UK Physical Therapy alumnae complete Physical Therapy residencies at UNC

Kate McNamara, DPT and Ann O’Neil, DPT, alumnae of the UK College of Health Sciences (CHS) Doctor of Physical Therapy Program, are currently completing a competitive residency for physical therapy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. By doing this, they are able to seek specialization in pediatric physical therapy and neurological physical therapy, respectively.

Both McNamara and O’Neil chose UK’s Physical Therapy Program because of the vast opportunities that the program at CHS has to offer. “CHS has such great faculty, a high regard for the PT program from past graduates, and opportunities that are offered to us,” O’Neil said. The Physical Therapy program’s commitment to their students is what ultimately encouraged McNamara to apply to the PT program. “CHS allows students to explore and provides mentorship and support for students to conduct research,” McNamara said.

O’Neil, who decided to pursue a career as a PT in high school, was able to shadow various careers when she was a senior at Lafayette High School in Lexington and fell in love with the physical therapy field. “It seemed that the physical therapists that I shadowed loved their jobs and I enjoyed the relationships that were created between the patient and therapist,” O’Neil said.

McNamara’s 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. I briefly considered other healthcare professions, but I loved the hands-on approach of physical therapy,” McNamara said. 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.

Both O’Neil and McNamara attribute their decision to pursue a PT residency program to their preparation from CHS. O’Neil gained experience for her neuroscience residency by working with patients during her time in CHS. “The PT program promoted evidence-based practice and encouraged us to look at our patients as a whole and not just their impairments,” O’Neil said. She was also able to participate in the Shoulder-to-Shoulder Global Medical Brigade in India where she was able to experience a completely different culture and healthcare system. “These experiences influenced my choice to become a Cultural Champion in my rehabilitation department in the hospital system,” said O’Neil.

McNamara received an abundance of support from the faculty at CHS, which greatly helped her in her pursuit to become a PT. “The faculty at CHS wrote letters of recommendation for me, and it was their faith in me that gave me the courage to pursue my dreams,” McNamara said. McNamara knew that she wanted to work in pediatrics, and she was able to get pediatrics experience and funding during her time in DPT school, which helped prepare her for her residency at UNC.

While they could have sought employment as PTs after graduation, both clinicians are excited about the opportunities the residency program at UNC is offering them in the fields they intend to pursue their career in. McNamara and O’Neil are both grateful to be going through the program together and are proud to extend the reach of UK’s Physical Therapy program to North Carolina.