This summer, exercise science major Katherine Nguyen ’19 interned at the American Medical Center Shanghai (AMC). The AMC was the first Western surgery center to specialize in sports medicine and orthopedics in China. Nguyen, from Lowell, Mass., is on Colby-Sawyer’s pre-physical therapy track and wanted to learn more about the industry by observing China’s integration of Western medicine into its health care practices. After learning through a DNA test that she was not 100 percent Vietnamese as she believed but in fact had Chinese ancestors, Nguyen also wanted to experience the country’s culture. Her internship showed her both where she came from and where she’s heading for a career.

As a physical therapist’s assistant, Nguyen’s main responsibility was to consult with patients and record their progress. She assisted patients in their rehabilitation sessions, instructing them in therapeutic exercises. She also used physical therapy modalities such as ultrasounds, neuromuscular electrical stimulation and heat and ice therapy. Throughout her internship, Nguyen relied on the hands-on lab and clinical courses within her major such as Exercise Prescription and Applied Kinesiology to do her job.

Nguyen also cites her work as a Resident Assistant and Orientation Leader as instrumental to her internship’s success. Both opportunities enhanced her leadership skills and helped her get outside her comfort zone while living in a foreign country.

Colby-Sawyer student-intern wraps a patients ankle.

Staffed by international professionals, the AMC sees patients from all around the world. Nguyen treated a patient on the Israel Cross Country National Team who is training to represent his country at the next Olympics.

“What I enjoyed most about my experience was working with international clients,” said Nguyen. “Bridging the intercultural communication barriers was challenging, but it got easier as the weeks progressed and as I adapted to my environment.”

Nguyen learned a variety of physical therapy techniques, such as cupping and acupuncture. Both are common therapeutic practices in traditional Chinese medicine.

Colby-Sawyer student-intern works with a patient to develop arm strength.

Nguyen was one of several students this summer to receive a generous grant from the Presidential Initiative to offset the cost of her internship. After graduating, Nguyen plans to earn a doctorate in physical therapy and become a licensed traveling physical therapist; she is eager to treat patients on a global scale. Her long-term plans also include working in an outpatient clinic and eventually opening her own clinic.

“I hope to take what I have learned from Colby-Sawyer and my international experiences and incorporate Western and Eastern medicine approaches into my own practice,” Nguyen said. “I long to create a dynamic experience for my patients.”