By Brooklyn Brown
Gabriella Ware, a second-year student in Western Carolina University’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Program, recently received the Scholarship of Excellence Award from the Association of Schools Advancing Health Professions.
The scholarship is granted to exceptional students from ASAHP member universities who excel in their studies and are on track to becoming leaders in their health profession. Ware has accomplished a milestone as WCU’s first recipient of the scholarship since its founding in 2013.
“What inspired me to go into physical therapy was the ability of physical therapists to be a teammate with their patient,” Ware said. “To help them overcome pain and injuries in a more natural way using the body to help heal itself through exercise and other interventions rather than necessarily having to rely on surgery or medication.”
Ware obtained her undergraduate degree in exercise science with a minor in Spanish from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. After taking some time off, Ware decided to return to the profession because of her love for helping people. “What I love is being involved with people in helping them make lifestyle changes, activity modification and offering an educational component to help them have more ownership of their own health and achieve and maintain independence.”
Lori Anderson, dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences, believes that Ware’s minor in Spanish is part of what makes her an exceptional student in the DPT program and a standout for the Scholarship of Excellence Award. “The students have a pro bono health clinic that they run through the department of physical therapy. She was a volunteer interpreter because she’s bilingual,” Anderson said. “That is very important to have; She is very instrumental there.”
Anderson also admires Ware’s passion for serving rural communities. “Something that was compelling to me and got at my core was that she really has a desire to serve in a rural community,” Anderson said. “She came from a rural community, a farming community, and has seen what rural life is all about. Sometimes rural patients are disadvantaged because they don’t have access like you would in an urban setting.”
Ware is from Minnesota but was drawn to WCU’s DPT program for several reasons. “The curriculum is structured differently than a lot of other schools with content first, and then clinical rotation. The affordability and cost effectiveness are huge. The location is beautiful,” she said.
Ware fell in love with the location before realizing she was in Catamount territory. “I actually drove through Sylva once during undergrad. I was tired of being on the highway so I took some side roads. Ended up driving through Sylva and thought, ‘Wow this is a cute town. It would be great to live here someday,’” said Ware. “Didn’t give it a second thought until finding out that Sylva is right next to Cullowhee where I am now going to school, so that’s pretty cool.”
After hearing Ware had received the Scholarship of Excellence Award, Anderson decided to surprise her in class.
“I never run into her, but that morning I just happened to run into her in the hall and she said ‘I saw I got the scholarship.’ She must’ve been looking for it on the website,” Anderson said. “So, I pretended I didn’t know and said, ‘Oh wow! Congratulations. I’ll have to catch up with you later.’”
In class that day, Anderson presented Ware with a check for the $1,000 scholarship.