Ambassador Spotlight: Scott McAfee of the University of Southern California

But there’s one thing I’ve heard again and again from the mentors I’ve met through service that will stay with me through my professional career—to find comfort in the unknown.
— Scott McAfee

Why are you passionate about service?

            Service is our obligation to utilize our skilled training for the benefit of society.  As physical therapists, our ability to treat and manage neuromusculoskeletal conditions knows no bounds.  We must not only positively impact the lives of those who come to our clinic, but also actively seek out populations who would benefit from our care.  Only through volunteer activities and community service can one deeply appreciate the influential role that a physical therapist can have beyond the clinic.  Perhaps an elderly man with difficulty walking would benefit greatly from skilled physical therapy intervention, but is anxious about becoming a financial burden to his family.  Or a woman with multiple sclerosis hears about wellness exercises from a friend, but is uncertain if they will work or how to start.  It is situations like these that inspire and motivate me to utilize my doctor of physical therapy education for the greater good—serving with a deep passion to improve the lives of others in need.


Tell us your favorite service memory

            Earlier this year, on a service trip to an orphanage in Ensenada, Mexico, a young boy sitting in a wheelchair boy got my attention.  Although he couldn’t speak, by his hand motions it was clear he needed something.  I eventually recognized that there was a wooden birdhouse kit covered with dust on his desk, and he was eagerly determined to build it.  There was only one thing holding him back—muscle spasticity in his left arm from cerebral palsy made it extremely difficult to do by himself.  Although I had spent the day fitting wheelchairs, performing health screens, and providing education, right now he didn’t necessarily need a PT—he needed a friend.

            For the next half hour, deeply intrigued, I helped this young boy put together the parts of this birdhouse that he had awaiting to build for so long.  I helped him learn where each piece went and find innovative solutions to fine motor coordination problems.  Ultimately, we finished building, and it was a success.  Before we left the orphanage, I saw him showing off the birdhouse to his friends and caretakers with the biggest smile I’ve ever seen on a child—I was instantly overwhelmed.  I hadn’t just helped this young boy build a birdhouse—I had helped him unleash his keen sense of creativity and convinced him that inner determination can often overpower physical limitation.


How has servant leadership impacted your professional career thus far as a student?

            I’m often convinced that our profession is made up of the most selfless individuals around.  I’ve met some incredible mentors through service experiences—people who constantly inspire me to take lead on my own and remind me of the difference that can be made as a student.  I’d encourage anyone reading this, especially students, to never allow fear of failure or self-doubt to hold you back from addressing a change that you want to make in the world.  I challenge you to be that change.  It can be so easy to fall into our daily routines and find comfort in the familiar.  But there’s one thing I’ve heard again and again from the mentors I’ve met through service that will stay with me through my professional career—to find comfort in the unknown.  So pursue your goals with grit; if you have something that you’re passionate about, no matter how big or small, go make it happen.

What are your service plans/ideas for PTDOS?

            Global PT Day of Service is an epic endeavor, a chance for our profession to unite around the world to give back to our communities.  In Los Angeles, our current goals are two-fold.  Building our participant base through social media outlets, school announcements, and hospital/clinic awareness is our initial mission.  Concurrent with that is coordination with service opportunities using tools like,, and to ensure that our efforts are targeted where they are needed most.  We are thrilled at the opportunity to create such positive change here in LA and play our small part in a global effort for good.