When Carter Lam, PTA, got his results after taking the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE) this past fall, he received the happy news that he passed. But he also saw that he scored an 800 on the exam, which is the highest possible score.

Surprised, he thought, “That can’t be right.”

Fewer than one percent of the PTA candidates who’ve taken the NPTE in the last five years have achieved that, according to Lorin Mueller, who is the Managing Director of Assessment at the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. Lorin notes that this “likely represents a significant academic achievement.” One of Carter’s professors at Kapi’olani Community College, Michelle Dela Cruz, said he is the first student in the school’s 26-year history and the first student in Hawaii to score an 800 on the NPTE.

Carter graduated from the KCC PTA program in August 2022 and now works as an outpatient PTA at Straub Medical Center in Honolulu. He also earned a BS in Kinesiology and Rehabilitation Science from the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 2015.

Carter downplays his study habits when asked about what role they played in this achievement and instead gives most of the credit to his KCC professors, study group partners, and his wife and family.

Because of COVID restrictions, professors recorded many of their lectures. Carter said being able to relisten to the lectures was one of the “key things” that helped him with the KCC PTA program and the licensure exam. “When you’re in class and you’re listening, you’re absorbing and may not be furiously taking notes.”

“I did things most people do,” he explained. He and his study group partners would teach each other what they had learned, which he described as a “super valuable process.” One of their other strategies was to take old exams so they could work on the things they missed. “I didn’t do super well on the practice exams,” Carter says.

Carter said a lot of his fellow grads from the University of Hawaii at Manoa program went on to pursue a DPT. “I wanted to be done with school,” he said. A competitive tennis player in high school and college, after earning his BS Carter began teaching tennis and organizing tennis events at the Four Seasons Oahu Ko Olina in Kapolei. When the COVID pandemic started, he started looking at other options outside of tennis and eventually settled on pursuing the PTA degree.

Carter’s academic excellence also showed in his clinical rotations. Because of the assessments that KCC received from his clinical instructors, he received the 2022 Clinical Excellence Award from KCC. “A lot of my classmates are great too,” Carter explains. “So this was a huge honor.”



Posted on Febraury 1, 2023 by Chapter Staff
Originally Published in APTA Hawaii’s Monthly e-Newsletter – February 2023 edition