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Janelle Cecilia Howell ’15, PT, DPT is a self-proclaimed Southern belle. She grew up in Alabama and earned a bachelor of science in pre-physical therapy at Oakwood University in Huntsville. In 2013, she came to Pacific for the doctor of physical therapy (DPT) program. Over the next couple of years, a quote by Winston Churchill become her mantra: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

She failed her first anatomy exam. The next year she failed a kinesiology exam. When studying for the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE), she failed the practice exam. “I felt like I was an expert at failing,” said Dr. Howell.

Through those failures and the resulting reflections, she began to develop strategies for studying, not only to pass exams, but to achieve lifelong success. The secret — studying with passion.

When she did take the NPTE, she passed the first time. Since October 2016, she has been working as a traveling physical therapist. Her placements include a contract focused on women’s health at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland. She attributes her success to her faith, her family and the fast-paced nature of her education at Pacific.

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Five Vows for Studying with Passion

Study Now

“The quality of your now determines what you will become,” Dr. Howell said. If you wait until the last minute to study “it doesn’t really matter what grade you get, you failed.” In order to be able to retain the information you are learning, you have to give it time to sink in.

Study Deep

“The answers to complex problems are rarely found at the surface,” Dr. Howell said. The solutions to your patients’ problems are “rarely scattered on the surface of the body.” Having a deep understanding of core concepts will allow you to serve your patients to the best of your ability.

Study Wide

“There are answers to be found where we are least likely to look. It’s on the pages of chapters you think are not as significant,” Dr. Howell said. “It’s in the library of everyday experiences, events and even heartaches that some of the brightest lights are discovered.” Invest time in gaining a wide base of knowledge that you can draw from throughout your career.

Study Whole

“Don’t neglect other parts of yourself in the name of being a good student,” Dr. Howell said. You will actually retain more information if you give yourself time to rest. “Pay attention to your learning style, personality and temperament and use that to your benefit. Also, don’t underestimate your environment.”

Study Long

“Obtain a mindset of studying lifelong, because this is not where the hardest exams will be,” Dr. Howell said. “The hardest exams will be outside of the classroom.” Challenge yourself to stay up-to-date with developments in your field. “There are constantly inventions, innovations and improvements” being made in health care. “If we don’t stay up to par with the changes that are being made we are robbing our patients of the best methods.”

In her free time, Dr. Howell is a motivational speaker and international traveler. She has visited Italy, England, Portugal, India, Panama, Spain, Morocco, Peru, Mexico, Belize, the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic. Her most recent trip took her to China.


By Anne Marie H. Bergthold
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