Alumni Profile: Aileen Chou, Class of 2014

October 1, 2019

When Dr. Aileen Chou, DPT Class of 2014, was looking at the various physical therapy programs across the country, she had the opportunity to sit in on classes within several of them. Dr. Chou noted that the lectures at Columbia were of “a very high level” and they included discussions of current research. She was also impressed with her experience on interview day which allowed her to interact with current students, and she enjoyed the collaborative nature of the program.

Cut to the present: Dr. Chou is currently a PhD student at the University of Pittsburgh in health services research.  In partnership with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), a health care system that covers a large percentage of Pennsylvania, Dr. Chou and her colleagues will be analyzing large-scale data through medical records that track patients from admissions through outpatient. They will be looking for how physical therapy impacts the patients’ outcomes, and how PT can help the healthcare system reduce readmissions, decrease the length of stay and improve functional outcomes.

Head shot of Dr. Aileen Chou
Dr. Aileen Chou, Class of 2014

Dr. Chou describes how her Columbia education helped prepare her for this step in her career. She notes that her Capstone project, which explored how exercises helped the activities of daily living in patients with Alzheimer's disease, along with her research practicum with Dr. Ashwini Rao, made her aware of gaps in the literature. She also enjoyed working with Dr. Christopher Kevin Wong on a prosthetics and orthotics project that entailed attending support group meetings, which gave her the opportunity to interact with individuals with disabilities.

Service-learning had a significant presence during her time at Columbia. Dr. Chou created her own service-learning trip to India, where she worked with pediatric patients with Down syndrome and autism as well as patients with Alzheimer’s disease.  In addition, Dr. Chou and a group of her classmates participated in an adaptive rock climbing group, in which people with any kind of disability could sign up. They included participants who were blind, had strokes, spinal cord injuries, or cerebral palsy. She continued this activity after she graduated, and is currently trying to get a similar clinic established in Pittsburgh.

Continuing education activities also figure prominently in her career trajectory. The courses she has taken focused primarily on the management of individuals with neurological impairments. She has attended numerous conferences including the American Physical Therapy Association's (APTA) Combined Sections Meeting (CSM) and the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine (ACRM).

Dr. Chou credits DPT Program faculty support as being invaluable in motivating her to be a life-long learner. She pointed out that the DPT faculty provided opportunities for volunteering and continuing education, as well as offering involvement with their research projects during the first and second years, which instilled confidence that as students, these accomplishments were within reach.  She recalled, “I remember mentioning something about a PhD somewhere along the line to Dr. Wong. He just gave me that vote of confidence. I never thought it could be possible, and now I’m in a PhD program!”