Natasha Urbiztondo Soto grew up in sunny Puerto Rico.
When it came time to look at colleges, her mom, who originally hailed from the Midwest, wanted her to experience something different. Urbiztondo Soto ended up at Iowa State, Ames, on a full-tuition scholarship. But the transition to being so far from home was challenging. "At the beginning I called my mom twice a day, crying," she remembers.
While at Iowa State, Urbiztondo Soto considered several career paths but eventually decided upon physical therapy. "I did some job shadowing and observation—and really liked it," she said. When it came time to consider which Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) school to apply to, St. Ambrose came out on top.
"I really liked the SAU program and it was a good fit for me," said Urbiztondo Soto. "The curriculum exposes you to many aspects of practice and St. Ambrose DPT faculty are forward-thinking."
Originally Urbiztondo Soto thought she might be interested in sports rehabilitation. "I played a lot of soccer growing up and even got to represent Puerto Rico on a national selection team," she said. But because DPT students complete several clinical education experiences, Urbiztondo Soto discovered a surprising passion for neurological physical therapy. "I'm interested in acute care, neurological care, working with people who suffered brain injuries or strokes."
Urbiztondo Soto has earned the respect of her professors. "Natasha has been a wonderful student and a great member of the class," said Associate Professor and Director Michael Puthoff. "We know that she will enter the physical therapy profession and make a positive difference in her patients' lives."
So on Saturday, Dec. 15, exactly 2,141.8 miles from where she grew up, Urbiztondo Soto received her doctorate in physical therapy. Friends and family back home in Puerto Rico have planned a celebratory party for her when she and her husband, Hector Soto, visit for the holidays. But Urbiztondo Soto is starting her celebration in Iowa.
"This is an exciting day for me," she said. "I'm very glad to be here."