Samantha Smith, BHK-O’15, MPT’18

Competing at the Olympics has been one of Samantha’s goals for a very long time and her dream becomes a reality this year. Learn about how her UBC MPT degree set her up for success as she heads to the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics competing in trampoline gymnastics.

Who do you work for and what is your job title? 

I work as a physiotherapist. I work in private practice at a clinic called East Vancouver Sports and Rehabilitation clinic. I also work as a community physiotherapist with Vancouver Coastal Health.

What drew you to pursuing a Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) degree at UBC?

I was drawn to the field of physiotherapy because I love sport and activity. Therefore, I wanted to work in a capacity where I could enable others to live healthy active lives. I completed my undergraduate degree at UBC Okanagan. I had a really fantastic experience, and so I wanted to stay at UBC Vancouver to complete my Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) degree.

What is one thing that you are taking with you from your experience in the MPT program?

I am taking with me a great crew of colleagues! Physiotherapy school was a team effort. With my classmates, we practiced our techniques on each other, supported each other, and shared resources and strategies to succeed. We formed really strong bonds and post-graduation have maintained a close network of competent physiotherapists.

What did you enjoy most about the program or what is your favorite memory from your time in at UBC?

Samantha competing at the Pan American Games where she won gold in the Trampoline Women’s Individual event. Photo courtesy of Samantha Smith.

My favorite memory from my degree is from my clinical placement in Prince George, BC. It was a really amazing chance to get to know my classmates, and to really feel integrated in the community. There were about 5 UBC students at various clinics and hospitals in the city, and we explored places like Powder King and Jasper together on our weekends. I lived with a really great family who was absolutely wonderful to me. The clinicians at my placement went out of their way to include me in after-work activities. The faculty in Prince George had all the students over for dinner. The local gymnastics club was also really welcoming and lovely. Plus, I got to take my classmates to drop-in gymnastics and share my love for the sport with them! It was my first time living in a smaller community, and I had a really fantastic experience.

What is one piece of advice you have for students entering the MPT program?

My one piece of advice would be to be to keep an open mind regarding your clinical placements. I remember poring over the list of placement options, really hoping I got my top choices.  On multiple occasions, I was matched with placements that were not even on the list. These turned out to be some of my best experiences. The field of physiotherapy is so wide! Though many of us come into the program with a strong idea of where we would like to work afterwards, it is critical that we be open to all the possibilities.

As you look ahead, what (or who) inspires you?

My teammates inspire me! This past year has been a rollercoaster in the gym. We have faced many challenges imposed by COVID-19. We also had additional challenges with finding a facility after we lost our gym in New Westminster; the roof collapsed during a snowy winter in my first year of grad school. Through it all, my teammates have continued to show up and support each other. We have become really close friends this year. They have inspired me to do my absolute best here in Tokyo, and to keep working hard in the gym when I get home.

Name one thing on your bucket list. Have you completed it?

Competing at the Olympics has always been on my bucket list! I am so fortunate to be able to check this one off here in Tokyo!

What are you doing at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics? 

I will be competing in the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics. My discipline is Trampoline Gymnastics. We compete on July 30th (July 29th in Canada).

Samantha being welcomed at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics. Photo courtesy of Samantha Smith.

How did your experience in the MPT program prepare you for working with Olympic athletes? 

My clinical experiences at UBC have taught me many valuable skills. For example, my placement at the Vancouver Sports and Physiotherapy clinic taught me really great techniques, but also helped me build local connections in the sport physiotherapy community. My preceptor there actually recommended me to the sports clinic where I currently practice.

What does it mean to you to be able to compete in the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics?

For me, competing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics shows me exactly what I am capable of when I persevere. My original life plan involved competing in the 2016 Olympics before starting graduate school that fall.  When I failed to qualify for the 2016 Olympics, I kept training during my degree, and now have the opportunity to compete here in Tokyo!

What else do you want to add about your experience? 

I am thankful for the opportunity to have completed my schooling at UBC! Nestled between Wreck beach and Pacific Spirit Forest Park, UBC was a beautiful setting to complete graduate school.

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