Davoud Saghaian leads the PT Class of 2022*** to Saturday Graduation

By Ryan Clark
CHS Communications Director

Davoud Saghaian was 15 when his brother had the accident.

His brother, 17-year-old Zane, was driving home when a drunk driver ran a stop sign at a Lexington intersection.

The result was a hard collision that shattered his brother’s kneecap, as well as fracturing his then-girlfriend’s (and now wife’s) wrist. Zane had emergency surgery that same day, and the total recovery took about four months. Physical Therapy was a primary factor in that recovery, and the experience opened the door to what would become Davoud’s career path.

“I got to witness a PT guide Zane through his recovery all the way back to playing soccer again,” Davoud said. “The benefit that PT had on my brother’s life was enormous. He was more than just another healthcare worker, he was a friend.”

On Saturday, Davoud, now 27, will join his classmates in Physical Therapy and graduate. It’s a special class, one that had to fight through COVID and witness the ever-changing world of healthcare evolve around them.

“The class of 2022 is no ordinary group,” Davoud said. “We have accomplished one of the highest levels of academia during the chaos of an unprecedented pandemic. In a way, the challenges we’ve faced have brought us closer together. I have seen this group support and encourage one another. When times are tough, I have seen them adapt and go out of their way to help each other. This group is clever, dedicated, patient and supportive. The relationships formed through this program will last a lifetime and I couldn’t be more blessed to be a member of this class.”

“I refer to this class as 2022***,” said Kara Lee, PT, DPT, NCS and assistant professor in Physical Therapy. “The three asterisks denote the fact that their experience with COVID has been different from the Class of 2020*, who had a clinical COVID interrupted and one rearranged to allow them to graduate on time; and the Class of 2021**, who had a clinical rearranged but managed to mostly stay on track after adapting some classes to virtual during the height of the pandemic.” 

The Class of 2022*** had their very foundational Gross Anatomy course interrupted while they were studying the lower extremity quarter in spring of 2020, but then became the first group of students back on UK’s entire campus in the summer of 2020, following particular protocols for safety. 

“They endured natural disasters in their native western and eastern Kentucky over the past nine months,” Lee said. “They have presented their research nationally at conferences and are in the process of having some of their works published. They have witnessed a change of leadership and faculty in the program as some of our stalwart and foundational professors have retired. They have collectively completed almost 13,400 days of clinical education, participated in two medical brigades to Ecuador, served dozens of patients at the Samaritan’s Touch pro-bono clinic, and refurbished untold numbers of medical devices for distribution to those who need them in eastern Kentucky through the CARAT project.”

As President of the Hazard class, Davoud — who is originally from Esfahan, Iran — will speak at the event Saturday. He earned his undergraduate degree in Kinesiology, with a Health Promotion minor, and came to UK because he spent much of his childhood in Lexington (his father worked at UK).

“UK was always the obvious choice for me,” he said. “I spent much of my childhood in Lexington and went to UK for undergrad. Therefore, once I learned how distinguished UK’s PT program was, where I could receive the highest quality education while still being close to home, the choice was easy. From the beginning, UK was my number one choice for PT school, and I was fortunate enough to be accepted.”

He was able to attend the Hazard cohort — and he says he is honored to speak on Saturday.

“Having the privilege to speak at graduation is an incredible honor,” he said. “In my speech, I hope to convey my appreciation to all those who have helped my class along the way, and give praise to our accomplishments in the face of so many challenges. The theme of my speech, and the main message I want everyone to take home: Care.”

Next, he will travel to California, where he has accepted an Outpatient Orthopedic position with PT Solutions in Fresno.

“UK PT has been one of the best decisions of my life,” he said. “To anyone interested in coming to this program, I would say that you could not hope for a better graduate program experience. UK has some of the best and most reputable educators, producing highly sought-after graduates, along with some uniquely amazing opportunities. Internships in Ecuador, Italy, and all across the United States, as well as excellent networking opportunities through conferences like CSM and AAOMPT are just a few of the many great opportunities this program has to offer.”