Pre-dawn studying was commonplace for Shweta Gore for the past three years. So was eating eggs and toast for breakfast, cottage cheese and mixed nuts for lunch, and frozen burritos for dinner nearly every day during this period to save time. Her regimen since starting the UM-Flint PhD in Physical Therapy program in 2014 also included frequently stopping by a nearby library to study after a long day as a full-time clinical physical therapist.
"It certainly taught me time management skills," Gore said. "I quickly realized I had to create more hours in the day."
Gore's talents, drive, and determination paid off.
This semester, she became the first-ever person to earn a PhD from UM-Flint. She successfully defended her dissertation on the UM-Flint campus in September, and started teaching at Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions in early October as an assistant professor of physical therapy. Her dissertation was titled "Subjective Assessments of Physical Therapy in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease." This disease is also known as COPD.
"It was an incredible feeling knowing I earned a PhD, but knowing that I am the first student to have earned one at UM-Flint makes me feel even more excited," said Gore, who plans on attending the December 17 commencement ceremony.
The PhD in Physical Therapy program, the only such program in the state of Michigan, started in 2014. This minimum three-year program is designed for individuals whose long-term career aspirations are to teach and perform research.
Gore's husband, Devashish Tiwari, is currently a student within this PhD program at UM-Flint.
The couple were frequent study partners during the past three years.
"We had this mutual understanding of what the other was going through," Gore said. "He was able to read my papers and give me feedback, and I would do the same for him."
Gore started taking courses at UM-Flint in 2012 and earned her transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy degree in two years.
During her time at UM-Flint, Gore had one peer-reviewed and one non-peer reviewed manuscript accepted for publication, disseminated her work through two peer-reviewed platforms and twelve poster presentations, received two awards for her excellence in research, and received research funding through one grant.
Faculty at UM-Flint played a key role in her success, Gore said.
UM-Flint Associate Professor of Physical Therapy Jennifer Blackwood was a mentor, Gore said, who taught her about the world of research, including rejection.
"I remember when my first case report that I submitted to a journal was rejected within a week. I was extremely disappointed because I had put a lot of effort into it outside of regular course work. She advised me not to look at the reviews immediately and to wait on it for a week so I could look at the reviews more rationally. To this day, I follow her advice when I am faced with a failure, because it is difficult to think and reason with a clear mind when you are emotionally attached to something."
UM-Flint Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy Bara Alsalaheen was another example of supportive faculty, Gore said.
"He played a pivotal role throughout my time at UM-Flint, by helping me with problems of research, encouraging me to publish, and being a constant source of support at times when I felt low and discouraged with the process," she said.
Professor Blackwood said Gore practiced excellence at UM-Flint.
"It has been my honor to mentor Dr. Shweta Gore while she was a PhD student in our program. Her dedication to excellence serves as the foundation to the high caliber of her scholarly work," Blackwood said. "The academic community, as well as older adults with COPD, will benefit from her work for years to come."
Gore said her experience at UM-Flint prepared her for her career, including her role as a professor.
"The courses offered at UM-Flint, including various aspects of research and statistics, clinical specialization and teaching methods, focused on all-around development to begin a career in academia," she said. "I was well-prepared to take a geriatric specialty exam after taking courses at UM-Flint. Courses in statistics greatly helped me to understand and build my research focus, and the courses on teaching were really an added advantage to build my portfolio. This really helped build my CV. By the time I graduated I had attended and presented at conferences, learned the process of publication, and also had my own teaching portfolio built, which was greatly appreciated at job interviews."
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