'Truly an Honor': McNamara is Young Alumni Award Winner

By Ryan Clark
CHS Communications Director

She is a teacher. A healthcare provider. A lifelong learner. And she's overcome quite a bit over the past 18 months.

Meet the latest CHS Young Alumni Award winner, Katelyn McNamara, PT, DPT.

A native of Lexington, McNamara is a Pediatric Physical Therapist at Norton Children’s Hospital in Louisville.

A 2016 graduate from the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program, she also earned her undergraduate degree at UK in 2013 — a dual Honors degree in Topical Studies in Neuroscience and Spanish. Her decision to become a PT was influenced by her time volunteering in the Samaritan’s Touch Clinic, a physical therapy clinic run by UK DPT students, as an undergraduate student. She served as a Spanish medical interpreter in the clinic, where she was able to observe the Physical Therapy program’s faculty and students.

“I fell in love with physical therapy and how the students interacted with the patients," McNamara said. "I briefly considered other healthcare professions, but I loved the hands-on approach of physical therapy."

She then decided to apply to PT school at UK because of the commitment to service-learning through Samaritan’s Touch, opportunities for research, and of course, the welcoming environment she had observed at the clinic.

She went on to complete her residency at the University of North Carolina.

Since graduation she has worked predominantly in outpatient pediatrics and early intervention, as well as with Dr. Andrea Behrman as a pediatric physical therapist in the Kosair Charities Pediatric NeuroRecovery Network. She has experience in translational, quantitative studies in neurotrauma and physiology, and qualitative research experience focusing on pediatric patient and family perspectives of rehabilitation following spinal cord injury, and studying the perspectives of health and wellness amongst vulnerable populations in rural Ecuador.

But in fall 2021 she became a patient herself. McNamara and her new husband, Jonathan, were preparing to move to Germany for jobs. But McNamara had not been feeling well. The diagnosis was a rare form a cancer — primary mediastinal large b-cell lymphoma (PMBCL). This type of lymphoma is rare and generally affects young women under the age of 35.

For the next seven months she fought off the disease, and chronicled her journey on her Caring Bridge Journal: https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/katydid2/journal.

Now, healthy and thankful, she is working again, at Norton Children’s Hospital and with Dr. Kyle Brothers at the University of Louisville. She says she takes particular joy in this recent CHS honor.

“CHS is a place where you can feel at home while also broadening your horizons,” she said. “If you have the passion, the drive and the curiosity to see what’s out there, CHS can guide you to those interests while developing you as a professional.

“This award is truly an honor,” she continued. “Yet, it is UK that I’d like to thank for helping me. This past year has been difficult, yet also one of incredible growth. I was diagnosed with Primary Mediastinal B-Cell Lymphoma on Dec. 21, 2021. In the midst of that transition home from UNC to UK to receive treatment, I decided to fight Cancer by making the process a learning opportunity. I reached out to UKPT and UK CoPharm and offered my situation as a learning experience for students in their courses on Oncology Care. Their openness to this idea, allowing me to process this diagnosis through sharing my story and teaching students as I experienced the process helped me to fight this cancer. I rang the bell in June of 2022.”

McNamara will formally receive the honor at the Hall of Fame and Young Alumni Award Celebration at 5:30 p.m., March 29, at the Rockbridge Reserve Room at The Campbell House. 

The latest inductee into the CHS Hall of Fame, Renee Kinder, MS, CCC-SLP, RAC-CT, will also be honored. 

“We in the College of Health Sciences are so proud to honor these amazing alumni,” said CHS Dean Scott Lephart. “We celebrate the kinds of creativity, resiliency, leadership and altruism that each of these impressive former students displays. They are wonderful role models for our current students, and I can think of no one better to represent CHS.”