#WCW: Yusra Iftikar, #DPTstudent at Duke University, Blogger

We at Talus Media have bounced off of the Social Media trend with a #WCW (Woman Crush Wednesday) Series of our own. Our goal is to highlight SHE-roes in the field who strive for success and community outreach! This week, guest writer Jasmine Marcus, PT, DPT, brings us this fantastic interview with Yusra Iftikhar, DPT student, blogger extraordinaire. Yusra has her bachelor’s degree in psychology from UNC Chapel Hill, her Master’s in physiology from NC State, and is a current DPT student at Duke. Check out her writings over on The DPT Diaries:

“I promise to document an honest tackling of mental health issues as I personally pursue a doctorate degree in physical therapy. I want to show how issues of mental health, most noticeably depression and anxiety, are so relevant in my pursuit of a career in PT.”

    1. Tell us a little about yourself.

    Hi there! I’m a first-year physical therapy student and am loving the field more and more every day. I’m the oldest of 4 and it’s hard to be away from my family while I’m at school, but I feel a huge sense of accomplishment and gratitude when I can take what I learn in class and use it to give suggestions to help my family to better their own lives. I’m also a writer and blogger for my own site (The DPT Diaries), the NCPTA SSIG blog, and my work has been featured on various blogs on topics including eating disorder recovery, imposter syndrome, and getting into grad school. I was a guest on a podcast for the first time ever last year (available through The Pre-PT Grind!) As a second-year I will be co-leading the Diversity, Mental Wellness, Humanities, and Education SIGs/Clubs and I am so grateful to my program for allowing my friends and I to start the Mental Wellness Club. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

    1. Briefly, why do you want to be a PT?

    I grew up playing sports, so I was drawn to the medical field early on. I initially chose PT because I felt like it would allow me to remain in the sports field and to work with athletes to better their performance purely from a musculoskeletal standpoint. However, after sustaining a few long-term injuries, I began to understand the mental health side of physical recovery; I knew that as a PT I would get more time with my patients than some of the other health professions, so all of the pieces started to fall into place and eventually PT just made a lot of sense. Now, as a student, I make sure to consider the mental health side of things in every clinical and case study we encounter.

    1. You’re very active on social media. What do you enjoy about that?

    I like that social media allows me to be creative. I use Instagram more than any other platform because it gives me the most range to be innovative and play around with different themes and design. I’m no artist, but I do enjoy creative work and my sarcasm usually finds its way into my posts as well. And, of course, I really like connecting with other people who have goals similar to mine, PT and otherwise. Via social media, I “met” some guys I eventually worked with for a while, I met one of my favorite podcast hosts (who I later met at the NC Student Conclave, which was pretty awesome), and I met a bunch of PT and PTA students who I was also able to hang out with at the first ever NC Student Conclave; we went straight into conversation as if we’d known each other for years!

    1. What inspired you to start your blog?

    As someone who was seeking help for her depression and anxiety, I was often told, “You should journal!” I’ve never been one for journaling- I found that it hurts my wrist and the more I would write about what was on my mind, the more disorganized my thoughts would become. I knew I needed an outlet that would allow me to be creative but still serve as an effective stress-reliever. The more I wrote on my blog, the more I realized that my story might have some power; I started seeking out those who might benefit from my advice. As I continued on, I realized that I was looking everywhere online for some advice and insight into PT school (I started my blog one year before starting school) and couldn’t find anything. So, I thought, why not start my own? It has been a blessing ever since.

    1. I know mental health is very important to you. Can you talk about how that has affected your PT journey?

    I would say that the mental health side of medicine is the entire reason I want to be in PT. I really respected the physicians I shadowed before choosing PT, but I noticed that they didn’t seem to get much time with their patients, and I found myself wanting more. I understood that the medical specialties have so much variation in patient interactions and overall practice, but the more I shadowed MDs and DOs, the less I saw myself in that role. Maybe a little selfishly, once I started struggling with depression after hurting my ankle and losing the ability to do the things I loved most- teaching Zumba and running- I knew that I wanted to help anyone else who might be feeling the way that I did. Focusing on mental health really shapes how I approach every PT interaction. For example, I think I have a tendency to want to be lenient when a patient says they have not been compliant with their exercises because I know how many different factors might have gone into that. In the end, it’s all about balance, and that is something I’m still working on.

    1. What is the best part of PT school?

    I am going to sound like such a nerd, but honestly everything that I’m learning is the best part (my friends too! I love you guys!). I don’t have an exercise science background and I haven’t seen so much of this stuff before, even in my shadowing experiences. I learn so many new and mind-blowing things each day and then getting to apply those on exams and in the clinic is a lot of fun. Every day I feel more and more confident that I am in the right field, even though it wasn’t the field I started off pursuing.

    1. What is the worst part?

    That my family isn’t nearby. I get homesick often- I FaceTime my family every day- and because they are a solid 11-hour drive away, I don’t see them often. I do spend all of my breaks with them, but it can be a difficult balance between family time, schoolwork, and life otherwise.

    1. What do you see yourself doing after PT school?

    AHHH I don’t know!! We just chose our 3rd year clinical rotation sites a couple of weeks ago and I still feel like I have no clue where I’m headed. Eventually, I would really like to complete a faculty residency and teach, but I’m not sure what I want to do before that. I’ll have to get back to you on that one.

    1. What is it like going to both schools or arguably the biggest rivals in all of college sports?

    I’d argue that it’s the biggest rivalry in ALL of sports 😉 It’s amazing. I feel so blessed to have gotten to attend two college basketball powerhouses. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love college basketball- maybe a little too much for my own good sometimes- and I can now say that I have experienced a UNC/Duke game in both stadiums. UNC was my dream school growing up, and then while I was at UNC, I thought about what a unique experience it would be to attend the same game over again…just in a much different atmosphere (i.e. at Duke).

    Interestingly, I also attended North Carolina State University; I went to NCSU for my Master’s, so I hit all 3 major Triangle schools. One of my best friends did the same and calls it our “Triangle hat trick.” It has been a very cool experience, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I won’t say here who I cheer for these days on game day, but a quick peek at my social media should give it away.

    10 . Do you have any advice for other aspiring PT’s or PT students?

    PT has no one gender, race, body type, or personality requirement. If you want to be a PT, you can be a PT. I say that because I spent much of my first semester telling myself that because I didn’t “look” like the others in my class and because I don’t “look” like most PTs, I had no business pursuing the field. I realize now that those are feelings of imposterism due to being the only hijab-wearing woman in my program and those things are separate from my ability to be an excellent therapist. My professors and classmates have been very supportive, and that definitely helps.


Dr. Jasmine Marcus, PT, DPT is a physical therapist and writer. She graduated from Columbia University’s program in physical therapy and received her undergraduate degree in psychology from Cornell University. She has been quoted as a physical therapist in several national publications, served as a contributor to many physical therapy websites, and also edits PT application essays. Follow her on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram @JMarcusDPT, and check out her website.