HealthProfessional SpotlightSpotlight

After experiencing the magic of rehabilitation in high school, Vikash Sharma decided to pursue a major in Exercise Sports Science. Vikash went through many years of schooling and a residence experience that ultimately led him to open up his own physical therapy practice, Perfect Stride. As a runner, Vikash has first-hand experience with what his patients are going through, and he and his team work hard to help their patients fully recover.

Vikash gave Carpe Juvenis an exclusive look into his business, his top running tips for preventing injury, and why meditation and exercise are the keys to maintaining his happiness.

Name: Vikash Sharma
Education: Major in Exercise Sports Therapy and Minor in Philosophy from Elon University; Doctor of Physical Therapy from The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences; Orthopaedic Residency at Temple University
Follow: Perfect Stride Physical Therapy / @PerfectStridePT

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Vikash Sharma: Seizing your youth is about taking risks and understanding that there is plenty of time to learn, grow, and recover. As you begin to move further into your life, these opportunities to take risks diminish as responsibilities and commitments take priority.

CJ: You majored in Exercise Sports Science and minored in Philosophy from Elon University. How did you decide what to major and minor in? 

VS: My decision to major in Exercise Sports Science came due to the fact that it was the degree that would allow me to fulfill the most pre-requisites for Physical Therapy School. It was a decision that I had made fairly early in my undergraduate career due to the numerous hours that I had spent rehabilitating various injuries in high school. I just loved the casual atmosphere and positive interactions that I had with my Physical Therapist (PT). It always remained in my mind as a career option.

My minor came as a result of wanting to delve into something that I didn’t have much prior experience with. After I took a few classes, I couldn’t stop. It made me think differently and opened up my mind to looking at the world in a new light.

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CJ: You also received your Doctor of Physical Therapy from the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. What inspired you to go back to school to receive this degree?

VS: It was something I had known that I wanted to do since selecting my major in undergraduate. Working with my PT in high school and seeing how they were able to spend quality time with each of their patients and really unravel the mystery that is each and every person’s body sparked an early interest in me.

CJ: You were an Orthopaedic Resident at Temple University. What were your experiences as a Resident like?

VS: They were amazing; coming out of my doctoral program I had a great scientific and theoretical understanding of what should happen. However, as we all know, that’s not how things always happen. This is where the residency experience was extremely helpful. It bridged the gap between being a novice clinician without any direction and guidance and being a skilled practitioner who is able to recognize various patterns and draw upon clinical experience.

CJ: You co-founded your own physical therapy practice, Perfect Stride Physical Therapy. What does your role as physical therapist entail, and how do you balance those duties with your role as co-owner?

VS: My role as physical therapist entails working with my patients to help them return to their optimal level of function; essentially get them moving as well as they possibly can. I do this through careful assessment of each individual’s unique body structure and ability to move. Based on these findings a plan of care specific to that individual’s need is developed.

These duties as a physical therapist are balanced with my duties as a co-owner through very careful planning and execution with my team at Perfect Stride. We all work very well together towards ensuring that our clinic remains at the forefront of physical therapy practice and is running efficiently. My business partner Daniel Park, our office manager Austin Shurina, and our Director of Operations and physical therapist Joseph Lavacca are all to thank for the success of Perfect Stride.

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CJ: You specialize in sports rehabilitation. Why is this topic of interest to you?

VS: As a youth I spent a great deal of time participating in a number of sports and with this love for sport came injury upon injury. Spending time in physical therapy for sports rehabilitation piqued my interest in this specialty early. I was always fascinated with the human body and how it is able to heal from injury and bio-mechanics.

CJ: What have been the greatest lessons you’ve learned in opening your own physical therapy practice?

VS: As cliché as it sounds, you have to be willing to take the risk to make your dreams come true. I have always known that I wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps and open my own business. However, moving outside of your comfort zone and taking a risk on something that isn’t guaranteed takes a lot of passion and dedication. Looking back, I can say that it has been one of the best risks that I have taken in my life thus far. It has opened countless doors for me and also changed my personality for the positive as I am much more confident stepping outside of my comfort zone.

I have also learned that you have to be a salesman, you have to always be looking for opportunities to further yourself and your business because they arise with each and every interaction that you have.

CJ: You have been an avid runner for most of your life. For those who are interested in running and preventing injury, what tips do you have?

VS: Most of the running injuries that I see walk through my door are a result of not allowing the body to adapt to the loads that are put on it (doing too much too quickly). The body has an amazing capacity to heal stronger than before. However, many people are too eager to get running and don’t acclimate their body to the loads and stresses appropriately.

