Faces of U of T Medicine: Kaela Newman

Nov 6, 2017
Kaela NewmanKaela Newman will be among the students crossing the convocation stage on November 7th, graduating with a Master of Science in Physical Therapy. During her time at U of T, she acted as the President of the Physical Therapy Graduate Student Association and helped facilitate events that brought faculty, clinicians and students together. Newman talked to Faculty of Medicine writer Julia Soudat about her best moments at U of T and post-graduation plans.

What sparked your interest in Physical Therapy? Why did you choose the program?

My interest in physical therapy started when I was a patient at a private practice, recovering from a knee injury. Growing up, I always enjoyed science and learning about the human body. As a physiotherapist, you take evidence-based knowledge of anatomy and function, and translate it into practice by working one-on-one with your patients. It’s very rewarding to see how you can improve an individual’s function and quality of life through the combination of knowledge and hands-on expertise. Having the autonomy as a healthcare professional to assess, diagnose and treat a variety of patients makes each day different. The opportunities as a physiotherapist are endless – you can work in a hospital setting, private practices, in spinal cord injury rehabilitation, paediatrics, geriatrics, sports rehabilitation and so on.

I chose Physical Therapy at U of T for several reasons. Being surrounded by world-renowned hospitals and opportunities – students have access to many unique placements that may not be available in other cities. Also, the teaching faculty and U of T’s Physical Therapy program do an excellent job of preparing students for their careers in physiotherapy.

What have been some of the most rewarding moments at U of T?

One of the best things about being a student in the Department of Physical Therapy is the way the program brings you together with your classmates and professors. In a class of 89 students, your peers become your family and the teaching faculty become your colleagues rather than your superiors.

As a physiotherapy student, every day on placement can remind you how meaningful your interaction with someone can be and how much restoring functional movement can mean to a person. As part of our six placements over two years we are required to do a placement with a neurological population. For me, this neurological placement was when my love for the brain, its plasticity, and our ability to help patients recover from a severe insult to their brain began. Two of my most rewarding experiences were 1) seeing my patient take their first few steps 6-months after a heavy stroke and 2) seeing my patient walk out of the rehab facility to go home after a year-long recovery from Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS). To be a part of someone’s rehab and recovery is one of the most satisfying feelings despite the ups and downs they may face in their journey.

Where do you see yourself in five years? What are your plans after graduation?

After graduation, I plan on working in a private practice setting with a mixed caseload of musculoskeletal injuries and neurological conditions. As someone who doesn’t believe in remaining static, I hope that in 5 years after I take some post-graduate courses that I will be able to be a senior therapist or partner of a successful clinic whose emphasis is on quality patient care. As someone who has always enjoyed working to educate others, I would love to stay involved with U of T to take on students and/or mentor new graduates.

What advice would you give new and incoming students?

Find a program you are passionate about so that the long hours of studying and clinical placements are equally as fun as they are work. For physical therapy students or students in other professional healthcare programs, take advantage of learning in a safe and supportive environment- volunteer to demonstrate skills, interact with a variety of patients and say yes when you’re asked if you want to try something. It’s a lot easier and more comfortable to learn from your experiences and mistakes while you’re in school before you get out into the real working world. Another piece of advice would be to balance school with the rest of your life. Study hard, but don’t pass up opportunities to go explore the city or hangout with friends because your time at U of T will fly by faster than you know it.


Faces of U of T Medicine introduces you to some of the interesting people studying in the Faculty of Medicine. From advising political leaders to providing care to Toronto’s most vulnerable populations, our students are making an impact on communities at home and around the world.

Do you have an interesting story to share? Contact us at medicine.communications@utoronto.ca

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