The Student Achievement Award is NRHA's way of recognizing an extraordinary student who has dedicated themselves to rural health care and shown significant accomplishments in the field of rural health. Traditionally, only one medical or health science student in the nation is presented with this annual award.

According to Patrick Cross, assistant professor in the department of physical therapy, Arnold's selection has to do with his passion for providing health care and physical therapy to rural areas, including his dedication to completing a majority of his clinical affiliations required for his degree in rural settings. "Michael has not only committed himself to achieving academic excellence, but he has dedicated his time and talents to delivering health care services and promoting the profession in medically underserved, rural regions," Cross stated.

Part of the USD Department of Physical Therapy's mission is to ensure that graduates are prepared to serve individuals living within the region in rural settings who may not have access to physical therapy services.

"Michael has helped initiate, organize and conduct an annual health screening and walk for residents in Clay County," said Cross, DPT. "He also has assisted with elementary school health screens in Vermillion, and conducted balance screens and provided health information at Riverboat Days in Yankton, S.D. In addition, Michael wrote legislators encouraging them to pass bills regarding student loan repayment for physical therapists working in rural areas," added Cross, who nominated Arnold for the award.

Additionally, Arnold, from Custer, S.D., has devoted personal time in the fall to providing sports physical therapy care at Omaha Nation High School football games with Cross. His student research project – along with other USD DPT students – involved surveying coaches statewide about their perceived knowledge on the prevention, assessment and management of sports-related injuries. This, Cross said, laid the foundation for additional studies that would ultimately promote improved training for coaches and recruitment of additional health professionals to athletic events in South Dakota.

For more information about the DPT program at USD, please visit

Press Contact
Hanna DeLange
Contact Email
Contact Website website