In the 60s and 70s, private physical therapy practices were primarily owned and established by men, despite PT being a female dominated field during that time. Mary Thomson graduated from the UK College of Health Sciences physical therapy program in 1970 and soon became the first woman to own a private PT practice in the state of Kentucky.
Upon her graduation from UK, and after completing internships and boards, Thomson was hired by a private practice owned by two men.
“I worked in Georgetown as the sole therapist three days a week, and in Richmond and Berea the other days with a seasoned therapist,” Thomson said. “It was a good foundation for learning after graduation.”
It was Thomson’s understanding that after a PT worked for this practice for a year, they would be eligible to buy stock. When the time came, Thomson was told the stock option as only available for men. “I was stunned,” she said. “I immediately began to assess other options.”
In 1972, Thomson traveled to Nashville for a conference. It was there she met Fred Evans, a private practitioner in Danville. “We connected and I began asking him questions about his private practice,” she said. Soon after their meeting, Thomson was contacted by Richard McDougall, a mutual friend of her and Evans.
“He told me Fred was moving and wanted me to buy his practice which included two hospital contracts and one nursing home contract,” Thomson said. “Fred made it financially possible for me to purchase the practice even though I was still paying off my student loans.”
And so, Mary E, Martin P.S.C. was formed making Thomson the first female PT practice owner in the state of Kentucky. “We started off with one employee and ended up with 25 employees by 1985,” she said.
Thomson said her time with the UK College of Health Sciences prepared her for this calling. “The most valuable lessons I learned in PT school were how to evaluate and listen to the patient,” she said. “The patient will tell you how to treat them."