BHM Women In Healthcare Spotlight: Breunica Grace, M.S., PT, DPT
Dr. Breunica Grace
IG handle: @bgrace21
If I had to sum up my journey thus far in one sentence, it would be “my head is bloodied but unbowed” from the poem Invictus, written by William E. Henley. Well, I am a 27-year-old Physical Therapist from Bossier City, Louisiana. I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology in 2012. After feeling like my GPA was not competitive enough for PT school, I decided to purse my master’s degree in Exercise Science which I obtained in 2014. From there, I took a 6 month break to stack my coins in anticipation to starting this journey to getting my Doctor of Physical Therapy degree, which I graduated with in 2017. I’ve been practicing for about 10 months now and it is everything I thought it would be, and then some. I am currently a Travel Physical Therapist, which means I take assignments in different cities/states for about 3-6 months at a time. Aside from having the option to choose the setting in which I want to practice, travel allows me to build on the foundation of knowledge I already have and improve my confidence to be able to treat in multiple settings.
Why did you choose your field?
I wish I had an interesting story for the readers as to why I chose my career, but I don’t. When I was a sophomore in high school, I had a friend whose dad was a Physical Therapist. I truly think he got tired of me asking a million questions about the profession and he invited me to come shadow at an outpatient clinic he owns. I’ll spare you guys all of the details, but needless to say, it was love at first sight. I whole heartedly believe with all of my being that God called me to be in this field. In this field there are a myriad of different disciplines in which once can practice including: sports medicine, aquatics, pediatrics, neuro, and even canine physical therapy. Another huge advantage of Physical Therapy is that I get to spend a significant amount of time with my patients several days a week. In doing so, I can evaluate and assess underlying causes and modify my plan of care as I see fit, yielding a greater outcome. I find it invigorating to assist patients in meeting their goals and seeing them reach levels that may have initially seemed impossible. What really sets physical therapy apart for me is that it doesn't necessarily need medication in order to treat patients. With the opioid crisis on the rise, Physical Therapist play a vital role in helping to alleviate pain without the pills. Physical Therapist are movement specialist, and movement IS medicine! #ChoosePT
What motivates you?
Intrinsically, I am motivated by helping people help themselves. The satisfaction that I get from aiding people to do things they thought would never be possible again is indescribable. For example, I have had the privilege to work with several patients, post stroke or MVA, that believed they would never be able to walk again. Being able to help them take their first steps and work toward regaining full function is forever rewarding. Extrinsically, I am motivated by the support of my amazing family and friends. They have always reminded me that I can do anything I put my mind to and that nothing beats failure, except effort.
What adversity have you faced as a woman of color in your field?
Oh man! Where do I start? I cannot tell you the countless number of times that I have been talked down to. Not only am I faced with the trials of being a woman, on top of that, I am faced with the trials of being a black woman. By those both inside and outside of my race, I find it demoralizing that in their minds, there is no way that me, a brown girl, can not only be in charge but also design their treatment plans. Often times, I am constantly questioned by patients on the logic behind my thinking when developing their plans of care. Typically, once I throw a little medical jargon at them and respectably let them know that I have a doctorate in my field, their entire demeanor will change and the constant questioning will stop. It is disheartening that I have to go the extra mile to prove myself more often than I should have to. I wouldn’t say that I have learned to “deal with it”, because every time the discrimination happens, it feels like a slight jab in the chest. Just the other day, I was getting my oil changed and the mechanic’s assistant was making small talk with me. I had on my scrubs, so I guess out of curiosity he wanted to know what I did for work. Instead of simply asking me the profession I was in, he opened his mouth to say, “So are you like a CNA or what?”. I was a taken aback, as there are several health care professions in which women wear scrubs, so I was bit confused on why that was his “go to” choice of profession. Situations like this remind me that although progress has been made, we still have a very long way to go.
How difficult was it to find mentorship in your field? What tips do you have for others in regards to mentorship?
Mentorship in this field is not hard to find, it just depends on what on you’re looking for. Another component of travel Physical Therapy that I enjoy is that they pair you up with a mentor during your assignments. That person is there to answer any questions and just help guide you along your journey. I am also blessed to have had great clinical instructors during my rotations in school, because even now if I find myself stuck with a challenging case, I can reach out to them for input. I would suggest building your professional network immediately, when you stumble across someone that you find appealing, reach out to them. Don’t be shy or bashful, just reach out however you want to, and do whatever is comfortable. If that person is in the industry for the right reasons, they’re usually happy to help out a budding clinician.
What advice do you have for young black women interested in your field?
Keep God first! In my times of struggle, I cling to the bible verse Psalms 37:24. Though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. Ask yourself why you are entering this profession, and try to focus on the aspects of PT that really resonate with your own values. If you want something, you have to go after it. Waiting for things to fall in your lap is not the way to become successful in THIS profession. Others will try to make you feel like there is no room for women of color in this field, make room anyway! Always, always, always remember that you are the master of your fate and captain of your soul.