Missouri State University
William Smith

William Smith

Jumping from the track to the clinic

Whether he’s treating athletes, training future PTs or setting a good example, William Smith wants to be the best clinician he can be.

William Smith needed a remedy. An all-state track and field athlete, Smith still had persistent hamstring issues.

The solution: physical therapy (PT).

“Physical therapy got me healthy when I was younger. I wanted to give that back.”

Smith’s treatment sessions became job shadowing.

“I was very interested in athletics in high school, but also science,” he said. “(Physical therapy) would merge both of those passions. As I got into it, I learned more and found out there was more I could do.”

After completing college (where he also competed in track and field), Smith put his dreams on hold for a few years and worked as a trainer and rehab technician.

Eventually, he went back to school to become a physical therapist.

The Kansas City native picked Missouri State’s physical therapy program for the same reason many other students do.

Low costs and location.

“It’s more affordable than a lot of other physical therapy programs around the country,” Smith said. “Also, it’s in my home state. When I do get too stressed, I can always come home and visit my family.”

Bringing new faces into physical therapy

William Smith practices spine care techniques on a patient at the Missouri State physical therapy clinic. A classmate and professor are beside him, watching closely.

Being a non-traditional student did not hinder Smith from getting involved or making connections.

Smith has made his face known at Missouri State, not only within the program but across campus as well.

His resume includes:

  • Class president, Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program
  • Graduate chair, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council (DEIC)
  • Member, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

Smith and a few classmates also formed a Black student association within the MSU physical therapy program.

“I love to talk to people regarding health and educate them about what physical therapists do. Many things are possible in this career field.”

The goal: Improve minority representation in physical therapy.

“I want to be a voice and representation for minorities in our career field,” Smith said. “I want to show that people like me can be professional and successful in our field.”

But Smith’s biggest impact – and inspiration – occurs back at home.

He’s a role model for his three younger siblings.

“I’ve been told multiple times (my siblings) look up to me and the fact I’m about to earn a doctoral degree is encouraging to them,” he said. “I want to make sure I’m giving off the best impression.

“With the encouragement from my family, I can take that into the community when I work with patients. I know I’m being a skilled clinician and using everything in my toolbox to help them improve their lives to the best of my ability.”

What can you do as a physical therapist?

Any time he has questions about classes or potential careers, Smith contacts expert sources.

His professors.

“The physical therapy faculty here have been very encouraging, and I really appreciate them,” Smith said. “I really enjoy the passion they show with each class they teach. Because of their passion, I know they want us to learn.”

Studying physical therapy has changed Smith’s career outlook.

He initially wanted to work with athletes, a tieback to his track and field glory days.

“As an athlete myself, I went through physical therapy. They were able to make me healthy and strong,” Smith said. “I wanted to give that back to other athletes at the time.”

In the physical therapy program at MSU, he’s moved on to working with the general population.

Long term, Smith could see himself teaching as well.

“I want to be the best clinician I can be, all around.”