Physical Therapy student wins prestigious national scholarship

Do Kyung Yun
Do Kyung Yun

When Do Kyung Yun was young, he spoke with a stutter. Throughout his childhood, he attended speech therapy, which he credits as a significant driving factor in his decision to pursue a career in physical therapy.

“It was one of the most painful and toughest challenges that I had to go through,” he said. “But looking back at it, I am so grateful for having to go through that. I feel like I grew so much. I got so much strength from it — the root of my empathy, it really comes from my experience as a stutterer.”

An essay Yun wrote about his childhood stutter was one of two he submitted in his winning application for the Catherine Worthingham Student Scholarship. The second-year physical therapy student in The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth’s School of Health Professions was selected as one of nine from a pool of 450 applicants. The award allows Yun to attend the American Physical Therapy Association’s annual conference in Boston in February. He is the first HSC student to ever be awarded the scholarship.

Furtado, Michael16
Dr. Michael Furtado

“DK is a born leader, and we couldn’t be prouder of this significant accomplishment,” said Dr. Michael Furtado, chair of HSC’s Department of Physical Therapy. “The Catherine Worthingham Student Scholarship is a highly sought-after honor, and being awarded the scholarship is a testament to all of DK’s hard work and commitment to becoming the best possible practitioner he can be. He not only brings an incredible amount of life and world experience to our program, but his sense of joy and positive attitude are palpable.”

For Yun, pursuing physical therapy is career change. He started his career as a middle school teacher before returning to his hometown of Los Angeles, California to work as a community organizer. There, he mediated racial and ethnic tension in Koreatown, the neighborhood he grew up in and whose demographics are majority Korean and Hispanic populations. Yun helped those residents celebrate all of the things they have in common.

His second essay was about that experience.

“There’s misunderstanding,” he said. “There’s cultural clashes. One of the things that was very important to me was to bring the two communities together. There’s difference in culture, in language, in customs, but a lot of times we share very similar issues: exploitation in the workplace, affordable housing, immigration, neighborhood safety and so on.”

Yun made it a priority to create a space for the two communities to come together and share. “We did trilingual political education,” he said. “We celebrated Chuseok, a Korean holiday honoring our ancestors, alongside Día de los Muertos, a Mexican holiday with the same idea.”

“That’s one of the examples that I talked about for how my experiences have prepared me to be the kind of leader I want to be.”

Despite overcoming his stutter around the time he entered college, Yun said the obstacles and emotional burden of his condition made such a deep impact, he needed to give a voice to people struggling with being understood. He applied for and was accepted to HSC to pursue what he referred to as a calling.

“I know what it feels like to struggle with the most basic of tasks,” he said. “You’re trying the hardest you can to just say a word, something so simple. But it doesn’t come out the way that you want it to come out, and it’s frustrating.”

“I feel that a lot of people who are going through physical therapy could also feel the same thing — like something they used to be able to do so easily, they struggle with it now. I feel like I can empathize with that experience. That’s going to make me into a better physical therapist.”

Receiving the Catherine Worthingham Student Scholarship and being able to attend the conference in Boston, he said, will also make him a better physical therapist. There, he will have the opportunity to meet, mingle with, and learn from some of the most forward-thinking PTs in the field.

“That is the one place where people from all over the profession and across the country come together in one space to share each of our unique experiences,” he said. “It’s such a powerful moment, and as a student going into the profession, I want to be exposed to that as early as possible.”

“I feel fortunate to go, and that I have a responsibility to bring it back to our program, so that everyone else could also share in some of that experience.”

Yun currently serves as president of SHP’s Physical Therapy Student Association.

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