Cross training also comes along with this adaptation process. By properly training your tissues under loads similar to or greater than what running demands on the body (forces up to 2.5 times that of ones own body weight), you are conditioning your tissues for success. Coupled with a proper nutrition plan, training schedule, recovery plan (the most underrated aspect of training in my opinion), and equipment, you are laying all of the groundwork to ensure that you are setting yourself up for success and avoiding a trip to see me for a running related injury!

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CJ: What is your favorite running shoe?

VS: Saucony Kinvara – I love the heel to toe drop and feel of these shoes.

CJ: What is your favorite running warm-up?

VS: I have a few depending on the situation but I like this one presented by Dr. Mark Cucuzzella.

CJ: Every day in your life must look different depending on your projects and the time of year, but what does a Monday look like for you?

VS: Before I even get the chance to step out of bed I am usually responding to emails and planning the day. My mornings are usually a mix of breakfast, making phone calls, working out, running errands, answering more emails, and getting into work.

CJ: What should a young adult who wants to be a physical therapist do now to set him or herself up for success?

VS: I would highly suggest gaining some experience as a PT aide or getting some observation hours under your belt at an early age. I would also recommend looking at particular schools’ pre-requisites for admission as they can vary from school to school. Make sure that you are covering all the necessary courses during your undergraduate studies.

CJ: What are some books, resources, and websites that have influenced you – either personally or professionally (or both)?

VS: In terms of professional resources, there definitely isn’t just one. I can’t stress the importance of communication and consultation with my peers. Getting a better idea of how others think and gaining perspective on the bigger picture has allowed for me to grow infinitely as a practitioner. This, along with getting my hands on any text or web-based resources that are evidence-based, have gone a long way in my growth as a practitioner.

CJ: When you’re having a bad day, what do you do to reset?

VS: Meditation and exercise are the keys to maintaining my happiness. My meditation practice is mainly based around focusing on and controlling my breathing. I have had some formal training in Buddhist meditation; however, my practice comes largely from what I have found to personally work best for me over the years. I have always found that getting in a strenuous bout of exercise is a great physical and mental reset; it makes me feel more alert, increases my energy levels, and most importantly gets my body moving!

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CJ: What are you working to improve upon – either personally or professionally – and how are you doing so?

VS: Personally – I am always looking to be decrease stress in my life and this is something that I heavily rely on my meditation practice to help me with, in addition to remaining physically active.

Professionally – Currently my focus is on learning more about what I can do to get all of my patients moving and feeling better than they ever have. This is done through taking continuing education courses (that we also host at Perfect Stride) and reading as much as I can possibly get my hands on.

Another big goal professionally is growing Perfect Stride Physical Therapy to better service the needs of our patients. This is accomplished through patient feedback and careful planning and trouble shooting with the rest of the team.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

VS: I would tell my 20-year-old self that failure is an option, failure is acceptable, and that failure is welcomed with open arms just as long as it is learned from. There have been countless instances where my fear of failure has stopped me from doing what I wanted in my youth and now looking back on those instances I can say if I had taken the risk I would have either succeeded and/or learned a great deal from whatever endeavor I pursued.

Vikash Sharma Qs

SpotlightYouth Spotlight

Every year a handful of students are accepted to the George Washington University’s Seven-Year B.A./M.D. Program. What that means is that seniors in high school who know that they want to attend medical school after earning their undergraduate degrees apply to this highly selective program and earn both degrees in a shortened period of time. We know, it’s pretty crazy-impressive. We had the opportunity to sit down with Chris Payette, a member of this program, recent GWU undergrad alum, and current first year GWU Medical School student. He gave us the low-down on what it takes to get academic work done while balancing work responsibilities and personal time. While it’s no easy feat, Chris somehow manages it all and does it with a genuine smile on his face. From sharing his successful-study-secrets to details about his semester abroad in South Africa, Chris is without a doubt seizing his youth and making the most of every opportunity.

Name: Chris Payette
Age: 21
Education: B.S. from the George Washington University Columbian College of Arts and Sciences | The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences
Follow: LinkedIn

Carpe Juvenis: How would you define “Seizing Your Youth”?

Chris Payette: Doing whatever you need to do right now that will set you up to be doing what you want to be doing later, whether it’s in the immediate now or in the future. So for me I think it’s much more for the future. Obviously right now I don’t necessarily want to be spending all of my time in the library studying, but – and I know this might sound slightly morbid – it’s a means to an end.

