UCSF/SFSU DPT Commencement Ceremony 2024

Event Details

Date: Friday, June 14, 2024

Ceremony Begins: 5:30pm

Click here to view the recording of the ceremony


Abbey Lea, 2024 DPT Candidate | Student Speaker

Abbey was born and raised in the North Bay in Santa Rosa where she lived with her three sisters and parents. Growing up, Abbey's time was spent outside playing with her sisters and cousins. She also played competitive basketball, all of which fostered a love of movement and ultimately a passion for physical therapy. Abbey graduated from Chico State where she founded and played on the Women's Club Basketball team while earning her bachelor's degree in Exercise Physiology. Before starting physical therapy school, Abbey worked as an aide in a variety of outpatient physical therapy settings where she grew her passion for helping patients optimize their mobility.

During her time at UCSF and SFSU Abbey taught first year PT students as a peer educator. She also led an organization called TeenFit where she was able to educate middle schoolers on health and wellness. Her parents, two public school teachers, inspired her love for teaching. Her involvement in TeenFit goes hand in hand with her passion for pediatric physical therapy. Abbey is inspired by the resilience of children and is passionate about giving them the rehab tools they need to participate with the world around them. Outside the world of physical therapy, Abbey is an avid crafter, novice ceramicist and recreational baker who enjoys spending time with her family and friends and, above all, loves a good laugh.

Tianna Meriage-Reiter, PT, DPT | Faculty Keynote Speaker

Tianna was born in Kansas, and then lived in Oklahoma until her parents moved her and her older brother to Southern California. Her sixth grade teacher used to play basketball with the students at lunch and this lit a spark. To her parents' surprise, she tried out for the high school basketball team, having never played organized sports before. She made the freshman squad and worked her way up to varsity.  

She almost went to Indiana University to become a Hoosier and then at the last minute decided she needed to stay near the ocean. And off to UC San Diego she went. It was there that she was able to walk onto the university basketball team, playing all four years. Several injuries sent her to the training room and into sports rehab to recover–a first glimpse at that process.  It was also at UCSD, that she took a university supported internship at a local outpatient PT clinic. Upon graduation with a B.S. in Animal Physiology and Neuroscience, that internship led to accepting a job as the PT aide in that very clinic. She was drawn to this profession that helped people live healthier, active lives. 

Seeking higher pay, she left the clinic to work in customer service at a biotech company in San Diego. This ultimately led her back to PT, but this time as the patient, with repetitive stress injuries. This pain experience is what grounded her to seek out a return to PT, but on the other side, as the clinician. Her intention was to help others like herself, prevent such workplace injuries. 

She was beyond grateful to be accepted to the UCSF/SFSU Graduate PT program. She was the PT program’s representative in the Graduate Student Association (GSA). It was through the GSA that she was able to participate in HEALTHE (Healthy Eating and Lifestyle Through Health Education), at the charter school, KIPP San Francisco Bay Academy. HEALTHE  was an interdisciplinary group of UCSF grad students who would create lesson plans to teach kids about healthy eating and exercise. Teaching about healthy lifestyles and healthy foods as part of a whole person treatment became the premise for her private practice later on. 

Graduating with the Master’s in Physical Therapy in 2006 allowed her to be licensed as a PT and thus work while completing the transitional Doctorate year.  A personal persistent pain experience continued to inform her work as a PT and carried a drive to seek for methods and tools to help those in pain. She went on to earn a health coaching certificate and is also certified yoga therapist and yoga teacher. 

Tianna has worked in a variety of settings: acute care, inpatient rehab, outpatient, home health, hospice, telehealth, as well as owning her own concierge practice utilizing therapeutic yoga. She also taught therapeutic yoga classes for 12 years. She currently works as a PT at San Quentin Rehabilitation Center —yes, the prison. 

In her spare time, she enjoys kitesurfing, hiking in the redwoods, and van camping with her husband.