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24-year-old will become WSSU’s first early assurance DPT graduate

Alexis McCrea is the first student to earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree through the Early Assurance Program. 

A year and a half after earning her bachelor’s degree from Winston-Salem State University, Alexis McCrea ‘17 will make history as the first WSSU student to earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree through the Early Assurance Program.  

McCrea, who earned her bachelor’s degree in May 2017 in exercise science, will receive her doctorate at a hooding ceremony on Dec. 13. There to watch her big moment will be her fiancé, Alex Sumner ‘17, who she met as a freshman in the honors program.  

The Early Assurance program, which launched in December 2015, offers guaranteed admissions to WSSU exercise science graduates who meet specific admissions requirements. The program allowed McCrea to start the doctoral program a year early, a semester before she had completed her bachelor’s degree.  

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In January, the 24-year-old will take the national board exam. She plans to become a pediatric physical therapist.  

Here are eight questions with … Alexis McCrea.  

What will it mean to you to become the first WSSU student to earn your DPT through the Early Assurance Program?  

It is an honor. This has been one of the most challenging experiences of my life, and I have overcome numerous obstacles along the way. I feel blessed and highly favored to know that God saw fit for me to be able to graduate at the age of 24 with my Doctor of Physical Therapy.    

As an undergraduate, you were a member of the Powerhouse cheerleading squad.  What cheer best describes your time at WSSU?  

The words to the cheer that best describes my time at WSSU are, “Don’t give in, fight till the end, just work! Until you get that, WIN.”  

What moments at WSSU stands out most?   

Receiving my Chancellor’s Scholarship is the one thing that has allowed me to have a list of opportunities to grow and explore all that WSSU has to offer. Being an active member of the honors program, a cheerleader, a Finer Woman of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., being admitted into the DPT program a year early are a few moments from undergrad that stand out. In PT school, I have had unique clinical experiences, a white coat ceremony, passing my comprehensive exam, finishing my last semester of class, and finishing my final clinical experience. Knowing that I am graduating in December as Doctor is an indescribable feeling that I believe will surpass my previous highlight moments at WSSU.  I am forever grateful for all WSSU has given me.   

Why did you choose to pursue a career in physical therapy?  

From a young age, I knew I wanted to work in the healthcare field. I have always been interested in the body, the way it works, and how it moves. A PT is a movement expert that has opportunities to impact people's lives significantly. I love the idea of being able to help people gain or regain the ability to move and carry out daily life, all while keeping myself fit and active.   

Why is diversity in healthcare important?  

WSSU’s DPT program makes a point to teach the students about cultural competence and awareness of health disparities in the community. This is essential because we live in a world that is increasing in diversity at exponential rates. The more diverse health care becomes, the better equipped we are as healthcare providers to understand the individual needs of patients that we will treat.     

What part of your educational journey has been the toughest?  

My first year of PT school was the most challenging year of my education. At the time, I was still technically an undergraduate student. I was still immersed in the undergraduate atmosphere while trying simultaneously to transition into doctoral-level coursework. I had to sacrifice a lot in my senior year to be successful in PT school.  

What advice do you have for students who may be interested in physical therapy?   

First, get some observation hours with a PT in your area to confirm this is the right profession for you. Your passion for the profession is what will keep you motivated to keep pushing through the inevitable adversity associated with the rigor of the program.   

Second, utilize your undergrad courses to practice different study strategies. Lots of students successfully make it through undergrad with excellent grades and minimal effort. PT school will likely not be that simple. Practice learning information in an interactive way. You need to know how to engage with the content in multiple ways. Work on gaining understanding behind why the body works the way it does instead of just memorizing facts. Your memorization skills alone will not promote long term retention of the information you learn in PT school.   

What person at WSSU has had the most impact on you and why?   

The person who has had the most significant impact on me is Dr. Mesia Steed. Dr. Steed was my on-campus advisor for Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. She is the epitome of Finer Womanhood and exudes that energy in everything she does. During my sophomore year, I connected with her, and since then, I have stayed close and gathered as much wisdom and knowledge from her as I could.  The Finer Woman that I am today and many of the leadership and professional skills I have gained over my matriculation at WSSU are attributed to the lessons she has taught me.    

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