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#RebelsTakeChances When They Push Past Disappointments

Maria Barton, the Allied Health Sciences Alumna of the Year, finds the payoff in helping others.

People  |  Apr 25, 2017  |  By Brian Sodoma
Maria Barton

Maria Barton, 2017 College of Allied Health Sciences Alumna of the Year. (R. Marsh Starks/UNLV Creative Services)

Editor's Note: 

The UNLV Alumni Association will celebrate the accomplishments of graduates at its annual reception and awards ceremony April 26. For a full list of honorees and event details, visit the alumni awards website


Maria Barton, ’00 BS Physical Therapy and ’04 MS Physical Therapy, is a member of the MountainView Hospital physical therapy team. She has created numerous educational programs for families and employees and earned the hospital’s Frist Humanitarian Award. In 2014, Vegas Inc honored her with the Volunteer Healthcare Provider of the Year award. She also helps UNLV students gain educational experiences at MountainView Hospital.


I had been hearing a lot of chatter from several coworkers who wished there was motivation to lose weight and get healthy. Wanting to help, in 2007, I began advertising a Biggest Loser Challenge at the hospital. I worked tirelessly after work to create a great program.

Thankfully, the hospital dietitian was kind enough to put together a diet plan. And after countless revisions, I established a calendar of events for the weigh-ins and group exercise classes I would hold. After two months of planning, I was ready but still worried that the program may look like a hodge-podge of half-baked ideas.

The start day came and only 12 people showed up. Honestly, I was heartbroken, but still determined to help them. After eight weeks of teaching five exercise classes a week after work and coaching and re-coaching the importance of diet, only five people returned to see their results — another small disappointment. Undeterred, I weighed everyone with a smile and words of encouragement.

Then there was Rita. She stepped on the scale. She looked at me. She began to cry. I began to cry. She had lost 30 pounds. “I can’t believe it! I can’t believe I did that!” she beamed.

We hugged for what felt like an eternity. At that moment, I knew all my planning, lost sleep, and stress was worth it. Volunteering to help another person feel the way she did was the best reward.

I followed that challenge up with eight more seasons over the next eight years and each group would turn out to be larger than the year before. At one point I had 75 participants. And although I made small changes to the program each season, the outcome was always the same. The winner was happy, excited, and grateful, making the whole process very much worth it.