Apr 20 2017

Steele, Daniel

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Professional Goal Statement

The only viable way forward for healthcare in the United States is a fundamental paradigm shift away from a reactionary culture of disease management and symptom suppression, toward a proactive model which recognizes that the human body cannot be healthy in the absence of regular exercise and nutritious diet. As a Doctor of Physical Therapy, I will be ideally situated at the forefront of provider-patient education and interaction to affect this change. Physical therapists are the foremost experts in the non-invasive restoration of function in patients with neuromusculoskeletal disorders and my professional mission is to change lives individually, while also being an advocate for broader policy changes which promote health, rather than simply the absence of disease.


Prior Education and Certification History

Spring of 2004

  • UNC study abroad at the University of Seville, Spain

May 2005

  • Graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with a BA in Communication Studies and a minor in Spanish


  • Full time personal trainer and strength coach, certified through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (certified personal trainer, corrective exercise specialist, performance enhancement specialist, fitness nutrition specialist, senior fitness specialist) and the National Strength and Conditioning Association (certified strength and conditioning specialist)

August 2014

  • Enrolled in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at UNC Chapel Hill


Clinical Experience During DPT Curriculum

  • Carolinas Rehabilitation Services – Charlotte, NC. Outpatient Orthopedic Clinic, 12 weeks.
  • University Physical Therapy – Hillsborough, NC. Outpatient Orthopedic Clinic, 120 hours 3rd year elective.
  • FirstHealth of the Carolinas Moore Regional Hospital – Pinehurst, NC. Inpatient Neuro Rehabilitation, 8 weeks.
  • UNC Johnston Health Hospital – Smithfield, NC. Acute Care, Underserved Population – 8 weeks.
  • UNC Therapy Services at Meadowmont – Chapel Hill, NC. Outpatient Orthopedic Clinic – 8 weeks.
  • Student Health Action Coalition (SHAC) – Carrboro, NC. Outpatient Orthopedic Clinic – Student-run, interdisciplinary, pro bono services. Regular volunteer 2014-2017.


Other Activities and Extracurricular Events

  • PT Clinic Coordinator for the Student Health Action Coalition (SHAC) from February 2015 to February 2016, in charge of coordinating student and faculty volunteers, patient scheduling, and equipment inventory.
  • Member of the Spinal Manipulation Task Force (SMTF), an advocacy group of PT’s and PT students working to lift wasteful and unnecessary restrictions placed on physical therapists in North Carolina who use spinal manipulation as part of patient care.
  • Third year electives: Advanced Orthopedics, Advanced Spanish for Health Workers, Integrated Clinical Experience at University Physical Therapy.
  • Attended a weekend course on Gray Cook’s Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA), Fall of 2014.
  • Audited Myopain Seminars’ level 1 dry needling certification course, Fall of 2016.
  • Attended NCPTA Fall Conference in Greensboro, Fall of 2016.
  • PT Legislative Day at the state capitol in Raleigh, Spring of 2017.


Career Plan

August 2017

  • Graduate from UNC Chapel Hill as a Doctor of Physical Therapy.

January 2018

  • Enroll in an orthopedic PT residency with an emphasis in manual therapy to advance my skills as a clinician and prepare me to sit for the OCS exam.
  • Locate a community clinic that offers free healthcare services to people without insurance, preferably with a large population of Spanish speaking patients. Begin volunteering on a regular basis.


  • Pass the board certification exam and earn the credential of “orthopedic certified specialist”.

By the end of 2021

  • Complete the highest level of certification in trigger point dry needling offered through Myopain Seminars.


  • Explore options for becoming a licensed nutritionist, dietician, or other professional distinction which allows me to educate and advise my patients on diet and nutrition in more specific ways than included in the PT scope of practice.
  • Seek to incorporate my background as a certified strength and conditioning coach and my passion for nutrition science into my professional practice as a doctor of PT in order to provide a more expansive scope of care for the benefit of my patients. The exact form this will take will depend heavily on state and federal regulations, and any major changes to federal health policy over the coming years.
  • Become certified as a Spanish healthcare interpreter.

