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Student Spotlight: Jeannette Guillen

Jeannette GuillenJeannette Guillen
Physical therapy doctoral program

Kingston, Rhode Island, is a long way from Brownsville, Texas. But for Jeannette Guillen, a first-year doctor of physical therapy student, the journey she and her family made from Mexico to Texas when she was in grade school felt like an even bigger leap.

“It was confusing. I knew just a few words in English,” Guillen recalls of her first days as a fourth-grader in America.

Bilingual classes gave her the language skills she needed, her parents encouraged her to aim high, and Guillen was soon on the honor roll. She then began playing sports, which sparked her interest in physical therapy. During high school, Guillen played softball, basketball and volleyball and had her share of minor injuries. “If you got injured, you went to the trainer who told you ‘don’t move your leg,’” she recalled. “That’s the opposite of what you should do.”

Guillen received her undergraduate degree in exercise science at the University of Texas, Rio Grande, and then applied to URI’s physical therapy program in the College of Health Sciences, part of the Academic Health Collaborative. “I got an interview and came to visit and really liked the program,” she said. “The students seemed really happy.”

She was accepted and arrived last summer, finding it difficult at first to adjust to another strange landscape, this time without her parents and sister. “It was kind of rough, but once school started, things fell into place,” she said.

Guillen particularly enjoys the interprofessional education opportunities available at community clinics where she joins nursing majors and Brown University medical students. “You learn what each professional can bring to the table for the best outcome,” she said.

And this summer she will spend two weeks as a physical therapy intern with the DC United Major League Soccer team in Washington, D.C. Guillen said her personal and academic journeys have taught her that you don’t need to be the smartest person in the room to succeed. “Just work hard; persistence is pretty much the key to everything you do. Don’t give up,” she said.

After she graduates, Guillen hopes to return to south Texas to work. “I’d like to give back to the people who helped me get to where I am now,” she said.

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