Elizabeth Evans, SPT, BS, has wanted to become a physical therapist since witnessing therapists caring for her youngest sister, who was born with cerebral palsy and autism. Now, she is pursuing a Doctor of Physical Therapy, while becoming a prominent student leader at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.
“It’s a huge honor and responsibility,” she said. “I have already worked with the different college representatives in addition to the representatives for the Black Student Association and UTHSC Unite, and I may be the liaison, but it really is working within a team and trying to get as many student voices heard as possible. While it is a lot of work, I am thrilled to have the opportunities to work with people across the entire university.”
Evans was introduced during the board’s summer meeting on August 10 and will serve in this position for one year.
“Having the voice of the students represented on the UTHSC Advisory Board is essential and I believe Elizabeth Evans will do a terrific job in that role,” said Advisory Board Chairman Phil Wenk, DDS, president and CEO of Delta Dental of Tennessee. “Ultimately, we are here for the students and to ensure that our future generation of practitioners are prepared to work with their patients once they graduate. It’s also important for Elizabeth to help communicate back to her fellow students the importance of giving back to UTHSC as professionals in their fields.”
Evans grew up in Memphis and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in movement science from Texas Christian University as a Harris College Fellow in 2020.
She is also the 2022-2023 president of the Student Government Association Executive Council (SGAEC). SGAEC is the official liaison between the administration and students and serves to represent and act on behalf of the student body for student-related matters at the university. SGAEC includes the presidents of each of the six UTHSC college student government associations. The council president is elected on a rotational basis each year and represents the student body in many roles.
“I was fortunate to receive this position as a function of my role within my class as class president, and within the College of Health Professions Student Government Association,” Evans said.
Evans was led to pursue these leadership roles from her aspiration to be involved and contribute to UTHSC and is excited about the opportunities to collaborate with others throughout the university.
“It was a really great honor when I was appointed president of SGAEC, because I can not only look at what is impacting my class but being able to look at such a larger scale to what’s impacting all of the students at UTHSC,” she said.
While serving as SGAEC president, Evans looks forward to working with her cohort of college representatives to address student issues and working with Cindy Russell, PhD, RN, MSN, BSN, vice chancellor for Academic, Faculty and Student Affairs, on updating UTHSC’s strategic plan.
Evans’ interest for studying physical therapy began at age 6. “As a young girl, I was able to see the life-changing impacts that quality medical care can elicit,” she said.
Evans credits Missy Brown, an occupational therapy graduate from UTHSC, for igniting her passion for therapy.
“She kind of sparked a love for physical therapy in me, even though she was an occupational therapist. To engage my sister during therapy, she would encourage me to ‘play’ therapist with my sister or show me games that I could play with her that would strengthen her,” Evans said. “Since then, I have never wavered from my desire to be a physical therapist.”
In addition to being a native Memphian, Evans was inspired by her sister’s doctors and therapists, who were UTHSC alumni, to return to the city permanently and attend the university.
“My entire family lives here, and I really do love this city and want to serve this city,” she said. “Also, considering the quality care my sister was given, I wanted to learn from the same community that produced those medical professionals I view so highly.”
In recognition of her leadership and service, Evans is a member of the Imhotep Society, a campus organization that rewards and recognizes student leaders for their contribution to the UTHSC student community. Student leaders are nominated to be inducted into the society after being awarded value points for their leadership from the student government of their college.
Evans said UTHSC and the Department of Physical Therapy have provided many opportunities and are committed to supporting and valuing students’ voices.
“From my exciting clinical experiences to interacting and working with fellow students, faculty, and staff, UTHSC and the Department of Physical Therapy have brought me opportunities way beyond in-class learning,” she said. “I have been especially encouraged by the extent to which the Department of PT is student-centered. I feel like the faculty and staff are not just devoted to educating us but are also devoted to listening to us and supporting us.”
After she graduates in the spring of 2024, Evans plans to practice physical therapy in Memphis and eventually pursue a PhD to work in research or academia.