Student: Sydney Frank

Sydney Frank always knew she wanted to be one to help others.

During her undergraduate psychology education at Villanova, she figured that physical therapy would be the right fit. After a lifetime of playing lacrosse — she was signed to play for Villanova before she had a driver’s license — she figured staying within the sports community was the career she wanted to pursue.

After discussing a potential future with her father, Sydney’s eyes were opened to the life-changing impact that occupational therapists can have. As a decathlete in college, one month from graduation, her father, Mike, suffered a near-fatal traumatic brain injury that required the entire gambit of rehabilitative services — physical and occupational therapy as well as speech and cognitive therapies. The hardest, and most rewarding, he told her, was OT.

East Carolina University graduate school student Sydney Frank joined her sister, Courtney, on the ECU lacrosse team during the the 2022-23 season.

East Carolina University graduate school student Sydney Frank joined her sister, Courtney, on the ECU lacrosse team during the the 2022-23 season. (Contributed photo by ECU Athletics)

“The therapist made me sit there,” Mike told his daughter, “and did everything with me until I was frustrated, in tears.” The therapy got him to where he is now — an ultramarathoner and an active, present dad.

“So that was the turning point where I was like, ‘Wow, this could be something where I like really can change, people’s lives and the track they’re on,’” Sydney said.

Even before graduating from Villanova, she applied to the ECU occupational therapy program — and once receiving her acceptance, she received a call from the head coach of the Pirate lacrosse team to convince her to play for one more year.

The COVID-19 pandemic offered a silver lining for student athletes. The NCAA afforded those who were in season during 2020 an extra year of eligibility. Sydney applied to a handful of programs across the country, but there was only program that offered the possibility of playing on the same lacrosse team with her psychology major sister, Courtney. When the offer was extended by the OT program, her only concern was making sure Courtney was on board with the decision.

“I wanted to make sure that my sister was comfortable; I’m a guest here. I was like, ‘This is your team, make sure you are OK with it,’” Sydney recalled.

The Franks’ parents were completely onboard with both sisters representing ECU on the field. After years of splitting their weekends between the girls’ games in different states, having one game to attend and one team to root for was a blessing.

“We’ll both get in the car and both come see you every weekend,” their parents, Linda and Mike, stated. The family was treated to an exceptional year for spectating — the team had an outstanding year, due in part to the defensive work of the Frank sisters.

Now that her college lacrosse career has ended, Sydney has the time to dedicate to the challenges of an intensive professional program and the clinical rotations in the coming semesters.

Sydney’s instructors are impressed. Lynne Murphy, an assistant professor of OT, lauded her work ethic and ability to quickly make connections with her peers because interpersonal connections are make or break in their profession.

“When Sydney told me about her role on the l team, I worried that she wouldn’t bond in the usual way with her peers in our program because of the demands on her time and energy in lacrosse. Instead, I discovered that her classmates went to some of her games and cheered her on,” Murphy said.

Pediatrics is certainly on the table as a career path, but with adult and behavioral health rotations starting in the fall, she is open to whatever options present themselves.

“I loved it here. The professors are incredible, and our cohort was a big part of the reason I came down here, too,” Sydney said. “ECU had the only interview process where I had to come down for a day full of interviews, which was awesome because I got to meet all the professors.”

Whether it was on the lacrosse field or in the classroom, Sydney knows that she made the best decision by coming to ECU.

“Everybody welcomed me with open arms. I’ve had the most incredible experience this year.”

This Pirate found her team.


Name: Sydney Frank

College: College of Allied Health Sciences

Major: Occupational therapy

Age: 23

Classification/Year: First year graduate student

Hometown: Bel Air, Maryland

Hobbies/interests: Running, being outdoors, listening to music, trying any and all food

Clubs and Organizations: Student Occupational Therapy Association Treasurer


Favorite place on campus: Johnson Stadium

Favorite TV show: “One Tree Hill”

Favorite band/musician: Jack Johnson

Favorite movie: “The Wizard of Oz”


Dream job: Pediatric occupational therapist

Role models: My parents

Your words to live by: “Qué será será”

What advice do you have for other students? Make sure to spend time filling all your buckets. Academics are important, but the experiences and relationships surrounding you during your time here are of equal importance and should be enjoyed.