Feb 29 2024

Meng, Ethan

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Professional Goal Statement:

My intentions in life are to always be grateful for what I’ve been given, to use those gifts for others, and to never stop learning as I do so. My career goal is to be a physical therapist who compassionately and knowledgeably serves all people I encounter – with a special focus on those learning to stand, walk, and move again in meaningful ways after an acquired brain injury.

My long-term goal is to create an inclusive and accessible exercise space/sports complex in my community that is specifically tailored for people with disabilities. 

Career Plan


  • The Master’s University, B.S in Kinesiology (Pre-Physical Therapy); Class of 2020, Summa Cum Laude
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Doctor of Physical Therapy; Class of 2024

Clinical Education:

  • Clinical Affiliation I: Kinetic Physical Therapy Institute, Sanford NC. 
    • Setting: Outpatient Orthopedics; Rural/Underserved Population
  • Clinical Affiliation II: UNC Main Hospital, Chapel Hill, NC.
    • Setting: Acute Care
  • Clinical Affiliation III: Novant Health Rehabilitation Center (Oleander), Wilmington, NC.
    • Setting: Outpatient Neuro
  • Clinical Affiliation IV: ECU Health Medical Center, Greenville, NC.
    • Setting: Acute Inpatient Rehabilitation (Neuro)


  • Fall 2023: 
    • PHYT875: Advanced Orthopedic Management
    • PHYT872: Teacher-Scholar (For PHYT727: Motor Control & Motor Learning with Dr. Jessica Cassidy)
  • Spring 2024: 
    • PHYT885: Advanced Neuromuscular Intervention
    • PHYT870: Integrated Clinical Education (60 hours with UNC Neurologic Resident Dr. Michael James)

Capstone Project: 

  • Title: HIIT the Heart, Train the Brain: Intensely optimizing physical therapy, neuroplasticity, and motor learning to improve poststroke walking recovery – a practical review.
  • Description: A 23-page review paper that summarizes current motor control theory & concepts of motor learning and neuroplasticity, reviews current recommendations for optimizing poststroke walking recovery, and, with a case study, explores current evidence and recommendations for implementing high-intensity gait training into clinical practice.
  • Link: DPT Capstone Manuscript


  • Strengths:
    • Ability to connect with patients to develop rapport and therapeutic alliance
    • Creatively tailoring functional exercises, tasks, and the enviroment to best serve each patient
    • Skillfully motivating/cueing patients for an external, goal-directed focus of attention to optimize motor learning
    • Integrating unique experience/knowledge from past roles as a soccer coach, PT billing admin, social media manager, photographer, and runner to provide optimal care across diverse populations
    • Curiosity to continually ask questions and pursue knowledge as a lifelong learner
  • Areas for Development:
    • Continually pursuing further knowledge of current concepts, emerging research, and evidence-based practice
    • Gaining experience and repetition/practice treating patients with complex neurologic and vestibular conditions
    • Achieving further certification in areas of special interest
    • Involvement in professional advocacy for the physical therapy profession and to optimize the patient experience


  • July 2024: Graduate from the UNC DPT Program & pass the NPTE board exam.
  • Fall 2024: Obtain licensure in the state of North Carolina and begin practicing full-time as a Neuro Physical Therapist
  • Within 1 year of practice: Obtain Certified Stroke Rehabilitation Specialist (CSRS), LSVT-Big, Rock Steady Boxing, and Dry Needling Certification
  • After 1 year of practice: Assess knowledge/experience gaps & clinical skills; pursue Neurologic Clinical Specialist Certification or Neurologic Residency
  • Within 2 years of practice: Become a clinical instructor
  • Within 3 years of practice: Connect and network with local gyms, healthcare providers, schools, coaches, and individuals in my community through PT, sports, running, patient advocacy efforts, and coaching soccer. Obtain potential CSCS and U.S. Soccer Coaching Level D certification.
  • Within 5 years of practice: Pay off student loans in full; begin identifying potential stakeholders, locations, and facilities to build The Bridge – an accessible & inclusive exercise space/sports complex for people with disabilities.
  • Within 10 years of practice: Create/transition into The Bridge.
  • Every Day: Leave each patient better than I found them; Never stop learning.

Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI):

I have been exposed to many experiences throughout my time in the UNC DPT program that have increased my exposure and awareness of issues of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion.  As a member of the SPTA DEI committee, I had the opportunity to participate in outreach to local schools in the Durham community to teach them about the profession of physical therapy. I greatly benefited & learned lots whilst supporting my friends Kyrsten and Justin as they led a charge to make our profession and institution more accessible and inclusive toward underrepresented minorities through the development of the UNC DPT Exploratory Day program. I am extremely grateful that I have been encouraged to view my own biases/privileges and take intentional steps to address them.

