellence and research facilities.

"I like the convenience of having everything within the area," she observed. "It also opens up so many opportunities to find my passion."