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By uscbknpt

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

Jonathan Sum holding his award at the podium at Ronald Tutor Campus Center

Associate Professor of Clinical Physical Therapy Jonathan Sum earns a USC Mentoring Award from his peers across the university.


TO JONATHAN SUM ’01, DPT ’05, MENTORING IS A PRIVILEGE, which makes receiving a 2024 USC Mentoring Award all the more special. 

The awards are given to individuals who go above and beyond what is expected to contribute to an engaging, supportive and inclusive academic environment through their mentorship of students and faculty.

“Earning this award is wonderful because the process involved amazing people I have been privileged to mentor, and to be recognized by the university for it is truly special,” Sum said. “But the only thing we can take with us when we leave this life is our relationships, so to be honest, being a part of someone’s development and growth as they journey through life is the real reward.”

Sum’s ability to build relationships rooted in empathy is what makes him special, Emily Moon DPT ’22 said. 

“When you are in a room with Jonathan, you know that you are going to be heard and you are going to be appreciated,” Moon added. “You know that you are an important person to him and that your opinion and what you bring to the table is very valued.” 

Although Moon first met Sum as a DPT student in fall 2019, their mentorship relationship wasn’t cemented until fall 2020 through the Asian Pacific Islander Student Affinity Group, a group for which Sum serves as faculty advisor. 

Since then, Sum’s mentorship has remained constant, says Moon, who went on to complete an orthopedic residency at USC and subsequently joined the Division as an adjunct instructor. 

“He was a huge mentor throughout residency, and he became almost like a father figure in a way, too,” Moon said. “He’s still to this day someone that I look to not just for physical therapy advice, but especially for life advice. I don’ t know if I would be where I am without him.”


A Different Perspective


Sum says Moon’s transparency about her struggles allowed him to foster her growth and development.

“She is someone who genuinely cares for others before herself, often helping others with their issues while she was in need of support herself,” Sum said. “Recognizing that special quality in her and being able to fill that void and support her while she supported others was a joy for me.” 

Now as an adjunct faculty member, Moon is doing her best to emulate the genuine interest Sum has for others. 

“Jonathan is one of those people that will constantly check in with you,” Moon said. “So, I try to make sure to do that with my students where I will meet up with them to make sure they are doing well, not just in school.”

Sum credits his success to his own mentors, who include Yogi Matharu ’95, DPT ’98, MBA ’18; Robbin Howard DPT ’02, MBA ’18; Rob Landel MS ’84, DPT ’96; Julia Itamura DPT ’; Mike O’Donnell; Todd Ellenbecker; Kornelia Kulig; Lori Michener; Todd Schroeder PhD ’00, Julie Tilson DPT ’98, MS ‘x’09; and Chris Sebelski DPT ’98.

“I stand on the shoulders of giants, and those giants have stood on the shoulders of their giants,” Sum said. “Standing on giants’ shoulders gives you a perspective that standing on the floor doesn’t provide. My mentors were able to see the potential in me that I could not see because of their perspective.” 

Seeing others accomplish their dreams and goals is what keeps Sum motivated. 

“If I can play a small role in helping someone discover their passions and develop their mission, and help support them in that pursuit, then all the time and effort spent was well worth it,” Sum said. “That is what mentoring means to me and why it is important to me.”