The daughter of Middle Eastern immigrants, Alice Zayer has blazed her own trail as the first college graduate in her family. Now, with a doctor of physical therapy degree in hand, she plans to pursue an orthopedic physical therapy residency to be the best she can be for her patients.
BY STEPHANIE CORRAL
ALICE ZAYER DPT ’23 RECENTLY LOOKED AT A PICTURE she took of herself on the first day of class in August 2020.
“It was rewarding seeing how much I have grown in the last three years,” Zayer says.
Starting the residential pathway of the DPT program at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic was no easy feat.
Fortunately, Zayer is no stranger to charting her own path.
Zayer and her two siblings were raised by a single mother who immigrated from Jordan.
“If there’s one reason why I constantly work so hard it’s because of my mom,” Zayer says. “She’s honestly the reason why I do everything.”
But being a first-generation American meant having to be self-reliant from the very beginning.
“Growing up was just a lot of figuring things out on my own when it comes to the school system and just guiding myself,” Zayer explains. “I was so grateful to have so many adults in my life that have guided me, and I think that’s a big reason why I am here today.”
One of those adults was an elementary school teacher who introduced her to an after-school track team.
“I just fell in love with running,” says Zayer, who ran cross country and track throughout her undergraduate career. “Being involved with my body and the prevention aspect of injuries, it was just always something that I have been drawn to.”
When the time came to choose a major, physical therapy became the obvious choice.
“I can’t imagine myself doing anything else,” Zayer says.
In 2016, Zayer became the first person in her family to graduate from college when she earned a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and allied health from California State University, San Bernardino.
At USC, Zayer strived for excellence — from putting classroom knowledge into practice while gaining clinical experience with patients to serving as a teaching assistant in the analytical anatomy lab.
“I love that back and forth,” Zayer says. “The fluidity between being a student and then teaching was just amazing.”
While the pandemic made her graduate school experience challenging, she is grateful for the support she found within her cohort.
“I don’t know what I would have done if it wasn’t for them,” says Zayer.