The 19-year-old girl was night-skiing on a black diamond trail in California when she caught the tip of her ski in the snow. Her body turned, but her leg didn’t; it was as if someone had inserted a high-powered drill into her leg and turned it on, severing nearly every tendon. Her tibia and fibula were broken. Only her Achilles was still attached.
She’d been on the national diving team, but now she was at risk of losing her leg.
Fast-forward more than 28 years, and Dr. Betina Malhotra now hauls buckets of gravel across slippery riverbanks in Spartan Races. She gives most of the credit for her recovery to a physical therapist who believed in her—and sparked her interest in a new career path.
After some twists and turns—completing her bachelor’s in neuroscience, studying Parkinson’s disease and magnetic resonance imaging, teaching science in an impoverished school, opening a preschool, founding a nonprofit—Malhotra now leads the university’s terminal academic degree programs designed for health sciences professionals.
How did you recover after your accident?
I spent a year in bed, a year in a wheelchair, and then went to PT to learn to walk again. I had a dedicated PT who was determined to support me and this ultimately helped me to find my passion to help people.
You talk about support as being key for EdD students. Why?
In a traditional academic doctoral process, you are face to face with a cohort and gather together to support each other. I wanted to provide that for my students, because in an online environment, you might feel like you’re on your own. We created a virtual student office to give students—who are all taking the same things at the same time—the chance to get valuable feedback and social reinforcement during a challenging process.
How have students reacted?
They are so happy to be with their peers, and they feel supported. Their fears are alleviated, and they’re more capable of doing the hard work. Another great thing is that their dissertation advisors can come from anywhere in the world—Hong Kong, Australia. I think that’s unique. I’m in a position where I can help physical therapists contribute meaningful research and become leaders in their field. I feel like I’ve come full circle.