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Natalie Barnhard, ’02

My education at Villa Maria College has helped me in such a unique way. My education and experience has not only helped me as a young therapist to learn what is needed to help others, but then guided me in my own journey after tragedy.

It has helped me to understand exactly what I needed with rehabilitation and overall care for myself, and now with my Motion Project Recovery Center to help other people with neurological injuries or disability. Even though I can no longer physically work as a PTA, I am able to work with my exercise specialists and our clients in a therapeutic role because of the knowledge I gained at Villa Maria and my experiences throughout my own personal rehabilitation journey. I was able to be a great therapist, and then I became a patient, and now I get to be a therapist again from an entirely new perspective.  

As healthcare professionals, we have a duty to create a welcoming environment and ensure that our services are accessible and inclusive to everyone, regardless of their ability. We all have a unique opportunity to make a positive impact on our patients’ lives by utilizing our skills and knowledge to help people with disabilities improve their mobility, function, and overall quality of life. But in order to do that, we must first create a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion in our profession.  

My hope is that all future therapists are able to see the individual they are helping and not the disability. We all have a responsibility to fight and work hard above and beyond barriers and the clinical walls to help every patient get their life back so everyone is able to live their best life!