And also to make time for yourself and your friends and family. When you’re trying to make things the best for you, sometimes you don’t necessarily think about the whole picture, and other people’s happiness. But I think that it’s important to make time for the people you care about.

CJ: You knew from a young age that you wanted to study medicine, but what would you say to someone who doesn’t know what his or her passion is yet?

CP: Do everything. I do everything and it’s interesting because even though I’m in medical school I feel like there are so many other things I could do and be totally happy with. And it’s nice to know that even though I have a set path, there are so many other things I would be super happy to do. I’ve worked at restaurants for a while now, and I know that if anything ever happened with the medical stuff I would be happy waiting tables. I think that not having a diverse experience limits you. By trying a little bit of everything you can find what you like, and if you don’t know yet then you should keep trying everything.

CJ: What tools do you use to keep yourself organized and on track?

CP: Notability. iCalendar. Honestly so many. I try to reevaluate where I’m at and where I need to be at the end of every day, just so I can know where I am for the week, where I am for the month, where I am for my next exam, where I am for the next social event I want to go to. For example if I have a lot of friends in town and I know that I’ll want to set aside Saturday and Sunday to just see people, I’ll do extra schoolwork during the week based on how my overall schedule looks.

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CJ: How do you prepare for medical school exams?

CP: First I go through all of my lecture notes individually. I compile all of the “learning objectives” from each lecture and sort them into files based on what I think would be best to study together. Then I go through each learning objective and I add in everything pertinent from the lecture into one lengthy document. I include images as well. I go back to that document about two weeks before an exam and transcribe that onto one hand-written page. That page is what I use up until the exam to study – I really condense the information.

I use so many tools for this process – my suite of Microsoft tools, my Apple tools, my favorite Sharpie fine point pens and white printer paper. I just started using this system in med school and it’s been going really well. It’s good because it makes me first synthesize the data, and then condense it and get the most important pieces from it. That study sheet is when I really have to master the material, because one sheet can take one to two hours to make. A lot of it is just planning.

CJ: You went into college knowing that you would also be going to medical school – did you ever have moments of panic/anxiety about that decision? How did you overcome that?

CP: I get really excited about things. So there will be times when I get excited about one thing and think “I want to pursue that! That should be my job!” And knowing that it wouldn’t be, since I was already accepted into medical school, was weird sometimes. I went into high school in a magnet science program, so basically by eighth grade I was already committing to medicine. Which is good because I’ve always known that this would be my path, but it’s also challenging to think that in undergrad had I not already been accepted to medical school, might my path have totally changed?

I think for me personally it’s good that I have that structure, and I think that at the same time it gave me the freedom to have those moments of exploring other things because I knew that once I was in medical school I would have required responsibilities. So for example my research in undergrad was totally unrelated to medicine, my jobs were unrelated to medicine, volunteering was not clinical at all. I didn’t do one clinical thing at all in undergrad. So I had that time and ability to purposefully explore while I had the opportunity.

CJ: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

CP: Wow, I don’t know. That’s tough. One big thing that has always stuck with me is that my dad always tells me that regardless of being on the medical track, I can still do whatever I want. I think that a lot of people are pushed in one way by their parents, but my parents’ professions are not medically related at all. So it’s nice knowing that if at any time I don’t want to do what I’m doing anymore, hearing that out loud from my parents has helped me feel a little bit freer. Just knowing that I can pursue whatever I want in my career has been very comforting.

CJ: What advice would you give to a freshman starting the same 7-year program you are part of?

CP: Do everything that you want to do. You’re already accepted to medical school, you have your future laid out, so right now is your time to travel and see your friends and family. It’s your time to make art, go outside, be able to do stupid things and ask for guidance. That’s another thing – not that there’s no guidance when you graduate, but when you’re in undergrad there are built-in systems of support to hold your hand and help you get through college. So seek help, get mentors. There are no office hours when you graduate. The only office you’ll get to go to once you graduate is your boss’.

CJ: How did you get involved with Street Sense as in intern?

CP: I took a lot of service learning course at GWU because one of the things that’s expected of you going into the medical field is to always have volunteer experience. I like doing service learning because it’s was a really easy way to integrate that into my life and schedule. During my last year of undergrad I took an urban sociology class and that’s how I got connected with Street Sense. From there we created a role where I was in charge of social media. So I worked not only with the people who sell the newspaper, but also with the administrative back end. I really liked it so I stayed a little bit longer after the semester ended and worked with them in a larger capacity. It was an amazing experience – you get to meet a lot of really interesting people when you’re working with the homeless community.

