A child of migrant farm workers, Mayra Ramirez Rubio, knew all about her parents’ physically demanding job. But, as a South Georgia high school student, she never dreamed her graduate degree in physical therapy (PT) would hit so close to home. She had never considered a career in physical therapy.
Neither Ramirez Rubio nor her parents had ever received physical therapy treatment.
The oldest child and first-generation college student, Ramirez Rubio initially intended to pursue a career in optometry. She graduated from Valdosta State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology. However, when a classmate shared an interest in a physical therapy career, Ramirez Rubio became curious and investigated the profession.
“After class, I asked, ‘What is physical therapy?’” she said. “I had taken a lot of anatomy courses and realized that I really enjoyed learning about muscles and how the body moves. That helped push me in that direction.”
Ramirez Rubio chose to attend Georgia State’s Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree program for cost and its diversity.
“Every time I looked up PT on Google or such, I really didn’t see a lot of representation of minorities, especially people of Hispanic or Latin American background,” she said. “In researching schools, I did notice a bit more diversity with students and professors in pictures, so that first drew me to Georgia State.”
Then when she researched the program further, she learned about Georgia State’s work with the Migrant Worker Health Program in Moultrie, Georgia. Every summer, second year DPT students visit South Georgia to treat farmworkers who often sustain musculo-skeletal injuries due to repetitive movements they perform as part of their work, motion injuries and provide guidance on how to avoid future injuries.
“That was a very big coincidence because I’m from Moultrie,” Ramirez Rubio said. “It piqued my interest and I thought I’d really like to go to [Georgia State] so I can do that as well.”
Her parents didn’t attend college but valued their children’s education.
“Growing up, school was very important. My parents stressed that I needed to do well in school because they did farm work for a long time and, of course, it doesn’t pay well.” Ramirez Rubio has photos of herself as an infant when her parents picked onions in Vidalia or strawberries in Florida.
Next June, Ramirez Rubio plans to make the trip home along with her fellow Georgia State DPT students and faculty to serve farm workers in her hometown. In the meantime, she is involved in work to increase diversity among the next generation of PT students and practitioners. As a member of the Georgia State PT Diversity Group, she serves as outreach coordinator, representing Georgia State in the national “PT Moves Me” program. This program educates and encourages minority students to consider a PT career, and Ramirez Rubio is the liaison between PT’s Diversity Group and “PT Moves Me.”
“My parents work in agriculture and people like them work very hard. They sustain injuries, but they don’t ever get them checked out. PT can provide aid and help. It’s one of the things that drew me to PT and I can see how those skills can apply to my parents and others in the community,” said Ramirez Rubio.
“It’s really interesting how these experiences all connected and brought me here. Growing up, I never knew about physical therapy. It wasn’t on my radar. And now I’m glad it was mentioned in a classroom.”
by Angela Arnold Go