Ashley Gilbert, pre-physical therapy ’18, has known she wanted to help athletes and work in sports medicine, but it wasn’t until she started working in the Tennessee Tech Counseling Center that her perception what she can offer her future patients truly evolved.
Gilbert, who is from Pikeville, Tennessee, came to Tech as a transfer student. She had played basketball at the college level until an injury changed her course.
“I had a friend who was in the exercise science program at Tech and hearing them talk about their classes, I thought, ‘This is right up my alley. This is it. I am going to Tech,’” Gilbert said.
She quickly found a home in the exercise science and physical wellness program.
“Everyone here is so welcoming. They want to get to know you. They challenge you in every class and know how to put the things we are learning into perspective,” Gilbert said.
Shortly after arriving on campus, Gilbert began working on scholarship in the university Counseling Center.
Gilbert grew up in a rural area where she says there was little focus on mental health.
“Just being in the Counseling Center, I learned so much about how important mental health is for our overall health,” she said.
Gilbert became the center’s grant facilitator for the #HopeStrongEagles suicide prevention program on campus, is a peer educator for Friends on Campus and has even given presentations in her courses on mindfulness and mental health techniques she has learned.
As she has gone through her classes and done field experience work, the connections between physical therapy and mental health have become clearer to her.
“Through my injury, I struggled with mental health. I think we all struggle sometimes,” Gilbert said. “Having this perspective and awareness I have gained at the Counseling Center I know I will take a more holistic approach to my work in physical therapy. I want to be a holistic advocate for my patients.
“The biggest thing I have learned is that one person can make a difference. Sometimes all it takes is a smile in the hallway or a ‘Hey. How are you doing?’ to turn someone’s day completely around and make all the difference to them.”