May 29 2014

Jacobs, Catherine

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Professional Goal: I will strive to be a well-rounded physical therapist, capable of caring for diverse patient populations. My ultimate goal is to work with individuals with neurological diagnoses, to promote overall health, mobility, and wellness to enhance their quality of life. I hope to be in a setting where there is strong collaboration with other health professionals, teamwork between therapists, and commitment to evidence based practice. I hope to be a good educator for my professional peers and for the community especially regarding managing Multiple Sclerosis.

Career Plan:

Past History

  • BA in Religious Studies; Spanish for the Professions minor – UNC Chapel Hill, May 2011

3rd Year and Current Goals

  • Further studies through elective courses, in particular Advanced Orthopedics, Advanced Neuromuscular, and Integrated Clinical Experience
  • Participate in Guatemala service learning trip
  • Develop clinical skills during final clinical rotation in Inpatient Rehab
  • Sit for board examination in July 2014
  • Graduate as DPT – UNC Chapel Hill, August 2014

Future Plans and Goals

  • Obtain a full time job in Inpatient Rehab or Outpatient Neuro Setting- Fall 2014
  • Continue to participate with MS STEP UP, and give back to the NMSS through participation at events and giving presentations
  • Become Multiple Sclerosis Certified Specialist- 2016
  • Work as a CI
  • Earn Vestibular Certification 2017

Self Assessment


  • Experience in a variety of settings during clinical rotations; acute (telemetry and neuro floors), outpatient ortho in an underserved area, outpatient neuro (with a focus on MS, concussion, and vestibular therapy), and inpatient rehab (brain injury team)
  • Increased clinical experience with MS as well as relationships with local clinicians and NMSS Chapter
  • Interpersonal communication skills
  • Commitment to professional development
  • Conversationally fluent in Spanish

Areas for Development:

  • Increased clinical experiences with diverse neurological populations as well orthopedic conditions
  • Improve knowledge of and confidence with prognosis
  • Increase awareness of community resources for future patients
  • Expanded knowledge of health care reform as well as insurance and reimbursement regulations


  • To prepare and sit for the National PT Licensure Exam and obtain licensure in NC
  • To obtain a full time job ideally in outpatient neuro or inpatient rehab with an established mentoring program
  • To prepare for and become a Multiple Sclerosis Certified Specialist
  • To prepare for and earn a Vestibular Specialist Certification

Strategies for Career Development 

  • Take neuro and musculoskeletal electives to improve knowledge in these areas
  • Complete class projects to develop knowledge about areas of development/interests
  • Develop a plan for capstone project that will be beneficial to both my clinical experience as well as a larger audience
  • Develop a study plan to study for the board exam
  • Continue to be involved in MS Step Up and NMSS
  • Continue to develop relationship with mentors to guide professional development
  • To further education through relevant clinical education courses as well as conference attendance (CSM, NCPTA, and CMSC)

Course plan for Electives

I took the Advanced Orthopedic elective to improve my knowledge of orthopedic diagnoses and interventions. While I am ultimately interested in neuro, I believe a strong understanding of the musculoskeletal system is critical for any area of our profession. I was able to connect my interest in neuro and ortho for some of our weekly discussion posts- for example researching bone density in MS. I wanted to improve my confidence in evaluating knee pain, and completed my final paper on Patellofemoral Pain. To further my clinical skills with orthopedic patient populations I also earned credit for an elective of Integrated Clinical Experience. Taking these electives at the same time helped me to apply and further my learning with orthopedic conditions.

In the spring I took the Advanced Neuromuscular Interventions elective in order to improve my clinical reasoning when working with neuro populations. I was able to focus more on several impairments and diagnoses including spasms vs. spasticity in SCI, right hemisphere stroke, and aerobic training for acquired brain injury.

Sample Work and Capstone Project

My professional development during my time at UNC has been hugely influenced by my experiences as an MS Scholar. I have partnered with Audrey Osinski on many projects to further our understanding of MS specifically and more broadly the role of PT in neurological diagnoses. During my first semester as an MS Scholar, I was soaking up information about MS, but was most shaped by attending self-help group meetings. This perspective allowed me to see how MS can influence someone’s life in many ways beyond what we may see in the clinic. Audrey and I created a Module for future scholars to guide them in attending and reflecting on self-help group experiences.

As I learned more about the pathology of MS, and our role as Physical Therapists in treating MS, I was drawn to the newly diagnosed population. We know that physical activity is a key part of managing MS, so what is the role of PT for someone who is newly diagnosed or who has minimal impairment? I took on these questions during our Evidence Based Practice II class as I searched the evidence for information about early intervention of gait training and if this is effective in delaying development of gait abnormalities compared to no intervention. My findings are summarized in this paper.

My clinical experiences have allowed me to broaden my experience with neurological diagnoses. I presented this inservice during my acute care rotation on Parkinson’s Disease. I have also explored post-concussion syndrome and vestibular dysfunction in depth during clinicals.   

For my capstone project, Audrey and I organized and presented at a multidisciplinary wellness event for individuals with MS. This was an amazing experience, collaborating with other health and wellness professionals in our area, and giving back to a community that has helped me grow so much over the last two years. Our capstone website has more details about the event. The presentation we gave was on individual exercise tips related to balance, spasticity, and fatigue. We presented a poster at the CMSC annual meeting on our preliminary results regarding the educational needs of individuals with MS around the time of diagnosis.

Reflective Statement

I am beyond grateful for the experiences I have had as a UNC DPT student! This year I have made progress towards my goals especially through the electives I took, conferences I attended, the capstone project Audrey and I developed, and clinical experiences during our last rotation. I feel confident and excited to build off of the wonderful foundation I have gained over the last three years as I begin working as a physical therapist.

We are so lucky to learn from our committed faculty, who show us what it looks like to be leaders in our profession while also respecting us as their professional peers. Your attention to all of us as individuals is very appreciated. There are so many unique experiences as a UNC PT student that have influenced who I am and the type of PT I hope to be. Traveling to Guatemala, working alongside our classmates and professors at SHAC, and MS STEP UP are just a few of these experiences. I feel so fortunate to have worked with and learned from everyone involved with MS STEP UP. I believe this program has made me a more passionate PT student and future PT as I have seen the true influence we can have on quality of life.

My time at UNC would not be the same without every one of my classmates- I’m excited to see where we all are heading!

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4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Jacobs, Catherine”

  1.   KMacon 02 Jul 2014 at 2:05 am

    Congrats CJ – I like your plans for the near future. I think you should put the NCS certification on your radar – I think within our profession it is more valued than the MS certification, and your experiences in the program have provided you with a good foundation for that.
    Best to you – I’ll be looking for you at CSM!!!


  2.   Vicki Merceron 02 Jul 2014 at 4:44 pm

    Hi CJ,
    So glad that you have found your niche in neuro in general and MS in particular. I’m excited to see where your career path will take you! Know you will do great things.

    Keep in touch-


  3.   Prue Plummeron 11 Jul 2014 at 11:00 am

    I have been incredibly impressed with you in the short time that I have known you. I know you are going to make an outstanding impact on the lives of many people. I know we will stay connected through the MS STEP UP VLT, and I look forward to seeing all that you will accomplish.


  4.   Lisa Johnstonon 24 Jul 2014 at 1:48 am


    Great job on your portfolio and with all your work in the program. We will miss you but I know you will be out doing great things. I will look forward to seeing you at VLT meetings. Take care and good luck!



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