Physical Therapist Promotes Diversity in Health Professions
One in an ongoing series.
As a physical therapist at MossRehab, Jazmine Tooles makes life better for one person at a time, by helping brain injury patients regain their ability to function.
But Tooles has a larger life mission, too – to promote cultural understanding and diversity, particularly in her field of allied health sciences. She’s not yet 30 and has been a quiet warrior for multiculturism since she was a teenager. Tooles received a Keeper of the Dream Award at this year’s Martin Luther King Day celebration at Einstein Healthcare Network.
Tooles has deep roots in activism: her mother’s cousin was Fred Hampton, a prominent Black Panther who was killed by police in Chicago. And her mother, a retired finance executive, is outspoken when she encounters incidents of racism. She often cites King’s quote: “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”
Toole’s commitment to combating racial disparities and bias date back to high school, when she was selected to attend a weeklong camp run by the American Conference on Diversity. “Camp opened my mind,” she said. “I knew my own experience, but I learned about other people’s experience.”
In ensuing years, Tooles continued on parallel paths – getting her doctorate in physical therapy and pursuing her efforts to promote physical therapy and related fields to minority audiences.
When she was a student at the University of Delaware, Tooles, a lifelong Girl Scout, created three physical therapy Girl Scout badges and a workshop called Explore the Magic of Motion. Her goal was to promote awareness of the career of physical therapy, particularly to minority girls and their families. More than 500 scouts and volunteers have participated. She continues to facilitate the program at different locations. She also chairs statewide committees on diversity for physical therapy associations in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey and is active in diversity issues for the national organization.
“With all of that on her plate, Jazmine remains a hard-working, dedicated, and positive team member of MossRehab,” said her supervisor, Dayne Scott.
Tooles started MossRehab’s Cultural Diversity Special Interest Group, to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in the allied health professional fields and to provide a safe arena for discussion of cultural norms and approaches to sensitive issues. Participants meet by webinar once a month. Her efforts are designed to raise consciousness about health care professions to groups impacted by ethnic bias, as well as to promote cultural competence amongst colleagues.
Tooles works in MossRehab’s Woodbury, NJ, facility, helping patients who have brain injuries due to accidents, strokes or violence. They have headaches, or they’re dizzy, or they can’t keep their balance. Some have severe disabilities. “My goal is to get them reintegrated into the community,” she said.
Some of Tooles’ patients are not much older than she is, and the work can be upsetting. “Everyone is working through a significant life change,” she said. “It took me a while to adjust and not take it home with me.”
The emotional tradeoff is the profound satisfaction of helping a patient return to his or her life. “It feels very impactful,” she said.
Her impact is felt by one patient at a time and – thanks to her social mission – far beyond.