WEST DES MOINES, IOWA (July 7, 2023)  Kelsey Mims DPT, a 2012 graduate of Des Moines University's physical-therapy program in practice at BenchMark Physical Therapy in Atlanta, was named the university's 2023 Rising Star Award recipient. The annual award honors graduates of the past fifteen or fewer years who have made noteworthy contributions to their industry or community.

Mims joined BenchMark Physical Therapy (PT) after graduating from DMU. Benchmark has nearly 500 clinics in thirteen states and is part of Upstream Rehabilitation, the largest rehabilitation organization in the nation. Benchmark's therapist-partnership model allowed her to become an equity-holder in two of the five clinics she manages while providing patients with physical-therapy services.

"Empowering people to play an active role in making sure their body is healthy through exercise and then seeing that affect them emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually is such a rewarding experience," she says.

Mims was able to become an equity holder at BenchMark in part because, as a DMU student, she received a full-tuition Glanton Scholarship. The university awards the scholarship to select students underrepresented in the health professions.

"Being able to go to PT school tuition-free put me in a good place financially. It relieved a lot of stress, and I was able to use the money I saved to invest in my clinics as a business owner," she says. "I truly don't believe I would have been able to do that so early in my career if it hadn't been for the Glanton Scholarship. I'm very grateful for that."

Mims is "paying forward" that benefit in several synergistic ways. She is a leader in BenchMark's diversity, equity, and inclusion student-programs committee, which works to foster clinical and professional development. In that role, she partners with historically Black colleges and universities with physical-therapy programs to assist minority PT students with resume-writing, interview preparation, and contract negotiations.

She also serves on the executive board of the National Association of Black Physical Therapists Inc, a non-profit organization with a mission to increase visibility, networking, community service, advocacy, career development, and mentorship for Black physical therapists and physical-therapist assistants. She chairs the association's Atlanta chapter.

"Our big push is helping high school and undergraduate students realize physical therapy is a great profession. Minority communities and lower-income school systems don't always get exposed to all the career options out there," she says.

As a hiring manager at BenchMark and a mentor to students underrepresented in health-care, Mims strives to help diversify the physical-therapy profession toward a greater goal — to provide better, more culturally-competent health-care to all people, especially minority and underserved communities.

"I want to ensure that our patients who are primarily minority are getting equal care and are being treated by people who truly understand them and their culture and their background," she says. "Some of my clinics serve primarily Black American communities, and it was eye-opening to realize some patients aren't sharing the same information with their doctors that they share with me, because there is a disconnect in the level of trust and understanding. That's one of the reasons why I have become more passionate in the push to seek out and hire more minorities. I want to make sure my patients are getting the best care possible."

Located in West Des Moines, Iowa, DMU offers ten graduate-level professional-degree programs in anatomy, biomedical sciences, health-care administration, occupational therapy, osteopathic medicine, physical therapy, physician assistant studies, podiatric medicine, and public health. Founded in 1898, the institution offers superior academics in a collaborative environment. DMU students' scores on national examinations, pass rates on board certifications, and match rates for medical residency programs are consistently higher than national averages and rates at peer institutions.

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