When her husband three years ago fell seriously ill and underwent surgery, Shuying Lin went through her own life-changing experience.
Lin, who was born and educated in China and came to this country in 2000 to perform pediatric research at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, re-thought her years in the laboratory and her career calling.
“My husband had a smooth recovery, but it made me think a lot. It changed my way of thinking,” said Lin, who graduates this year with her doctor of physical therapy from the School of Health Related Professions. “I thought, 'I can't take what I have for granted. If I have a dream and want to pursue it, I need to do it right now.' That's how I made my decision.”
The mom of a young son entered the program at age 40, leaving her position in the Department of Pediatrics and the security and routine of a small laboratory setting. “If you stay in that environment for a while, you don't want to change,” Lin said.
In her laboratory, Lin said, “most of the time, I was dealing with rats that we use for experiments. I'd thought about changing careers to the clinical side. I'm more of a people person. It was a very hard decision for me. I really enjoyed my lab work, but I need to step out of my comfort zone and go back to school.”
Lin speaks English well, but the Madison resident said her cultural background played just as much of a role as her grasp of English in the challenge of mastering her PT classes.
“There were a lot of barriers and a generation gap. Most of my classmates are in their 20s,” she said. “And, physical therapy is a profession that requires very high communication skills. A physician might see a patient for five or 10 minutes, but in a PT treatment session, you will be with the patient for an hour or an hour and a half.
“For that period of time, you speak with your patient, so it's really important to have good communication to identify their problems and learning style.”
Her clinical rotations over the three-year PT program, Lin said, have been a game-changer. “In different PT settings, you have different styles of communication with different patients. I'm very comfortable now, but I still need to keep learning.”
She had to juggle being in class full-time with her family. Her son is now 13. On top of that was a part-time job with UMMC and another job as a tutor. “It was tough. The most important thing was trying to stay on top of things and to make the best use of my time.”
Lin “has always been such a hard worker,” said Dr. Kimberly Willis, assistant professor of physical therapy.
“She's been very busy, and with more than a full plate, she has balanced herself well, whether she's in the classroom, on a clinical rotation, or at home,” said Willis, who taught Lin components of neurological aspects of physical therapy.
Lin has her post-graduation job lined up. She will work with acute-care patients at St. Dominic Hospital.
“She definitely is motivated and has the drive to succeed,” Willis said. “She has always wanted to learn and do what is best for her patients.”