Dental Medicine

Brad Smith
Dean, College of Dental Medicine-AZ
Brad Smith, D.D.S., B.Sc., is Dean in the College of Dental Medicine-Arizona at Midwestern University's Glendale (AZ) Campus.

The Healing Process

Eder Garavito remembers clearly the three weeks he spent observing and assisting in the summer of 2011 at a physical therapy office in nearby Goodyear, AZ. It was one of many times to come when he realized he could use his training to really help people. And that felt great.

"One time there was a patient who came in hunched in pain," he recalls. "And then he walked out thanking us! The next day, I came in smiling, thinking 'alright, I'm doing something.'"

"Being able to use my hands to make people feel better and recuperate, watching them go through the healing process─ that is the best part of working with patients."

And Eder knows what is talking about. While he's been learning to help people, his journey to becoming a PT is a personal triumph as well as professional.

Back in Motion

As a healthy college student in Concordia/St. Paul, Minnesota in 2006, Eder was an athlete who loved the outdoors ─ biking, running, wakeboarding, anything a little dangerous and adrenalin-filled. But when a wakeboarding accident led to a very serious knee injury and surgery, he found himself suddenly helpless. He couldn't walk or do anything, and had to drop out of school for six months. "I went from being active, running, and jumping, to sitting on a couch" he says, not really wanting to remember how unbearable that was for him as an athlete.

It was during this difficult time that he learned about physical therapy firsthand. "I know it sounds sappy, but when I went to PT, they were so helpful. Going to PT meant getting out of my house, going to see people, getting back on my feet."

And about six to eight months later, that's what he did: get back up on his feet and start over again. But rather than let the accident get him down, he let the experience fuel his passion for human movement even more, and he returned to school, devoting his studies to exercise physiology and personal training.

Many Specialties, Many Research Areas

"At that point, orthopedics was the only kind of PT I knew about," remembers Eder. At MWU, I have learned about 18 other specialty areas of PT. I am interested in cardiopulmonary physical therapy, and possibly doing research professionally when I graduate. In fact, I have already done research projects with two of our faculty members, Donald Shaw, PT, Ph.D., D.Min., Professor of Physical Therapy, and Kimberly Varnado, PT, D.P.T., Instructor. I also want to work in a hospital in-patient setting. I like the interdisciplinary aspect of it. You can go see patients and follow them from day one after surgery."

The Campus Tells its Story

When it was time to choose a physical therapy program, Eder had no doubts, despite objections from his family about traveling so far to Arizona. "The MWU campus tells its own story," he says. "It is immaculate and beautiful." After the interview, he felt immediately comfortable and was thrilled with meeting some of the outstanding PT faculty: Judy Woehrle, PT, Ph.D., OCS, Program Director; Robert Nithman, PT, D.P.T., GCS, Assistant Professor; and Dr. Shaw.

"The campus, the faculty, the lab, our department─I was in awe! I love the geography and the people here. Plus, MWU has such a well-respected medical school."
-Eder Garavito, DPT Class of 2013

Excelling as a Student and Leader

While at MWU, there's no doubt Eder has put his discipline to great use and really excelled. He helped develop the first Physical Therapy Club, and has served as Class President and Co-President, as well as a Student Ambassador. In addition to doing research with Dr. Shaw and Dr. Varnado, he has attended several association meetings and presented his own research. He has completed rotations in a Level 1 trauma cardiovascular ICU, two outpatient orthopedic clinics, a hospital cardiopulmonary unity, and an emergency department.

Plans for the Future: Practice, Teaching, and Research

Eder will graduate with the inaugural PT class on the Glendale Campus in May 2013. He will be the first in the family to get a doctoral degree, and he says his family is very excited he is going into physical therapy. After graduation, he plans to practice for five-10 years while engaging in academia and research. Later, he hopes to slowly transition into less clinical work and pursue a permanent faculty position while continuing to do research.

Wherever his path leads him as a PT, Eder will bring his discipline, drive, and love for motion, and his patients will be well on their way . . . .

Garavito, DPT Class of 2013

Eder Garavito, DPT Class of 2013