By Cherise Lathan
Let me start by first introducing myself. My name is Cherise Michelle Lathan. My mom is black, my dad is black, and I am a black woman. I am also a Doctor of Physical Therapy and a board certified neurologic clinical specialist.
This has been my introduction since I can remember. My first memory is being five years old and introducing myself to my kindergarten class; feeling it necessary to define that not only was I black, but both of my parents were. There was an unspoken awareness of this expectation for explanation, and this responsibility for greatness.
I’m sure many can identify with the cultural expectations of striving for excellence. But only a few can identify with not only the culture dictating your work ethic but also your gender. This facet has motivated me to not only accomplish professional accolade, but now has transformed how I interact with the world around me.
You’re probably reading this thinking, what is she talking about!? But let me introduce you to not only my exterior but my inner thoughts. This undue responsibility to be excellent also carries over into my professional pursuits. I have had the opportunity of being mentored by the number one physical therapy program in the country; was able to immediately transition into a faculty position, and participate in program development in the providing of physical therapy to the critically ill within the neurologic intensive care unit. It was my mission to provide quality of care that was not dictated by the environment but by the capabilities of the person. This was a challenging thing not only for the other healthcare professionals functioning around me, but also for the patient, and the family members. I hold my patients to the highest expectation possible. I took the time to gather information to understand the most important role that each person held. It was this expectation that often times lead to the most meaningful interactions on a human level.
But this expectation of my patients to do things which seemed impossible led to a period of introspection – the mirror of expectation. I was at a point in my life where I had to acknowledge I was not modeling the same commitment to the highest standard possible. I was not mirroring the expectations that I had of my patients for myself. Once I was able to acknowledge this, I ventured on a personal journey, which for me was bringing myself back into physical alignment.
This journey started with a simple statement, “if you are running then I can do it too.” Mirroring the expectation of my patient, Kathy, to re-integrate into her role as an ultra marathoner motivated me to do the same. This was the beginning of a six-month training process to run and complete my first marathon. Valentine’s Day of 2016 I participated in #RunLAWithKathy. Although I had a sense of accomplishment, I knew that I needed to do more to mirror the expectations I have of each one of my patients.
I was able to dedicate myself to a different journey, a new fitness journey which involved participating in a program to become the best me that I could. Not only a smart, successful, and powerful black woman, but a strong, athletic, and healthy black woman. Over a six-month period I worked hard to eat clean, train hard, and in the end lost 44 pounds and 8% body fat. I was finally able to mirror the expectations of my patients by actualizing the highest standard possible of what I am capable of.
I am beyond honored to participate in this platform. My hope is to continue to mirror the expectations that I have of each one of you. To impact on a larger scale. And to encourage the investment of time to acquire knowledge about what is most important on someone’s personal journey. If I and they can do it, you can do it too!
Dr. Cherise Lathan
Dr. Lathan is a physical therapist at the MedStar Washington Hospital Center. She serves as the Senior Acute PT and specializes in providing care for patients after stroke, spinal cord injury, brain injury, spinal surgery, and other neurological health conditions. Her area of expertise is the management of the critically ill patient in the Neurosciences ICU. Dr. Lathan is board certified by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties as a Neurological Clinical Specialist. She is a member of the Neurology Section of the American Physical Therapy Association. Previously, Dr. Lathan was an Instructor of Clinical Physical Therapy, clinical instructor, and primary faculty mentor in the Neurologic Physical Therapy residency program at the University of Southern California/Keck Medical Center of USC. You can connect with Dr. Lathan via email at email@example.com.