GCU alum finds the door that leads to healing

Grand Canyon University alumni Samantha Bedore was inspired by her husband, grandfather -- and her university -- to pursue physical therapy.

By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau

The last time Samantha Bedore walked through the door at HonorHealth Neurology in Scottsdale, she was holding her grandmother’s hand. She had come to say goodbye to her grandfather.

The second time she walked through those doors was to help others.

“It was so emotional,” the Grand Canyon University graduate said of the day two months ago when she started a residency post in physical therapy there. “We trusted the health care providers to take care of us; it’s such an important role and big responsibility. I just hope I can give people the care that my grandpa received.”

She posted about it on Facebook with the tag #FindYourPurpose, GCU’s motto that she could write a book about. Her life has been full of purpose since serving in the Army, inspired to join after the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Bedore, 29, served one year in Iraq in 2009, where she met her husband, Jason.

Jason was deployed five times and injured twice, and the complications from those injuries became serious. He survived with Samantha by his side during a year-long rehabilitation.

“You are not going to use a cane,” she told him. “You are going to run again.”

She saw the magic of her husband’s rehabilitation, day after day working with physical therapists.

“She wasn’t just my partner, she was witness to all this stuff,” said Jason, who today not only runs but has finished two half-marathons.

“It was so inspiring to see how resilient the human body is,” Samantha said. “From him thinking he’d never be able to run or do cognitive talks from the traumatic brain injury he sustained to him being pretty being independent. Just watching that process was wonderful.”

It inspired Samantha to pursue physical therapy, and she urged her husband to join her for undergraduate studies at GCU.

She was pregnant with their first child when they enrolled during the 2011-12 academic year.

“I think I just have that drive, that perseverance to not quit,” she said. “Grit, I guess you can say.

Samantha Bedore and daughter Karissa at GCU graduation.

“The statistics say you are less likely to graduate after having children, but with a good support system anything is possible.”

The couple supported each other through courses at GCU, even after having Karissa, now 8, and another on the way before graduation – Jace, who's 4.

“She was not only taking her own classes, but she came with me to mine, making sure I took the right notes and did the right things,” said Jason, who was still working through fallout from his years of military service and his injuries.

Dr. Will Primack, in GCU’s College of Science, Engineering, & Technology, said he has taught more than 10,000 students but didn’t think twice when asked to recall Samantha.

“She had it figured out. She wasn’t a kid who came to college. She was mature and knew what she wanted to do, and she never made excuses, even when she didn’t have time for anything,” he said. “I was raised to think that if you wanted something, you find the steps to where you need to go. She was like that.”

Samantha remembers Primack’s classes well.

“I love before exams, he would tell the students if you want to say a quick prayer before the exams, or if you just want to close your eyes, go ahead,” she said. “It was just a nice positive environment to flourish.”

Samantha didn’t only care for a child and help with her husband’s studies, she saw a gap in helping bring together veterans at GCU. She became a founding officer of the Student Veterans Association to get resources to those with post-traumatic stress disorder or just connect others with similar military experience and pray together.

While Jason went on to further his education in a master’s program at GCU to become a teacher,  Samantha decided to try for her Doctor of Physical Therapy at Midwestern University in Glendale.

“Are you kidding me?” Jason remembers asking her. “You went through all those surgeries and saw what I went through to walk again. She knew what those therapists went through to help me. I was hard on them. But she was enlightened by that.”

Samantha Bedore graduated from GCU.

It was Jason’s turn to help his wife. As he neared the end of his master’s program, he decided to take a sales job and coach soccer, so he could be around for the children more while she studied.

During her studies, her grandfather’s cancer had metastasized to his spinal cord. She often came to see him at HonorHealth, where he had become dependent on health care providers for simple tasks.

On her Facebook page, she wrote that her grandfather told her that he had received amazing care. He felt valued, not just as a patient but as a person, and loved his physical therapist:

“When I walked into my grandfather’s room, he grabbed my face and told me how proud he was of me, and that he finally knew the importance of my job.”

After he died in 2018, she thought about what her grandfather told her and prayed that she would be one of the two residents picked to work in that same facility.

After her selection, she walked through those same doors with purpose.

“I hope to prove to all my patients they are just as valued as my grandfather had felt. I hope other families can have that same faith in me as I had in the providers caring for my grandfather.”

It is already happening.

“Every day I feel this weird sense of fulfillment helping people; it’s like selfish almost, it’s this amazing sensation,” she said. “Just a few days ago I was helping a patient walk out for the first time. It’s such a great feeling. All this education and everything I’ve learned, I’m able to apply it to help other people better their lives.”

Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.


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