Class of 2024: Honors student Alyssa Sievers turned injury into opportunity and found her passion for physical therapy

By William Lineberry
Honors College, University College

Alyssa Sievers poses for a photo at the Cary Street GymAlyssa Sievers wants to help people the way she was once helped.

After invasive knee surgery that followed a dance performance injury during high school, Sievers was enrolled in physical therapy. The PT did more than help her recover – it intensified her previous interest in health care, and she realized she wanted to become a physical therapist.

“Seeing how much they changed my life through physical therapy, I knew that is the health care field that I wanted to go into,” Sievers said.

At Virginia Commonwealth University, the Honors College student, who entered a Guaranteed Admission Program in the health sciences, will graduate this spring as a double-major in health, physical education and exercise science and Spanish in the College of Humanities and Sciences. Sievers will start her graduate studies in physical therapy this summer in the VCU College of Health Professions.

Much as the Honors College emphasizes experiential learning, Sievers embodied that spirit from her own experience. After her time as a PT patient concluded following her surgery, she asked to stay on and volunteer with her provider team. The physical therapists agreed and let her shadow them and help around the clinic.

When she enrolled at VCU, Sievers immediately jumped into her role as a peer health educator at RecWell working in the physical health area. She helped design interactive health and exercise programs for students and led group exercise classes. 

“I have found that in my time as a peer health educator and as a class leader that they kind of come together to be physical therapy,” Sievers said. “A lot of physical therapy is just explaining … what type of condition you have and what outside factors affect the way you feel. In my role here, that’s basically what I was doing.”

It was through an internship related to her health coursework that Sievers found another passion that combined her majors: medical translation services. She was interning at a predominantly Spanish-speaking PT clinic and saw the need for on-hand translation services. After the internship’s initial course, Sievers – as she had done as a high school student – asked to stay on at the clinic, this time as an interpreter.

“I realized how amazing it was to help people in this way,” she said. “It’s so different the way care can go when there is a language barrier there. I’ve become very passionate through this internship about making health care more accessible to more populations.”

And Sievers credits her time in the Honors College with helping her develop two passions she will carry beyond VCU.

“I really feel like Honors faculty specifically helped me understand the importance of serving the community I live in through community engagement and making a commitment to becoming a lifelong learner,” Sievers said. “I know that those are two things I will take with me after I graduate.”