Darwin Sandoval, mid-conversation while on a virtual phone call. Next to him, green text reads "Rizing Tide, Darwin Sandoval, 2023 Crest Scholar."

Inspired by Family, Driven to Dream: Meet Rizing Tide Scholar Darwin Sandoval

Rizing Tide Team

This is the first installment of the 2023 Rizing Tide Lighthouse Series: a series of blogs and video interviews that spotlight our exceptional scholars from Fleet III. Stay tuned for the next installment!

For Darwin Sandoval, obtaining a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree means absolutely everything. A dedicated student at Saint Joseph’s University, Darwin was the first member of his family to attend college, let alone receive a bachelor’s degree and attend graduate school. But prestige is the last thing on Darwin’s mind. Instead, earning a DPT degree and title in the near future will mean that Darwin can accomplish a major life goal: to provide for his family while making a positive impact in others’ lives.

Darwin’s inspiration to pursue a career in physical therapy comes from two significant figures in his life: his mother and his son, Emiliano. “A few years ago, I went with my mom to one of her physical therapy appointments for her sciatica pain. She wasn’t treated very well because many of the physical therapists didn’t speak Spanish. This experience opened my eyes to the lack of Latino and Hispanic physical therapists and how intimidating it can be for someone who doesn’t speak English to seek medical help,” Darwin says. 

The second source of inspiration is his son, Emiliano, who was born with Down syndrome and has received physical therapy treatment since birth. “I want to help other families in similar situations because I believe my empathy and personal experience will make me a top-notch physical therapist in that field,” Darwin says.

As a resident of Hamilton, New Jersey, Darwin didn’t have to look long before deciding that Saint Joseph’s University (SJU) perfectly met his needs. SJU’s location meant Darwin wouldn’t have to travel too far from his son, the two-and-a-half-year program offered a shorter time commitment, and Darwin loved the campus when he visited. Darwin was particularly impressed by SJU’s welcoming atmosphere. Its faculty emphasized diversity and inclusion, aligning perfectly with his values and goals of bringing more diversity to the field of physical therapy. 

Since attending DPT school, Darwin has learned the critical lesson of maintaining personal balance. “It’s crucial to not study until midnight every night and to ensure you get enough sleep,” Darwin says. “In a demanding program like ours, it’s easy to burn out if you don’t take care of your mental health. This lesson made a significant difference from my first semester to my second semester.”

As a Rizing Tide scholar, Darwin is most excited to take advantage of upcoming networking opportunities. “Building long-lasting friendships, having mentors, and mentoring future DPT students are invaluable experiences,” Darwin says. “I want to leverage every opportunity to grow professionally and interact with future physical therapists. I am very grateful for this opportunity and look forward to making the most of it.”

Darwin’s advice for future Rizing Tide scholarship applicants is to be authentic and speak from the heart during the interview: “Let everyone know your genuine reasons for pursuing a career in physical therapy. Also, build strong relationships with physical therapists to secure excellent letters of recommendation.”

About the Author

Rizing Tide Team

Rizing Tide is a scholarship program designed to empower a new generation of BIPOC leaders in the physical therapy profession. We partner with PT and PTA students, PT residents, and industry leaders to advance diversity and inclusiveness in the physical therapy workforce and inspire better—and more accessible—patient care.