2015 DPT Awards Ceremony Punctuated with Tears and Applause
At the 2015 Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Awards Ceremony, Margaret Plack, Ed.D., DPT, professor of physical therapy and health care sciences at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS), rhapsodized about the recipient of the Jean Johnson Award for Leadership, Excellence, and Quality.
“The individual selected this year certainly has distinguished herself among the leaders in many different ways,” Plack said, praising the student for her outstanding GPA and dedication to service. “One clinical instructor said, ‘Based on my assessment, I believe that she will bloom wherever she’s planted.’ Enough said. I have no doubt that she will bloom wherever she’s planted; the question is whether she will stay planted.”
With that, Plack announced the winner: Leanna Blanchard. As the audience applauded, Blanchard’s mother, Hallie Blanchard Rehwaldt, burst into tears.
“I was speechless,” she said later, beaming with pride. “I thought she should be winning something, but everybody clearly worked so hard. It’s so hard to pick one who stood apart at that level. It’s still a shock.”
Blanchard was equally surprised. “I knew I’d be inducted into the honors society [Alpha Eta], but I didn’t know about this,” she said. “I’m just happy. I’ve worked so much harder here, and it’s really paid off.”
Blanchard was one of several recognized at the May 15 ceremony. Another DPT heavy hitter, Megan Scovil, repeatedly made her way to the stage, accepting the Academic Excellence Award and posing for photos as an Alpha Eta inductee, the alumni relations representative, a research assistant, and a dedicated volunteer. Scovil later received the Alumni Association Prize at the Health Sciences graduation on May 16. Other DPT award recipients included Thea Musantry, who received the Clinical Leadership Award; and Brittne Jackson, Brittney Jorgensen, and Sarah LaBerge, whom the faculty awarded the Service Excellence Award. Daniel Alcorn, PT, DPT ’10, received the Outstanding Alumni Award, and Tera Jenkins, PT, DPT, center coordinator for clinical education at INOVA Mount Vernon Hospital, accepted the Outstanding Clinical Educator Award.
Midway through the ceremony, students took to the podium to honor those who led them and those who will come after them.
“This faculty member has been an integral presence since the very beginning of our journey,” said Kristyn Holc, accompanied by Blanchard. “Semester after semester, she has gone above and beyond to help us succeed and push us forward. Not only does she demonstrate excellence in supporting her students, but she also clearly demonstrates excellence in teaching and learning.” Like Blanchard before her, Plack descended to the stage, where she accepted her award to a standing ovation.
In “passing the torch,” as Class President Gina DeCaro explained, the Class of 2015 also decided to purchase white coats for each new member of the incoming freshman class as their gift to the school.
“The DPT Class of 2015 has achieved a 100-percent giving rate, the first time in SMHS history when every classmate has donated to their class fund,” said Sarah Klein, associate director of alumni relations at SMHS. “This generosity will provide white coats for the incoming DPT class. These new graduates have established a special connection to students about to begin their journeys as PTs at the time they themselves are formally entering the profession. This is a fantastic milestone and what alumni giving is all about.”
Looking to the future, DeCaro urged her fellow graduates to carry on their SMHS lessons of reflection and teamwork as they embark on new careers as highly qualified, well-educated professionals.
“This is an exciting time for us to enter health care,” DeCaro said. "As we begin our roles as physical therapists, our ability to create and maintain effective working relationships will make us leaders in driving a patient-centered, collaborative quality of care.”