CJ: What is your favorite book?

CP: Rant: The Oral Biography of Buster Casey by Chuck Palahniuk.

CJ: Despite being in a shortened 3 year undergraduate program, you still made the time to study abroad in South Africa – what compelled you to make the choice and how has it influenced you?

CP: I went to South Africa the summer after I did a GWU orientation program. The summer had been a lot of DC and a lot of GWU. It just felt like too much. I needed to spend the semester away, so I applied to go abroad. And I decided very last minute – my parents mailed me my passport the week before applications were due. I really just needed a semester away to experience somewhere different and travel without doing it during the summer. I followed my instinct to go somewhere. I would go back in a heartbeat – I’m already trying. Certain programs at my school require you to travel and work abroad, so I definitely think ill go back at some point.

CJ: What does a day in your life look like?

CP: It depends. My schedule varies day to day because of classes. Some days I’ll go to class at 8AM and end around 6PM, even 8PM. Other days I have independent study so I’ll wake up, make a cup of coffee, sit in my living rom and study. I’ll usually stay after class in the library most days just to do a little extra. I also work at Cove because I can get work done, and at a restaurant some nights. I try to have most of what I’m doing planned out a few weeks in advanced.

CJ: What advice would you give your 17-year-old self?

CP: Start exercising now, because when you’re 21 your metabolism will stop. And also do whatever you want. But seriously, exercise. I took a health class freshman year and one of our assignments was to make a behavior change. Mine was to start running, and I’ve been running ever since.

Chris Payette Qs

CollegeEducationLearn

It’s never too early to start thinking about what you want to do after you graduate from college. Some people will jump right into the workforce directly after the college, but the rest of us are planning to continue our educational careers by going to grad school or law school immediately after we graduate. I know a lot of people might not want to think about the next phase of their journeys just yet but it’s important, if you haven’t already, to come up with a list of schools you want to apply to after taking the LSAT, the GRE, and for the future doctors out there, the MCAT. I’m not planning on taking the LSAT until June, but knowing what schools I want to aim for gives me an incentive to study hard so that I can get a good score on my test. We’ll talk about preparing for the test another day, but for now let’s stay on the topic of picking a school to attend.

For the most part, I already have my list of universities written down. This list used to be about a page and a half long but after thinking more about what I want out of a law school, I was able to narrow the choices down. For people who are considering going to graduate school, these tips can still be useful to you, especially if you have a long list and aren’t sure how to shorten it.

One of the most important things to be when making your list is realistic. Keep your GPA and the score you get on your test in mind when researching schools. For example, if I have a 3.0 grade point average and I score a 152 on the LSAT, I’m not going to chance applying to Harvard Law. This is mostly because I know that my grades and my test score aren’t high enough and it would be a waste of money to apply to a school I most likely will not get into. Since application fees aren’t cheap, being honest with yourself will keep you from going broke. I’m not saying that it is impossible for someone who has those scores to get into an Ivy League like Harvard or that they shouldn’t apply, but it’s much more realistic to look at schools that you can get into before shooting for the ones that are much more difficult to get accepted into.

You can easily find the test score and GPA range for all of the universities you’re thinking of applying to online. Just use Google or visit the university’s website and you’ll find all the information you need. Once you have all of that information written down and you’ve figured out what schools you could get into and which ones might be a little more difficult, now it’s time to weed out the right ones in that list.

Many people look at the rankings to determine which school is the best, but really, it’s up to you to make that decision for yourself. Only you know what you want out of the law, graduate, or med school you want to attend. If you’re not sure what it is you want just yet, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have a clue, it just means that you need some help figuring it out.

When thinking about law school, I initially didn’t know where I wanted to go. Then I started thinking about location. Where would I enjoy going to graduate school? Do I want to stay in my home state or try living somewhere new? Once I had a list of the places I wouldn’t mind living, I started thinking about the cost. Graduate school isn’t cheap, but there are some that are less expensive than others. You don’t have to shy away from the super expensive schools because, chances are, you can get scholarship money and grants to help you out.

This leads into the next thing you should look at when making your list – how much money in scholarships does the university give away each year? Once you’ve narrowed your list down by taking out the schools in the places where you know you don’t want to go and you’ve decided what schools are in your budget and offer the most scholarship money to its students, you can start looking into things such as class size, campus environment, programs offered, etc. If you’re going to law school, check to see if they have the clinics that you’d want, and if you know for sure you want to specialize in a particular law, research the classes they have to see if what offer will prepare you for your career.

