Why I do what I do

August 4, 2017

Nicoleta Bugnariu

By Nicoleta Bugnariu, PhD, PT

I was 19 years old and fresh out of nursing school when I emigrated from Romania to Canada and took a job at a residential facility for seniors.

One of the women I cared for was a retired nun named Rita. Months after I started, she suffered a major stroke. She survived but lost feeling and movement on the right side of her body. She could no longer walk, stand, or feed and bathe herself.

As her nurse, I dressed Rita, brushed her teeth and did what she could no longer do for herself. She was essentially dependent on others for everything.

Then she started physical therapy. I was there while she spent the entire next year trying to re-learn how to do things herself.

At that time, back in Romania, physical therapy was not a profession in itself. So I knew nothing about it. I had never thought about it. This was my first exposure.

During that year, I watched Rita regain the ability to stand, walk, move her arm and start to retake control of her life. She fed herself. She brushed her teeth. At the end of that year, Rita was able to crochet a scarf for her physical therapist as a gift.

Before my eyes, Rita regained her independence. Even more, she regained her dignity. I was mesmerized. I knew physical therapy was what I wanted to do.

I went to physical therapy school, and the more I learned about rehabilitation, the more I wanted to know about brain plasticity and how it recovers from an injury; how it changes with disease or because of aging. What could we do as physical therapists to optimize that recovery, and how could we use technology to understand the neural mechanisms that facilitate movement?

To this day, these questions fuel my research interests.

I teach a course at the Health Science Center called Integrated Movement Control. At the beginning of every semester, I tell my new students Rita’s story, and how it impacted me and guided my journey into a physical therapy career. I tell them that through their practice they will have the opportunity to transform people lives.

Last year, at the end of the semester, one of my students, Brenda Kinzler, brought me a gift. It was a scarf that Brenda knitted for me, just like Rita had crocheted one for her physical therapist.

I cried.

*** 

Dr. Nicoleta Bugnariu is Interim Dean of the School of Health Professions and Associate Professor of Physical Therapy. Her research focuses on the underlying mechanisms controlling sensorimotor function in patients of all ages.

Dr. Taylor
Provost Taylor: Committed to doing meaningful work in the community

Charles Taylor, the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth's Provost and EVP of Academic Affairs, began his journey in higher education earlier than most as he spent the first five years of his life living in a modified dorm room with his parents on the campus of Samford...Read more

Jan 13, 2022

Ireb Fc
TCU and UNT Chancellors announce updates to MD School

Today, Chancellor Michael R. Williams and Chancellor Victor J. Boschini, Jr., issued the following joint statement to affirm the vision and announce the next evolution in the advancement of the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine: “Together, the UNT Health Science Center at Fort Worth (HSC) and T...Read more

Jan 12, 2022

HSC Student, Dianna H. Nguyen
HSC Dual Degree student Dianna Nguyen awarded highly prestigious NIH Fellowship

By Steven Bartolotta Dianna H. Nguyen, a DO/PhD candidate at the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth, has been awarded the F30 Dual Doctoral-Degree, Predoctoral Fellowship from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Nguyen received the highly competitive fellowship for...Read more

Jan 11, 2022

Magdalena Bus and Bruce Budowle
Uncovering mysteries and improving forensic medicine

By Sally Crocker Over the years, Bruce Budowle, PhD, has been recognized in various ways for his lifelong dedication to uncovering mysteries, bringing long-sought answers to families and communities, and developing novel ways to improve the science behind forensic medicine. After sp...Read more

Jan 11, 2022