Mar 28 2023

Mihalek, Lauren

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Professional Goal Statement

Upon graduation from UNC-Chapel Hill’s DPT program and becoming a licensed PT, I plan to pursue a career in outpatient orthopedics in Charleston, SC. The populations I love working with most include recreational athletes and older adults who hope to continue or return to physical activities that they enjoy. I’m passionate about helping people be able to physically do the things in life that are meaningful to them by improving or maintaining their functional mobility long into adulthood. I hope to incorporate my personal training and exercise psychology backgrounds into my physical therapy practice by helping patients transition to self-directed health improvement strategies with behavior change principles. I also plan to work closely with local registered dieticians, counselors, and fitness professionals to give my patients the best referrals for comprehensive, holistic care. My approach to physical therapy practice is using movement for healing and addressing the root cause of a person’s pain or dysfunction, instead of relying on opioids and other treatments for symptom management. 


Career Plan

Past Experiences

  • April 2018: Certified as a personal trainer by the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
  • May 2020: Graduated Magna Cum Laude from Elon University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Science, with a minor in Psychology 
  • August 2020: Enrolled in UNC Chapel Hill Doctor of Physical Therapy Class of 2023
  • 2021: UNC SHAC Pro-Bono Physical Therapy Clinic Manager
  • July 2022: Certified as a nutrition coach by the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) 
  • November 2022: Attended the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) National Convergence in Philadelphia, PA
  • February 2023: Attended APTA Combined Sections Meeting in San Diego, CA 


Clinical Experiences

  • Clinical Affiliation I: Outpatient Orthopedic (8 weeks)
    • Select Physical Therapy | Rock Hill, SC 
  • Clinical Affiliation II: Acute Care (8 weeks)
    • Prisma Health – Greenville Memorial Hospital | Greenville, SC
  • Clinical Affiliation III: School-Based Pediatrics (8 weeks)
    • Wake County Public School System | Raleigh, NC
  • Clinical Affiliation IV: Outpatient Orthopedic (12 weeks)
    • Select Physical Therapy | Charleston, SC 
  • SHAC Pro-Bono Clinic (intermittent service 2020-2023)
    • Carrboro, NC


Work Experience

  • Founder and Personal Trainer for Free to Be Wellness, LLC (June 2020-Present)
  • Personal Trainer at Burn Boot Camp (May-September 2021)


Future Plans 

  • Pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) on July 25, 2023 
  • Graduate from UNC Chapel Hill with my Doctorate of Physical Therapy on July 29th, 2023 
  • Begin working as a physical therapist in Charleston, SC 
  • Become certified in dry needling
  • Become a clinical instructor




  • Strong work ethic 
  • Organization and time management skills 
  • Documentation quality and efficiency 
  • Communication
  • Love for learning 
  • Fitness and coaching experience from working as a personal trainer 


Areas for Professional Development

  • Sharpen clinical reasoning skills 
  • Confidence in my clinical practice 
  • Familiarity with current research and practice guidelines 
  • Community outreach 
  • Greater involvement in APTA and physical therapy advocacy



  • Pass the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE) in 2023
  • Graduate from UNC Chapel Hill with my Doctorate of Physical Therapy on July 29th, 2023 
  • Start my career as a physical therapist in Charleston, SC
  • Become certified in dry needling


Specific Strategies

  • Create a personal study program and schedule to prepare for the NPTE
  • Build my network of local providers, business owners, and residents in Charleston, SC
  • Participate in recreational sport groups and events to identify gaps in care for this population
  • Read at least one research article per week, and consume media (podcasts, newsletters) that references new research 


Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion 

The UNC DPT curriculum provides several opportunities for students to engage in DEI learning experiences. For instance, prior to even starting the program, during the summer of 2020, we were given the book Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People to read. This book revealed some of the biases I hadn’t even realized I possessed, which has since helped me to start addressing them. On another occasion, I decided to watch an online lecture given by Damon Tweedy titled, “Reflections on Race and Medicine in the Year of COVID-19 and Nationwide Protests.” In this lecture he spoke about how COVID has exposed many of the underlying problems and gaps in healthcare and other federal and state-level systems in the United States, with one of those being widespread racial bias and descriminatory medical treatment. One specific example he highlights is of a physician and state representative claiming during a press conference that black people have poor hand hygiene compared to white people, explaining this as being the reason that COVID has more greatly impacted black communities1. Tweedy goes on to explain that members of black communities are highly distrustful of medical systems, which is no surprise given the way they are treated in our healthcare system and the proportional decline in black medical student attendees which Tweedy also highlights1. This point, specifically, struck me. It made me realize that I had never had a black physician until the past year, and that was normal to me. This meant that my physicians always looked like me and I never had to worry about being discriminated against when seeking healthcare. However, this is not true for my black friends. It is very unlikely that they have ever had a physician who looks like them, but they have probably all had to advocate for themselves in healthcare settings in a way I never have. Some of the quotes that Tweedy mentioned that I will carry with me into my career include the following:

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is 

faced.” – James Baldwin

“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.” – Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.


  1. Reflections on Race and Medicine in the Year of COVID-19 and Nationwide Protests – Damon Tweedy, MD – YouTube. Accessed December 4, 2020.


Third-Year Electives 

  • Advanced Orthopedics Assessment (Fall, 2022)
  • Topics in Sports Physical Therapy (Spring, 2023)
  • Research Experience (Fall, 2022 and Spring, 2023)




Reflective Statement 

It’s hard for me to comprehend that my time as a physical therapy student is nearing the end and that the start of my career as a licensed physical therapist is approaching so quickly. I’ve known that I wanted to become a physical therapist since high school, and it was a dream of mine to attend PT school at UNC Chapel Hill. I’ve been so incredibly blessed by the opportunities I’ve been given, and by the faculty, staff, and students that make up this program. Throughout the past 3 years, I’ve grown as an individual and professional, formed lifelong friendships, and gained the knowledge and experience to earn the title of physical therapist. I’m currently completing my final clinical rotation, which is in the same setting and with the same company as my first rotation during my first year of school. Each day, I’m reminded of how far I’ve come, while I reflect on the differences between these two experiences and the clinician I’ve become during the time in between. I’m transitioning into this new season of life not only excited to start my career as a full-time clinician in a field that I love, but also feeling capable, confident, and hungry to learn.

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Mihalek, Lauren”

  1.   Lisa Johnstonon 31 May 2023 at 8:20 pm

    Lauren- Congrats to you! It is really exciting to read your portfolio and see examples of your work. You have certainly grown and accomplished a lot! I know you will love Charleston, they are lucky to have you, but always remember, go heels! Lisa


  2.   Vicki Merceron 19 Jun 2023 at 6:30 pm

    Lauren – I loved reading your portfolio, especially your reflective statement! I know that you will accomplish much as a clinician who is “capable, confident, and hungry to learn”! Best of luck to you always! Vicki


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