East Rowan grad named statewide ambassador to national professional organization

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 16, 2015

East Rowan High School graduate and Salisbury native William Stokes is already president of his doctor of physical therapy cohort, and of course he has his full course load to work on. You wouldn’t think he’d want to add anything else to his plate.

But Stokes, who earned his bachelor’s degree from Wingate University in 2013 and is a second-year physical therapy student at the school, recently answered a call from the American Physical Therapy Association for students interested in being the organization’s core ambassador-elect from North Carolina. He was chosen ahead of two Duke University students.

“When you’re passionate about something, you try to make time for it,” he says.

He’ll serve as core ambassador-elect until Oct. 1, when he takes over as core ambassador. As core ambassador, he’ll essentially serve as the link between the students in North Carolina’s 21 accredited and developing doctor of physical therapy and physical therapist assistant programs and the American Physical Therapy Association, a 90,000-member professional organization that, Stokes says, is an invaluable resource for students preparing for a physical therapy career.

As president of his physical therapy class at Wingate, Stokes relays information from faculty to students in his 41-strong cohort, and from the students to faculty as well. As core ambassador, he’ll do something similar, only on a larger scale.

“My job is to make sure every student is updated on everything that’s going on within the American Physical Therapy Association and how to get involved at the state and national levels, so when they graduate and start practicing, they’ll know more about their profession and legislative issues regarding their scope of practice,” he says.

That includes relaying information on changes in best practices and changes in the law. For instance, in North Carolina physical therapists cannot perform certain manipulations of the spine without a referral from a physician. Students not only need to know that information now, but they also need to know when that law changes, so they can provide the highest-quality care for their patients.

Stokes will learn the ropes from the current core ambassador, Duke University’s Haley Harrell, until October. He will serve as core ambassador for one year. Stokes is on track to graduate from Wingate University’s doctor of physical therapy program in December of 2016.

After graduation, he plans to become board certified and, after establishing himself in the field, join the Naval Reserves.

“My ultimate goal is to work at the Department of Veteran Affairs,” he says. “My care that I give to the patient population will be very rewarding.”

Stokes initially came to Wingate to swim on the swim team and to join the pharmacy program. Swimming and pharmacy studies proved to be incompatible, so he eventually switched to biology, graduating in 2013. During his senior year, he found out that the university was starting a doctor of physical therapy program, so he applied.

Dr. Kevin Brueilly, the Wingate University doctor of physical therapy program director and associate professor of physical therapy, says Stokes’ new position with the American Physical Therapy Association should be a source of pride for the program.

“Because it’s such a new program, it’s very unusual,” Brueilly says. “There are a lot of established programs out there.”