CHS Alumna Works Special Olympics World Games in Germany

By Ryan Clark
CHS Communications Director

For Katie Lucas, it’s easy to say the past summer was truly special.

Lucas, PT, DPT, PhD, SCS, OCS, CSCS, and a 2020 alumna of the College of Health Sciences' Rehabilitation and Health Sciences PhD Program, now teaches and works in the Physical Therapy department at Creighton’s Phoenix, Ariz., campus.

The Special Olympics has always been important to her, as her brother, James, has Down Syndrome and autism and participated in some of the experiences while growing up.

This summer, between June 17-25, she was able to help the athletes at the Special Olympics World Games in Berlin, Germany. It was a moment she will never forget.

Here’s five questions — and many more photos — with Dr. Katie Lucas …


1. How did you get involved with the Special Olympics?

I grew up in Cincinnati and Hamilton County has a strong Special Olympics program. My brother, James, did soccer and swimming. We were always trying to find opportunities for him. But we found that he loves swimming, and he wanted to spend every minute in the water. He still enjoys it. And the opportunity with the Special Olympics was a really unique thing. Seeing him find something he loved was such a fantastic thing.

So that’s how I originally got interested. I started working at different camps for individuals with disabilities. These athletes grow into adults, and this organization is second to none when it comes to the growth trajectory for their athletes.


2. How did you get involved in the International side of the organization?

This opportunity with Special Olympics was actually due to the American Physical Therapy Association. There is something called Fun Fitness, and it's a health screening. a physical health screening for individuals who participate in Special Olympics. The athletes need screenings, like dental, vision, auditory, physical and an overall health one.

People with intellectual disabilities don't have as many opportunities to have providers that understand their health needs. Special Olympics International have a company that will do this healthy athlete screening, for health and wellness. I'm the secretary of the Sports Academy of APTA, and I was chosen to help. So, I was able to go to Berlin.


3. How was the experience? And what did you do while you were there?

This was more than anything than I could have imagined. It's just awesome, like I don't have a good word for it, an amazing thing.

But it was a different experience for me, because I'm used to going as a sports physical therapist, working the sidelines. I'm used to being hands-on and doing things. In Berlin, I was there on behalf of APTA, so we went to different events and worked behind the scenes. We helped promote the events, collaborate and organize. I was so lucky to be chosen.


4. This is totally in line with our culture and mission of CHS. Did your experience with RHB influence you in any way?

The RHB program is so comprehensive. in looking at things critically. You’re looking at a problem, and the solution requires interdisciplinary action and multiple experts and multiple fields. From that perspective, yes, it is totally in line with what RHB does.

I went to school to learn the research side of things. I mean, we weren't doing research in Berlin. We were doing clinical work there. But the organization is an important component for any sort of initiative. And again, research isn't just having a question and finding information. It's also continuing to grow your knowledge. I think from that perspective, it set me up pretty well.


5. So how can others help?

Special Olympics and the Healthy Athletes program are always looking for people, especially leaders in different groups. From a PT perspective, we have what's called the Adaptive Sports Special Interest Group, which is within the Sports Academy, which is within the APTA but that’s three layers deep. That group is focused on providing or helping networking education. It is the whole realm of athletics.


Check out our photo gallery here.


Photo acknowledgments:

Roger Herr

Vincent Fiorenti

Emilio Rouco

Mary Jane Rapport

Kathleen Rodriguez

Special Olympics Healthy Athlete

American Physical Therapy Association

American Academy of Sports Physical Therapy