Tom Hyland Family Endowed Scholarship Supports Future Leaders in Physical Therapy

Headshot of Chen

Vivian Chen, D.P.T. ’23, is this year’s recipient of the Tom Hyland Family Endowed Scholarship. The scholarship — established in 2021 through a generous donation from Mercy College physical therapy faculty members Matthew and Nannette Hyland — supports a second- or third-year doctoral student in the physical therapy program who demonstrates leadership and outstanding academic achievement.

“Vivian is a leader in the classroom and even more so outside of it,” said Matthew Hyland, P.T., Ph.D.* 

“She is a positive energy within the program and Mercy College. The Tom Hyland Family Endowed Scholarship is about helping others, and Vivian embodies those values.”

Chen always had an interest in pursuing a career in health care. While earning her bachelor’s degree in biological science, she worked in a student-run clinic that provided health care to uninsured people in Sacramento, California. After that, she enrolled in a post-baccalaureate program for students interested in health care professions. She shadowed an orthopedic physician assistant as part of the program and also volunteered as a health coach for a clinic in San Francisco — guiding people with conditions like diabetes and high cholesterol to create healthier lifestyles.

Through those experiences, Chen realized that she enjoyed empowering patients, not just treating them. And she saw that physical therapy would enable her to do more of that type of work.

She was accepted in what she thought was her dream Doctor of Physical Therapy program. But within her first semester there, she was diagnosed with depression and faced other personal challenges that affected her academic performance. Lacking the right support, she was asked to leave the program.

Rather than let that setback derail her, Chen connected with Mercy College. When she visited the campus, she made sure that Mercy’s program felt like the right fit for her: “All the students spoke so highly of Mercy, and everyone felt like a family. The faculty told me that what mattered more than my past was what I’d be able to do with them at Mercy. It was the clean slate that I really needed. And now that I’m here, I can say that there is really a support system here.”

Chen is excelling at Mercy College, and the classes she failed in her first program are the very ones she tutors now at Mercy: “I really enjoy tutoring students. I enjoy being able to say, ‘Those classes that you're struggling with? I failed them. It's okay.’ I can pass on my experience to others. I'm big into paying it forward.”

She was thrilled to be awarded the Tom Hyland Family Endowed Scholarship this year: “To me, the scholarship is an indication that I'm on the right path. It's a huge help financially because it gives me the ability to tutor without having to think about spending that time doing paying work. It gives me a sense of freedom, and I'm so thankful for that.”

*Matthew Hyland was not part of the independent committee evaluating potential scholarship recipients.