For Dr. Zhuo Yan “Joey” Lee, the road to a doctorate in physical therapy (DBT) has been a long one.
Dr. Lee has spent 10 and a half years enrolled full time in higher education — earning a bachelor’s degree in linguistics, taking prerequisite coursework and then three years in the University at Buffalo’s DPT program. The son of immigrants — his father is originally from Hong Kong, his mother from Malaysia — he hopes to eventually earn certification as an orthopaedic clinical specialist and work with impoverished, refugee and immigrant populations.
So the hooding ceremony held May 18 for graduate students in the department of rehabilitation science was especially meaningful — perhaps more meaningful than the actual School of Public Health and Health Professions’ formal commencement ceremony the following day.
At this year’s hooding ceremony, 42 PT (physical therapy) students and 61 OT (occupational therapy) students were hooded. (There were no PhD graduates this year.) The PTs were hooded by program chair Dr. Kirkwood Personius and Dr. Susan Bennett, clinical professor of rehabilitation Science. The OTs were hooded by program chair Dr. Janice Tona and academic fieldwork coordinator Dr. Kimberley Persons.
“From what I can remember, the hooding ceremony is a monastic tradition that was passed down from medieval times signifying the transition from a student to a master,” Dr. Lee says. “It is quite an honor to participate in a ceremony that signifies mastery of a subject material.
“Graduation to me signifies the end of formal schooling,” he says, “but the hooding ceremony to me represents a bar of educational achievement that I will have to continually strive to meet throughout my career.”
This annual ceremony began in 2004 with the first class of DPT graduates. The occupational therapy students joined the ceremony the following year, with the graduation of the first BS/MS class.
Dr. Jean Wactawski-Wende, SUNY Distinguished Professor and dean of the School of Public Health and Health Professions, describes her hooding — she received her PhD in experimental pathology from UB — as “a first experience.”
“It signified for me that I was part of the academy and was especially symbolic,” she recalls. “In our school, hooding is done by your professors. In the case of PhDs, that is often your major adviser. That makes the hooding even more special.”
The intimacy of the ceremony provided “one last memorable moment” for OT graduate Brooke Montgomery, who notes that her cohort has been together in small lectures and laboratory components for three of the five years of the combined program. “As a result of this structure, you form lasting connections — not only with your classmates, but with your professors as well,” she says.
“There is something so uniquely personal about being hooded by professors and mentors who have played such an important role in helping you transform from a student to an entry-level practitioner.”