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More than One Way to Give Back

By Julie M. Gerhart P'94, MS'05, RPh

group photoAt the Alumni Association board of directors meetings, attendees are often reminded that there are numerous ways to give back to the University. Throughout the years, that giving back meant several things to me: donating to the school, bringing experts in Medicare from the school to speak at my workplace, participating in career roundtables, serving as a preceptor to student pharmacists, becoming a director in the Alumni Association, and attending school events at professional society meetings. Most of the giving back focused in the area of my first degree at the college: pharmacy.

At an Alumni Association board of directors meeting, Dr. MICHELLE COHEN provided the attendees with an update on the physical therapy (PT), occupational therapy (OT), and speech/language pathology programs. As Dr. Cohen spoke of the programs, I wondered how much exposure student therapists had to pediatric clients and whether they had the opportunity to work with children with DS. I thought this was a perfect example of how alumni could give back to the school in a nontraditional way.In November of 2008, my son Evan Rothholz was born. About an hour after his birth, a doctor shared news my husband and I never expected to hear: she suspected Evan had Down syndrome (DS). The news was life changing. In addition to navigating the experiences of new parenthood, we had to learn about parenting a child with DS and about arranging for therapy through early intervention. Before Evan was a month old, he had his first occupational therapy session, and at 4 months, he started physical therapy.

I contacted Dr. Cohen, and she connected me with faculty in the PT and OT programs. In the summer of 2012, the OT department contacted me about hosting two students during the summer for client experiences. Student therapists were required to complete eight, one-hour visits and were tasked with providing three interventions to help the client.

quoteWithin weeks, LISA VANDERPOOL MOT'14 and LACEY DELAURENTIS MOT'14 began their client experience hours. They were creative, courteous, and professional, and they had some wonderful suggestions for interventions for Evan. During their time with Evan, they met his early intervention therapists and were able to observe a session that included the use of a platform swing. They also exchanged ideas with Evan’s therapists and had the opportunity to ask questions. They gained experience and knowledge about children with DS.

When I graduated from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, I thought someday I'd give back to the school by being a preceptor. I never imagined that I’d be working with OT student therapists, providing them with information on DS and client experiences with my son.

To echo what is often said at Alumni Association meetings, there are many ways to give back to the University. And as I've learned, you can give back in ways unrelated to your major.

If you're interested in giving back to the University, contact the Alumni Relations Office at 888-857-6264 or

JULIE M. GERHART P'94, MS'05, RPh, is an associate director of U.S. academic and professional affairs-pharmacy at Merck. After receiving her pharmacy degree, she returned to earn an MS in biomedical writing. Gerhart is married to Mitchel Rothholz, RPh, MBA, chief strategy officer for the American Pharmacists Association, and is actively involved in organizations that focus on Down syndrome/special needs awareness and education.

Categories: The Bulletin, Profiles, Giving, Alumni