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Alumna Finds Fulfillment as Physical Therapist Assistant

Each day while she waited for her daughters' three-hour competitive swim practices to end, Sondra Tomei pondered her future. Although she enjoyed being a stay-at-home mom, she felt the time was right to make a move.

"I went to Mercer County Community College and asked the simple question, 'What do you have for me?,'" she said, recalling that she was quickly attracted to the Physical Therapist Assistant program (PTA).

The program proved a perfect fit. Years earlier, Tomei had earned her bachelor's degree in Economics with a concentration in biology from the University of Vermont. She had all of the PTA program's core prerequisites except for anatomy/physiology, which must be taken within the last five years.

Tomei enrolled at MCCC the very next week. Recalling her busy schedule, she said, "I studied in the car during swim practice, learned how to use Word and e-mail, and asked my children for tips on how to write research papers." She reveled in her new moniker, "n

Tomei was a dedicated student who was named to the President's List for two consecutive years and was a member of the Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society. Graduating with highest honors, she earned her A.A.S. degree in MCCC's Physical Therapist Assistant Program in 2004. Today she is a physical therapist assistant at Hamilton Physical Therapy Services, which has offices in Hamilton, Ewing, Robbinsville and Sewell.

Working under the supervision of a team of physical therapists, Tomei provides manual therapeutic exercises and home exercise programs for clients of all ages. In addition to using her hands-on skills and providing documentation for treatment justification, she continually strives to expand her knowledge base.

"I love what I do," Tomei says ."It's gratifying to see the smile of a patient who gives you a grateful hug upon the relief of their pain. The rewards are endless."

Having once considered a career in medicine or physical therapy, Tomei is finding great satisfaction in her new career. "It allows me to explore my passions for science, research and teaching. Wherever life takes me I know that there are plenty of opportunities in this exciting profession."

Tomei maintains that Mercer's accredited Physical Therapist Assistant program met all of her expectations. Upon graduating in 2004, she spent three months studying for the National Physical Therapy Examination for PTAs and passed it the first time around.
"Mercer's instructors and state-of-the-art facilities thoroughly prepared me for the state exam and the demands of this challenging field," she says.

Following an internship that is a required component of the PTA curriculum, Tomei was hired at Capital Health Systems' Helene Fuld and Mercer Hospitals in Trenton. "That is what I needed to get my start. Mercer's PTA program turned my desire to learn into a career path," she said.

And, with a daughter who suffered from tendonitis in her shoulders,Tomei says her PTA skills also proved useful at home. Now that both daughters are away at college, as an undergraduate and post-graduate respectively, Tomei is considering her next step in academia -- a doctorate in physical therapy designed specifically for PTAs.

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