Julia Black always knew she wanted to become a physical therapist. Through volunteer and shadow experiences in physical therapy in her undergrad and graduate education experience, she learned the importance of skilled and respectful communication in providing high-quality, patient-centered care and felt a personal calling to help underserved populations. She graduated with a bachelors in Hispanic Studies at the College of Saint Benedict. In 2020, Julia was accepted and came to Briar Cliff University to earn her doctorate in Physical Therapy in Sioux City, IA.
She was attracted to BCU's hands-on approach to learning and volunteer community clinic experience. At Briar Cliff University, she was able to provide first-hand care under the supervision of licensed professionals at the Briar Cliff PT Clinic. The Briar Cliff community clinic is one of more than 100 such student-operated clinics across the nation. It provides care to patients ranging from injury victims to those coming back from a stroke.
During her first two years of classes and didactic work at Briar Cliff, Black helped found the North Central Regional Pro Bono Network Consortium. Under the auspices of the university, Black was the first foreign languages coordinator for the network, which takes referrals for residents of the region for whom English is not their native language – at no cost to those who do not have insurance or have exhausted their benefits.
“Our patient outcomes just went zooming as soon as people were heard and they got the care they deserved,” Black said. “The patients would spread the good news of our clinic to all their friends and family. We were seeing so many people and it wouldn’t have been possible if we didn’t have that language ability. Think if you went to a country where you didn’t speak the language right now and you had a problem and needed to fix it and you had no idea what people were saying. Does that mean you deserve any less care than someone else?”
In 2023, Julia Black was honored to be selected as the 2023 President of the American Physical Therapy Association’s Student Board of Directors. The American Physical Therapy Association’s Student Board of Directors board consists of elected members to serve as ambassadors for all student members to build a diverse and inclusive community that advances their profession and improves society’s health. Members come from all over the nation and serve as the leading voice of the profession, taking on multiple advocacy issues with government officials.
“I’m extremely honored to have been elected for national office,” said Black. “The American Physical Therapy Association student board of directors is built on service, and I am so thrilled to serve as President of the Student Board alongside such outstanding individuals! I would like to especially thank our program director, Dr. Cross, for his constant support and encouragement throughout the entire process,” adds Black. “I am so excited to represent Iowa and Briar Cliff University at a national level.”
And there will be a need for a lot more people like Black. Through the decade of the 2020s, employment for physical therapists is expected to increase more than 20 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s a much faster rate than most occupations and, nationally, will account for almost 50,000 new jobs. Considering they had a 2021 median annual pay of $95,000, the future could be quite rewarding.