Other things to consider that are really important are employment rates. Many universities provide information on where their graduates went on to work or if they got jobs at all. If a school has a high percentage of unemployed graduates, then that’s something that you’re going to have to think about. Really, I can’t tell you what school is best for you. Only you know how to answer that question. If you need more help, speak with an advisor and try to visit the schools on your list, if you can. Go to graduate, med, and law school fairs. Ask the university representatives questions and look at countless websites of different universities. It isn’t just the academics that makes a school good, but the campus environment is extremely important as well. If you want a school that’s huge or one that’s small, that’s something else to factor into your search. If you value approachable faculty members, diversity, or anything else you can think of, then take the time to find the schools that fit that criterion because those schools exist. In fact, they’re waiting for you right now. What are you waiting for?

Image: Brent Hoard, cropped

Culture

We are all afraid of making the wrong choice and it doesn’t help that we constantly have our family and friends telling us what we should or shouldn’t do. When we have so many people giving us advice, how do we ultimately decide what to do with our lives? This question is one that has been asked many times and, because of that, there are so many answers. However, the only one that comes to mind is to take the road less traveled.

This advice is not my own, of course. But if you’re familiar with Robert Frost, then you have read his poem ‘The Road Not Taken.’ It’s a short poem that is seemingly about someone who comes across two paths in the woods, but one of the most magical things about poetry is that it can be interpreted in many different ways. With that said,  when the narrator in the poem says that he (or she) “took the road less traveled by,” I immediately think of the unknown, and how scary it is to do something that no one else you know has done before or to go somewhere where no one you know has gone.

Some people push through the fear of the unknown and open themselves up to an adventure, only to find out, in the end, that it “has made all the difference” in their lives, in the way that they look at life, etc. Then there are the people who are terrified to take their own path because they don’t have a shiny, crystal ball at their disposal. These are the people who don’t do what they want to do with their lives because they don’t know where their dreams will take them, but they do, for example, know where majoring in the major their parents choose or getting into the family business will lead them. They have these pre-planned maps laying in front of them, telling them which paths to take to get them to a destination and, for most people, that’s less-intimidating than not knowing where their life will end up.

But you have to remember that not all roads are straight; they wind and bend and sometimes things fall on them, blocking you from finishing the journey that you started. In other words, even with a life map, you can get misguided and led astray. You aren’t free from obstacles just because you’re taking the road that everyone else has traveled.

Life doesn’t simply go from point A to point B. There are so many other things in-between that prevent you from getting to B, and if B is not truly your desired destination, what is going to motivate you to get you there? Yes, it’s scary not knowing where you’ll be five, or even ten, years from now, but even with a ‘safe plan,’ things can go wrong and the future you thought you would have might not be the one you get.

No one is sure of what their future holds and that is why the only way to see your future is to get there. Don’t waste your time moving toward a future that you don’t really want because not only will it be harder to arrive at but you won’t be happy in the end. So think about where you want to be years from now and get there. It doesn’t matter where ‘there’ is, as long as you put all of your energy into reaching a desired destination instead of a destination that you know you don’t really want to reach.

If you want to go to medical school or visit every continent at least once, then make sure you take the road that will allow you to follow your heart because your heart is the only thing that matters when it comes to planning out the rest of your life. Your family and friends might say they know what’s best for you, but only YOU know what that is. And the greatest mistake that you could ever make is choosing to travel down a road where you’re not too fond of the destination. If you’re not happy about where your life is going, that is your heart telling you that you are heading in the wrong direction.

I know that following your heart can be just as terrifying as the unknown, but you don’t want to live a life of regrets; you don’t want to look back when you’re older and ask ‘what if.’ It doesn’t matter if people say that the journey to medical school is hard or if everyone around you thinks that experiencing the world is not as important as getting an education. You do what is right for you, not because it’ll make life any easier (because it won’t) but because you’ll be more motivated to reach the end of that road you chose to travel down. With your desired destination or goal in mind, you can achieve anything, be anything, and do anything you want with your life. The sky is not your limit, because there are planets above the sun and the moon and the stars. Yes, you will encounter obstacles. Yes, the road will wind and bend and, at times, it will be too dark to see what lies ahead, but as long as you remember to always follow your heart, it won’t ever lead you astray.

Image: Unsplash