As stated in my professional statement, my long-term goal is to create an accessible and inclusive space for people with disabilities to exercise and belong in. According to the US Census Bureau, 13.4% of the population in North Carolina are disabled. I have gained a passion for this population in particular and dream of cultivating an environment that allows individuals of all abilities to have equal opportunities to participate in exercise & sports together safely, effectively, and meaningfully. There is a resource gap as most gyms, fitness centers, and exercise/sports programs are not accessible or inclusive to people with physical disabilities. Nationwide, 25.6% of persons with a disability reported being physically inactive during a usual week compared with 12.8% of those without a disability. I strongly believe in the physical & psychological benefits of exercise and also believe that cultural background, financial resources, insurance coverage, and physical disability should not be barriers to physical activity. I hope to use my life and career to tear down barriers to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion, and build bridges to mind the gaps. To summarize, I have included some of my favorite quotes regarding JEDI:

  • “When you have more than you need, build a bigger table, not a higher fence.” – Unknown.
  • “There are two ways of exerting one’s strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up.” – Booker T Washington
  • “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” -Winston Churchill
  • “Strong people stand up for themselves, but stronger people stand up for others.” – Suzy Kassem

Interprofessional Education Activities (IPE):

I have enjoyed meeting and interacting with other professionals throughout the UNC DPT program. Interprofessional experiences have taught me valuable lessons on how much I still do not know, and how much I can learn from others. These experiences have included course activities within our program, seminars, and clinical education throughout the program. I have learned the importance of communication, collaboration, active listening, and mutual respect. Moving forward, I hope to work in the neuro-inpatient rehabilitation setting which will require these attributes as I work and interact with various other therapists, nurses, doctors, and specialists to meet the needs of patients with excellence. 

Product Examples:

  • DPT Capstone Manuscript: HIIT The Heart, Train the Brain: Intensely optimizing physical therapy, neuroplasticity, and motor learning to improve poststroke walking recovery – a practical review.
  • Critically Appraised Topic on the following clinical question: In patients recovering from a stroke (P), is high intensity training (I) more effective compared to low/moderate intensity training and no training (C) for improving ambulatory function (O)? Presented for PHYT 752: Evidence Based Practice 2
  • Two (2) Clinician Reference Graphics that were printed and delivered for use at Novant Health Rehabilitation Center (Oleander) in Wilmington, NC.
    • Poster: HIIT the Heart, Train the Brain. a 24×30″ poster summarizing recommendations for the implementation of High-Intensity Gait Training into clinical practice for poststroke walking recovery.
    • Poster: Framework for Gait Training. a 24×30″ poster summarizing a framework for manipulating biomechanical subcomponents of gait during High-Intensity Gait Training.
  • MENG_Neuroplasticity Inservice. an in-service presentation on the 10 principles of experience-dependent neuroplasticity and applications to neurorehabilitation at Novant Health Rehabilitation Center (Oleander) in Wilmington, NC..
  • The Bridge Business Plan. A business plan that was created and proposed during PHYT 705: Managing Contemporary Practice with my amazing colleague Chris Rain, SPT.

Reflective Statement:

When reflecting on who I was & who I wanted to be when I first found out I was admitted to the UNC DPT program, I am blown away with how much has changed in just three years. I’ve gained a love for Chapel Hill and the amazing people in it, and am so proud to be a Tarheel. My career plans and goals have shifted tremendously. I’ve discovered a newfound passion for neurorehabilitation, motor learning, and stroke recovery. I’ve even ran 3 marathons! 

I have learned so much throughout the program – about physical therapy and the human body, exercise, research, and about myself. One meaningful thing that I have learned is that caring for others is one of the most valuable pursuits of all. Another is that I will ALWAYS have so much to learn.

As I finish this chapter of my life, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. I’m so grateful that I chose to become a physical therapist, and so glad that I chose to move from southern California to do it at UNC-Chapel Hill. I am incredibly grateful to the faculty for supporting me and believing in me throughout school. I am thankful to have had four amazing clinical experiences with instructors who were incredible teachers and role models to learn from. I’m blessed to have classmates who have moved me, touched me, and pushed me (literally and figuratively) in so many ways to be the best person and physical therapist that I could be. I’ve been helped and shaped by so many people in so many ways throughout my life, and would like to express my gratitude by saying thank you – I am, because you are. 

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Meng, Ethan”

  1.   KMacon 30 May 2024 at 12:49 pm

    Great to read your reflection and to hear about your plans for a service that addresses sport for people with disabilities. You might think about the possibility of becoming a rater for individuals who are competing in paralympic sports – as that would put you in touch with sports programs that are more competitive and would link you with like minded folks. Please also be in touch with me if I can help as you sort the possibility of a neuro residency or self-study for the NCS. Lots of ways to get there – just depends on your priorities as you track through this great profession!


  2.   Lisa Johnstonon 03 Jun 2024 at 1:01 pm

    Ethan- It has been a distinct pleasure to get to know you over the past 3 years. I have seen you grow in so many ways. Thank you for sharing your journey with us, we are better to have been a part of it as well. Good luck! Please stay in touch!! Lisa


  3.   Jennifer Cookeon 13 Jun 2024 at 9:55 am

    Ethan, you have put together an impressive portfolio here! I love your idea to create an accessible fitness and sports space. Your goals for your first 10 years out of school are robust and I wish you luck in meeting all of those! You are right, your interests have shifted in your time in the program and it has been fun to watch that and watch you create your path around those interests. Best of luck to you!


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