By 2025

  • Explore options for specialty training through a fellowship after I identify areas of interest where such training would be of benefit to my patients.


Self Assessment

Areas of strength:

  • exercise prescription (progressions and regressions, coaching)
  • communication skills (adapting styles to different personality types and education levels, building rapport, demonstrating empathy)
  • patient and caregiver education (explaining rationale for procedural interventions and home exercises, promoting healthy lifestyle)
  • passionately advocating for the profession of PT, in both a social context and the legislative arena.

Areas for development:

  • improve knowledge of and consistent use of validated outcome measures for evaluation of patient progress
  • improve clinical reasoning in the area of establishing a PT diagnosis for new patients
  • improve in my ability to read and evaluate new research to determine relevance and clinical applications

In applying for a physical therapy residency, I specifically identified programs that offer content and mentoring in my identified areas of improvement in order to address them within a structured framework.

Special Areas of Interest

  • Outpatient orthopedic physical therapy
  • Manual therapy, spinal manipulation, trigger point dry needling
  • Diet and nutrition
  • Strength and conditioning


Objectives for Graduate Study

  • Complete a capstone project that furthers my understanding of an important issue in the area of orthopedic musculoskeletal dysfunction. [At the end of Spring semester 2017, I completed a self-study learning module and summary educational handout on the pathophysiology and clinical implications of musculoskeletal trigger points. This module will be added to the first year DPT curriculum in the Modalities course.]
  • Consistently apply my Spanish language skills in a clinical setting to provide PT services to an underserved patient population. [During my time at SHAC, the student run free health clinic in Carrboro, I had the opportunity to treat a large number of Spanish speaking patients who would otherwise not have access to healthcare services. In addition, there were several instances during my clinical rotations where I was the only Spanish speaking clinician on staff when a non-English-speaking patient was scheduled for treatment.]
  • Complete Evidence Based Practice II with a confident understanding of how to evaluate a research paper for quality and clinical relevance. Building from that, I will feel confident in forming my own clinical questions and searching for existing research to answer them. [During this class in the fall of 2016, I gained the skills and confidence to formulate a clinical question, conduct a thorough search of the existing literature, and evaluate individual research studies for their strengths and weaknesses. My final project was a critically appraised topic, evaluating the state research on dry needling and muscle length, which provided me with valuable information for my capstone project. I will enroll in an orthopedic residency program in 2018 that includes didactic content to further improve my skills in this area.]


Original Product Samples from Graduate Study


Reflection Statement

It is one thing to undertake the challenge of something like a professional doctoral program knowing it will change you, and quite another to look back at the end of it and reflect on the extent of that change. Looking back, I realize that I was always interested in the concept of evidence-based critical thinking as an ideal, but was inconsistent at best with my application of it in practice when assimilating new ideas. This program has immensely refined the process by which I synthesize new information for the benefit of my patients, and guided me to a more nuanced, less arbitrarily dogmatic view of many topics within the field of human movement and fitness. I entered UNC’s DPT program believing physical therapy to be an integral part of the future of healthcare. Three years later, that frontier seems as wide open as ever, and I could not be more excited about the skills I have acquired and will continue to acquire that allow me to actively intervene for people who might otherwise live with pain, discouragement, or lower quality of life due to entirely treatable ailments.

My excitement for learning the science of fitness and corrective exercise is what pushed me toward the idea of physical therapy as a career. The freely given advice and mentorship I received from practicing clinicians as I began to explore this possibility, inspired me to move from an idea to a determined plan. As I was completing my application for PT school and thanked one mentor for all the free advice and help along the way, the response I got back was simple: “Someday you will be in a position to do the same for someone else with the same dream. Pay it forward.” This has been a principle I also found reflected in UNC’s philosophy and it will continue to guide me as I begin my career.

But sometimes when the Springtime comes,
And the sifting moonlight falls–
They’ll think again of this night here
And of these old brown walls,
Of white old well, and of old South
With bell’s deep booming tone,
They’ll think again of Chapel Hill and–
Thinking–come back home.

– Thomas Wolfe, UNC Chapel Hill Class of 1920


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