Julius Franz first came to the United States from Germany in 2002 as an exchange student during his junior year in high school, settling in with a host family in Conway, Ark. After he returned to Germany, he started to weigh his options. “I was very interested in sports medicine, but I didn’t really want to be a doctor,” he says. “So I started thinking about physical therapy.” Fortunately—in what he calls “a lucky coincidence”—Conway is also home to the University of Central Arkansas (UCA), which has an undergraduate PT program. He applied and returned to Arkansas for college in 2005.
“PT is more advanced in the United States—more academic, where in Germany it’s still more of a hands-on degree. Coming back to the U.S. provided an opportunity to earn less of a vocational degree."
Julius looked into a number of options around the country before choosing UT Southwestern. “One of the things that drew me to UT Southwestern was how closely associated PT is with the medical school. That’s truly unique.”
As a leader in the School of Health Professions (SHP)—Julius is one of its representatives on the campus-wide Student Advisory Council—early in 2011, he traveled to Austin for Legislative Day, lobbying for full and direct access to PT for patients. “[We] flooded the capitol building with physical therapists and physical therapy students to talk to the legislators about the future of the profession.” That’s appropriate, he says, because “we are the future of the profession. Or as we say at UT Southwestern, ‘We are the future of medicine.’”
Know Your Neighbor
Julius really likes the level of interaction of the PTs with M.D.s in the other programs at the university, which provides a preview of the career work environment. In fact, all health professions programs are located in the same building. “We get to know, as students, what their professions are all about and start to understand the interchange that has to happen on the job.”
"PT has so many options, I feel very comfortable not being exactly sure what it is I want to do. I’m starting to get a sense of what I like and don’t like. But I want to have more patient interaction, to really see those environments, to help me understand what it is I want to do. I don’t have to make up my mind right now.”
The Last Word
Julius knows he is at the beginning of his journey. “Before I came to UT Southwestern, I wanted to reach my own goals. Now, I want to help improve things beyond my own personal future. If I don’t do anything, who will?”