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Athletic Training Graduate Pursuing Ph.D. in Physical Therapy

From the Office of Development & Alumni Relations

As we approach the one year mark of COVID-19, we spoke with TLU recent grad, Afsar Sunesara '19, to hear how he has managed to thrive during this difficult and challenging time.

What classes or professors at Texas Lutheran prepared you to pursue your Doctorate of Physical Therapy at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston?

During my time at TLU, I knew what my goal was after graduation, which helped me approach academics with a purpose. Taking classes that challenged me and the enthusiasm of my professors made school more enjoyable. Some critical classes that prepared me for UTMB have to be Dr. Perez’s Human Anatomy & Physiology course, Motor Learning with Dr. Helbig, and Theories of Strength Training with Coach Burnett. These are only a few courses of many that challenged me to approach academics from a different perspective and maximize my potential. Most importantly, the entirety of the TLU Athletic Training Education Program, and my four years of hands-on experience have positively translated into my studies at UTMB and given me a unique perspective of clinical applications. I am truly grateful for the education I received at TLU which was challenging, and taught me to be more disciplined with time management and optimize my study habits.

Afsar Sunesara '19
Afsar Sunesara '19

What are you studying? Why is this program of interest to you and what position or type of employment do you want to pursue after you complete your doctorate?

I am currently in my second year of the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at UTMB. I have not completely decided what route I want to take after I finish graduate school, but I am considering applying for a physical therapy residency program or seeking employment as a physical therapist.Studying topics related to kinesiology helped drive my passion for orthopedics and sports medicine. Having the ability to be involved in both after graduation is my goal. By holding athletic training and physical therapy credentials after I graduate, I will have options for pursuing different fields of PT and also be able to practice as an athletic trainer. Currently I am involved in an organization for Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy at UTMB where I get to focus on exploring opportunities in the field and networking with a variety of clinicians with a similar passion. Having these experiences further reinforces my desire to explore human performance.

What was a typical day like for you pre-COVID-19 at UTMB? How has COVID-19 changed your classroom interactions and your learning?

Before COVID-19, a typical day at UTMB involved me waking up very early to study for a couple of hours, before classes and labs. Then I would normally take a break from school and do something active like work out or play basketball, followed by more studying before winding down and reading before bed. My days aren’t like this anymore. With the presence of COVID-19 and transitioning to hybrid style learning, I rarely see my classmates that are not a part of my small lab group. Lectures are now recorded online or presented live via Zoom. Labs are more difficult to prepare for and we have limited exposure to lab activities due to the precautions in place for COVID-19. Learning is now even more dependent on the individual’s commitment to their studies and the utilization of learning styles that is beneficial for them. For me, this means being able to explain notes I took from a pre-recorded lecture and how to make them connect to how it will present in a clinical environment. It is difficult at times when you can’t ask questions or hear other students ask good questions during lectures because you miss the insight that would have been given from the professors. I very much miss interacting with classmates, having more in-person labs, and being in a traditional classroom environment. However, the professors at UTMB have done an excellent job of incorporating multiple resources for the students to use. They are also very responsive to email and active on discussion boards which makes asking questions a little easier. Most of all the professors seek feedback from the students to help structure our learning to what works best for us.

What advice would you give to current students and others in our TLU family?

For all the TLU students who are going through school under these circumstances, keep doing your best. Set a schedule for the day and set small goals to accomplish throughout the week to help you stay on task. Be proactive with your school work and utilize the resources available to you. Most importantly, stay safe and be healthy. Now more than ever, it is our time to play offense against COVID-19. Exercise and boost your immune system as another measure to protect yourself. Take care of your body by eating a nutrient dense diet and staying active. And of course, wear a mask and practice social distancing!