Dawn Brown

Clinical Assistant Professor and Director of Clinical Education, Physical Therapy Program

Dawn Brown

What year did you start working at NIU?

Where is your hometown? and where do you live now?
I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, and currently live in Naperville, Illinois.

Where did you attend college and what degree(s) have you earned?

  • Northwestern University, Evanston, IL – B.A. psychology
  • Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago, IL – M.P.T. (Master of Physical Therapy)
  • Alabama State University, Montgomery, AL – D.P.T. (Doctor of Physical Therapy)
  • Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL - Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in higher education administration (to be awarded 2022)

In which department(s) do you teach?
School of Allied Health and Communicative Disorders, Doctor of Physical Therapy program

What do you like about working at NIU?
The ability to teach the next generation of physical therapists and treat members of the DeKalb, Sycamore and NIU communities in the NIU physical therapy clinic attracted me to NIU. I enjoy the ability to liberally expand my teaching, research and service to meet the needs of the Doctor of Physical Therapy program, students, faculty and university. Foraging relationships with faculty in other AHCD disciplines has been an added bonus.

What advice would you give to students currently attending NIU?
My advice for current NIU students includes the following:

  • Develop an ability for self-reflection. This will enable you to learn from your mistakes and take your accomplishments to the next level.
  • Set goals. These goals can be academic and/or personal, but they will keep you grounded and accountable.
  • Stay resilient. The past year of racial and health pandemics have challenged all of us, but in times of turmoil, it is your resiliency that pulls you through.

Tell us about a research or engaged learning project you have led.
I am currently co-leading research on student belongingness in clinical education within Doctor of Physical Therapy programs. This research study will have significant implications on the perceived level of belongingness that these students feel during their clinical experiences. Similar research in nursing has shown that there is a pivotal relationship between the extent to which students experience belongingness and their capacity and motivation to learn during clinical experiences. My research will develop and validate an adapted version of a pre-existing belongingness scale that measures belongingness during clinical experiences.

What do you hope students take away from your class?
My goal for the D.P.T. students is to empower them to become contributing members of the physical therapy profession by possessing the ability to think critically, be skillful listeners and have the capacity to interact effectively with the diverse patients, physical therapists and other health care providers with whom they come into contact. It is my goal to allow the class material to leave an impression on the students’ minds long after the course ends. During classes, I hope to transfer my enthusiasm for the physical therapy profession to them, through personal examples and humor, leaving a lasting and memorable impression on them as they prepare to enter the profession.

What is your favorite campus event?
My favorite campus event is graduation. It is bittersweet to see our Doctor of Physical Therapy students graduate and prepare to start their careers as physical therapists and colleagues!

What is your favorite memory of NIU?
My favorite memory of NIU is the Halloween costume contests that we hold at the DPT program each October. This coincides with National Physical Therapy Month, which is also in October. The students' creativity shines when they create and dress up in costumes that reflect physical therapy. This event is always memorable, and the costumes are incredible and funny! 

Who has influenced your professional path?
My professional path was influenced in part by an athletic trainer at Northwestern University who told me that a physical therapist has many more avenues to explore over the duration of their career when compared to being an athletic trainer. Additionally, my professional path was influenced by those within my family who did not have an opportunity to realize their fullest potential due to adverse circumstances. My drive and commitment to being an educator and clinician stems from my resolve to take advantage of talent and opportunities with which I have been blessed.

What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you currently doing it? If not, what changed your path?
I always knew that I wanted to be a health care practitioner when I grew up. I loved to try to bandage and heal the kids in the neighborhood when they got scratches and scrapes (let alone the numerous injuries I have had growing up as a "tomboy"). As an undergraduate at Northwestern University, I wanted to be a pediatrician, but that quickly changed as I could not envision my six-foot-tall self squatting down to deal with screaming kids. I eventually became a student athletic trainer, and my love of health care and sports led me to a path toward becoming an orthopedic physical therapist.

Are you a member of or hold a position within a professional organization? If so, what organization? What is the purpose of that organization and how does being part of this organization benefit you in your role at NIU?
I am a very active member of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) and serve as a member of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Workgroup. Within the American Council of Academic Physical Therapy (ACAPT), I am the elected director of clinical education representative on the new National Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Commission, and I am co-founder of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Consortium. As a member of the Illinois Physical Therapy Association (IPTA), I am an elected assembly representative. Each of these organizations support physical therapists and physical therapist assistance and strive to advance our unique role within health care. My membership within these organizations enables me to stay current on physical therapy research and topics that may enhance the courses I teach to our D.P.T. students, as well as the services I provide in the NIU physical therapy clinic.

What community organizations are you involved in?
I am involved with health care initiatives within my church and community health events that occur throughout the year within underserved communities in Chicago and the surrounding areas. I provide health education and injury/health screenings to people who lack resources.

What do you do to relax or recharge?
To relax and recharge, I do aerobic conditioning and lift weights. In the past I would play basketball, but I think my knees would protest if I tried that now! I also love to explore new, exciting food to eat (especially chocolate desserts) and places to travel as ways to unwind. 

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