For Eastern Washington University physical therapy student Jarod Paul, giving back to his community is at the top of his priority list. Now, with the help of a prestigious scholarship, he’ll soon be doing just that for our region’s tribal communities.
Paul is a member of the Nez Perce Tribe and a second-year graduate student in the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Program at EWU. This summer the financial burden of graduate school eased for Paul when he learned he’d been awarded the Indian Health Service’s (IHS) Health Professions Scholarship. The scholarship will fully fund his final two years at Eastern.
“This is huge because school is not cheap for anyone, especially grad school,” says Paul. “And this especially helps expand the diversity of different cultures and different races in school.”
Paul says he was surprised to learn that nationwide only 0.4 percent of students enrolled in physical therapy programs are Native American. “That is the lowest represented minority group, so it’s definitely important to make this scholarship available,” he says.
The IHS Health Professions Scholarship is awarded to qualifying members of a federally recognized American Indian Tribe or Alaska Native village. The scholarship is competitive. Each year about 3,000 students in various healthcare disciplines apply. Only 100–150 receive awards.
Paul grew up in the Moscow, Idaho area, just outside the Nez Perce Reservation. As a youth he played baseball, wrestled and enjoyed all of the great outdoor recreational opportunities that area has to offer. After graduating from Moscow High School, Paul played baseball at Walla Walla Community College and Montana State University–Billings, where he completed his bachelor’s degree in May 2018.
When it came time to consider graduate school, Paul knew what he wanted to do.
“About halfway through college I started interning at some PT clinics at home and in Billings, and I just kind of fell in love with it,” he says. “My mom has worked in a PT clinic my whole life, so I got interested in it when I was younger.”
Paul applied for a handful of PT programs in the Northwest, but he had his sights set on Eastern. “It’s local. I can visit home,” he says. “When I came here I knew I wanted to go here. It was my number one choice for sure.”
Paul started the DPT program at EWU in fall 2018. He’s scheduled to finish his classroom requirements this spring and, in fall 2020, he’ll start his third-year internships, which consist of two 10-week rotations and one 12-week rotation.
“I’m going to Meridian, Idaho for one in an outpatient orthopedic sports performance clinic. My second one is in Walla Walla at a Providence Hospital. And then the third one is to be determined in February,” says Paul. He’s hoping the third internship will give him experience in neurologic physical therapy.
A stipulation of the IHS Health Professions Scholarship requires that recipients complete a two-year service commitment working in a clinic or hospital that serves a tribal community. Requirement or not, Paul says that’s what he planned to do all along.
“In Moscow, we’re about a half-hour off of the Nez Perce Reservation. We get all of our healthcare and everything done there. I definitely want to end up in this area and I can definitely see myself living down closer to the reservation and serving my community long term.”
Paul hopes his story will inspire other Native Americans to pursue an education and give back to their communities.
“You can do it. Reach out to someone who has done it—they know the path and how to help you,” he says. “And believe that you can make it happen for yourself.”