Humans of NAU: Tarang Jain

Tarang Jain in the center of a group of people holding his award.

Tarang Jain spent his life working toward becoming a healthcare educator. Now the associate professor of physical therapy and athletic training has been selected as a recipient for the James A. Gould Excellence in Teaching Orthopaedic Physical Therapy Award. He talks about why he loves teaching, cricket and the volunteering he does in his free time.  

What brought you to NAU? 

The combination of NAU’s academic excellence, its supportive community and the natural environment of Flagstaff drew me to this institution. NAU’s physical therapy program is renowned for its rigorous academic curriculum and its emphasis on preparing students for real-world clinical practice. Additionally, the location offers unparalleled access to the outdoors, providing a unique backdrop for both personal rejuvenation and the exploration of the practical aspects of physical therapy and anatomy outside the classroom.  

How did you end up choosing a career in physical therapy? 

Choosing a career in physical therapy emerged from the highly competitive nature of medical school admissions in India, where the intense competition often guides aspiring healthcare professionals to explore alternative—yet equally fulfilling—paths. My journey led me to the School of Physiotherapy at MGM Medical College in Indore. This foundational education ignited a passion for further exploration, compelling me to pursue higher education and research opportunities in the United States.  

What is your favorite thing about teaching? 

My favorite aspect of teaching lies in the opportunity to inspire students, guiding them through the complexities of physical therapy. The joy of teaching is magnified when I see students not only grasp but also retain essential skills and concepts. Collaborating with fellow educators adds a dynamic layer to this process, making teaching a fun and enriching experience for both students and teachers. Ultimately, my favorite thing about teaching is the ability to serve as a mentor and role model, establishing strong rapport with students and inspiring them to pursue excellence in their future professional endeavors. 

Tarang Jain's physical therapy award: a glass amorphous shape etched with the award details and Jain's name. Tell me a little about the Gould award and what it means to receive that honor.  

The James A. Gould Excellence in Teaching Orthopaedic Physical Therapy Award honors individuals who have demonstrated exemplary teaching skills in the field of orthopedic physical therapy. This award acknowledges educators who employ innovative instructional methods and materials to enhance student learning and retention. It also highlights the importance of mentorship, student motivation and the ability to relate academic knowledge to clinical practice, alongside maintaining objectivity and receptiveness to feedback. 

Receiving this honor is profoundly meaningful. It serves as a validation of my dedication to student education, my efforts to continually integrate basic science with clinical application and my commitment to fostering an environment that encourages curiosity, critical thinking and professional growth. This award not only recognizes my past contributions but also inspires me to maintain high standards in teaching and mentorship. It reinforces my belief in the transformative power of education and the role of educators in shaping the future of the physical therapy profession. 

What do you like to do in your free time? 

I have a profound appreciation for nature, which I explore through hiking and enjoying the scenic beauty of Flagstaff. This connection to the outdoors is complemented by my enthusiasm for cricket, a sport that keeps me physically active and maintains a link to my cultural roots.  

Beyond personal interests, I am dedicated to supporting international students at NAU, guiding them through their academic journey and helping them understand and navigate cultural nuances. Additionally, my passion for service extends to volunteering with the Coconino Humane Society and the Coconino Search and Rescue team.  

What did you want to be when you grew up? 

Jain at a podium with a presentation slide in the background featuring images from his teaching career. Growing up, my aspiration was always to become a healthcare professional, a dream that stood out within a family deeply rooted in business. Despite their different professional backgrounds, my family supported my ambitions. My journey into healthcare was shaped by volunteering at health camps in rural areas of India where I was exposed to a spectrum of healthcare fields, including polio surgery, orthotics/prosthetics and rare diseases. These experiences not only broadened my perspective on the diverse opportunities within healthcare but also ignited a passion for making healthcare accessible to all. Today, I am committed to this vision, collaborating with institutions and NGOs worldwide to train early-career healthcare professionals and deliver accessible, equitable and quality healthcare to remote parts of India. 

What are three things on your bucket list? 

  1. To significantly contribute to the landscape of higher education through leadership roles. I am actively pursuing the Fellowship of Higher Education Leadership (FHEL) and the Provost Leadership Fellowship (PLF), aiming to hone my skills in governance, policy-making and academic administration. I envision creating spaces where students and faculty alike can thrive, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in higher education and setting new standards for academic leadership. 
  2. To establish or contribute to a global initiative that bridges educational gaps in underprivileged areas. Leveraging my background in physical therapy and passion for accessible education, I aim to work with international organizations to develop programs that empower local educators and healthcare professionals. This endeavor would serve as a model for how higher education can play a pivotal role in global health and education reform. 
  3. I dream of embarking on an adventure that combines travel with learning, exploring cultures and educational systems around the world. From the ancient universities of Europe to the innovative campuses of Asia, I want to gain firsthand insights into global educational practices and philosophies, providing valuable perspectives that I can bring back to my community and institution.
NAU Communications