BISMARCK, ND — Pediatric physical therapy is something near and dear to University of Mary graduate student Kaari Burbach. Her passion for helping others, especially youth with physical and intellectual disabilities, began shortly after graduating from Minot High School. That’s when she volunteered at the Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch and saw a physical therapist providing hippotherapy to children—a therapeutic or rehabilitative treatment through the use of horseback that improves coordination, balance and strength.

Kaari Burbach

Kaari Burbach

From that point on she knew working with children through physical therapy, being involved and giving back to community would be part of her life. It has continued as a second year physical therapy graduate student at the University of Mary. Burbach initiated and launched the state’s first student-run physical therapy organization called the North Dakota Student Special Interest Group (NDSSIG) that allows PT students and new professionals in the field to network with each other while also advocating for the profession and providing community service around North Dakota. She proposed her idea and the North Dakota Physical Therapy Association (NDPTA) accepted it.

Her initiative recently helped earn Burbach the prestigious 2017 NDPTA Outstanding Student Award after being nominated by her University of Mary professors.

“I am extremely honored for receiving this recognition and thankful to all my professors at the University of Mary for their support of my volunteer efforts and nominating me,” said Burbach, who, along with six other students from across the nation, was also accepted to the national American Physical Therapy Association Student Special Interest Group Project Committee.

Giving back to the community is what attracted Burbach to the University of Mary to pursue her graduate studies.

Kaari holds out her hand to one of the children at the annual Home Run Heroes event the University of Mary physical therapy department sponsors

Kaari holds out her hand to one of the children at the annual Home Run Heroes event the University of Mary physical therapy department sponsors

“I was drawn in by how much Mary gives back to the city of Bismarck, their Benedictine values, their annual physical therapy mission trip to Guatemala that provides PT services to orphanages: fitting those in need with assistive wheel chairs and walkers; and building homes for residents of that country; and most of all Mary’s exceptional quality of education,” she added. “My classmates have become family. We spend practically all day everyday throughout the week together and I can honestly say they have made each hard day of school easier. I also enjoy the opportunities we have to learn at Mary, through our pro bono clinic, numerous community clinical experiences, and our passionate professors. I believe I have had a graduate education that is hard to beat.”

Burbach’s involvement won’t stop there. Just as it started in her hometown of Minot, she plans to continue community service and advocacy in both Bismarck and the Magic City where she hopes to provide pediatric physical therapy after graduating with her doctorate degree from the University of Mary.