Left: CSUN DPT student and one of our 2017 Campanella/Dodgers Scholarship recipients, Margo Kwiatkowski. She told us she has dreamed of becoming a physical therapist since she was 15, and that even through difficult health challenges for members of her family, she was determined to continue living close to family while pursuing her DPT degree so she could always be available to help--even if that meant three hours of commute time to get to and from campus.
The twenty CSUN Doctor of Physical Therapy students who received scholarships from the Roy and Roxie Campanella/ LA Dodgers Foundations this spring were selected based on outstanding clinical potential in the CSUN Physical Therapy Program, leadership, cultural competency and performance, GPA above 3.2, and commitment to service.
One of the twenty was Margo Kwiatkowski, a longtime baseball fan who, along with her student colleagues, accepted her scholarship award at a luncheon event this spring. Kwiatkowski came to CSUN knowing about the Campanella/Dodgers scholarship and had heard about the fact that one recipient each year gets the chance to intern with the Dodgers. She has applied and is hoping for good news. But she is not one to wait idle. The “commitment to service” is ever at the forefront of her mind.
Kwiatkowski is focused on sports injury prevention and rehabilitation, and she is also interested in helping women to regain strength during pregnancy and after C-sections. “There are issues that are sometimes not addressed for women who have C-sections or other surgeries that affects the pelvic floor. Often, these patients are sent home with no PT prescribed.”
Service as co-president of the CSUN DPT Class 61 rounds out the academic side of her life. With an emphasis on student advocacy, her advice for new PT students entering the program is to get as much varied experience as possible. “Volunteer in different settings – if you’ve worked in outpatient for several years, get some experience in the hospital setting as well. But always be open minded when it comes to learning. Sometimes your experiences are different than the evidence based information you may be presented in class" she said. “And that is what I love about being in a doctoral program – as an undergrad you’re still learning the basics, but in the doctoral program you are asked to synthesize information to make your own clinical judgments.”
The discernment skills she uses in her academic life also help her keep life balanced between responsibilities on campus and at home. She shows dedication and heart wherever she goes.
She discovered this strength when she was just fifteen and a ski accident landed her in treatment with a physical therapist. At around the same time, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. With so much to manage, it was a kind gesture from her physical therapist that put everything into perspective for Kwiatkowski. Her PT offered treatments free of charge because the desire to see her get well was so strong. That’s when Kwiatkowski knew her career path. “I wanted to be Physical Therapist,” she said.
She went on to get her undergraduate degree in Kinesiology from Westmont College. Her mother went into remission and she and her high school sweetheart got married. “Early on in our marriage, a family member had a lot of health problems and for a while I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to continue my schooling, so we decided to settle down in a community near Ojai.” Kwiatkowski said she was determined to continue living close to family so she could always be there to help.
Once life stabilized, the next step was to apply to CSUN DPT—her first and only choice because of its reputation and the location. Taking a philosophical approach, she said, “I decided if God wanted me to get in, I’d get in.” She was accepted to the CSUN DPT program soon after.
The commute to and from Ojai is long—three hours each travel day. “But it’s worth the trip. When I go home, we have chickens, a cat, and a puppy who I’m training as a service dog. It is so peaceful, it’s my sanctuary,” she said. The Kwiatkowskis use their home to support to other PT students. “We rent out rooms to PT students from all over the country who do their internships in Ventura. It works out really well,” she said.
(Story and photo)