Collaboration makes goal of healthcare career a reality

Felicia Holmes
Felicia Holmes

Felicia Holmes, a biology major at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, has had a goal to become a physical therapist since the seventh grade, when she job-shadowed professionals in the field.

“I saw how they could help patients heal and get back to their full 100% after surgery or an accident, and I just really wanted to do that and be able to help people get back to their normal lives,” said Holmes.

Holmes, who is originally from Lancaster, Wisconsin, didn’t have to travel far to find an affordable program that would set her on this career path. She enrolled in the Pre-Physical Therapy program at UW-Platteville, and now in her junior year was already accepted into Clarke University’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program for fall 2021.

Through an articulation agreement between UW-Platteville and Clarke University, in nearby Dubuque, Iowa, students have the opportunity to earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy in as little as six years. The 3+3 Doctor of Physical Therapy program allows students to complete three years of undergraduate studies at UW-Platteville and three years at Clarke University. The student’s first year of credits at Clarke transfer back to UW-Platteville, completing the bachelor’s degree requirements.

“The 3+3 Doctor of Physical Therapy program with Clarke University is just another example of how, through collaboration, we can work together to provide excellent learning and career opportunities for students,” said Dr. Wayne Weber, dean of the UW-Platteville College of Business, Industry, Life Science and Agriculture. “Further, the collaboration is a tangible example of how these great institutions – UW-Platteville and Clarke University – are working together to address the significant healthcare professional needs in the area. In other words, serving the regional community in being exemplar stewards of place.”

Holmes said the support of faculty has been key as she works her way through the challenging undergraduate curriculum.

“I have always had a good experience with faculty, but especially as I started getting into my anatomy and physiology courses,” she said. “I always felt as though the professor knew who I was and cared for me as a student and how I was doing, rather than only caring about how the class as a whole was doing. That is really what set UW-Platteville apart when I was deciding on a college. That smaller class size was a great fit for me.”

Another feature that sets UW-Platteville apart, Holmes said, is the opportunities offered in the facilities and labs, particularly the Cadaver Lab – a rarity in an undergraduate institution.

“Working in the Cadaver Lab was one of the best experiences I could have had as an undergrad, especially the offering of the Human Gross Anatomy course, because I will have to re-take it in grad school, so having that experience beforehand is great,” said Holmes. “Even in my beginner courses at UW-Platteville, I was really impressed with the different models and samples provided in the labs. I had really cool experiences right off the bat my freshman year.”

Holmes took advantage of student organizations and clubs, such as the Biology Club and Pre-Health Society. One of the most advantageous programs, she said, was the Biology Department’s mentoring program.

“This past year, I was a mentor for one of the first-year students,” said Holmes. “I think buddying us up with someone who has been through the program for our first couple years is one of the greatest things the university does. I know it helped me a lot when I was starting out as a freshman and new to everything and nervous about everything. Having someone who could relate and knew what I was going through was so helpful.”

Looking toward the future, Holmes said she is excited to begin exploring different options in the physical therapy field.

“I’m really interested in two specialties in physical therapy right now,” said Holmes. “I really would like to work with pediatrics, but I also have always been interested in working with the sports injury side of the field. I’m looking forward to having opportunities when I am at Clarke to figure out which specialty I really want to do.”

To learn more about UW-Platteville’s Pre-Physical Therapy program, visit The program is a part of the UW-Platteville's Biology Department, which has a peer mentor program for all first-year students. 

Women within the biology program can also participate in UW-Platteville’s nationally-recognized Women in STEM Program, which aims to create a more diverse, competitive and balanced workforce. The program, which serves approximately 1,000 students, builds community through comprehensive support services, including Women in STEM Living Learning Communities, the Women in STEM Mentor Center and a professional mentor program for juniors and seniors. The retention rate of women in STEM at UW-Platteville is among the highest on campus, with an estimated 90% from first-to-second-year.