When Morgan Lester tore her ACL in high school, she knew she wanted a career working with athletes. In 2016, Lester achieved her dream and completed her doctor of physical therapy, or DPT, at the UK College of Health Sciences.
When Lester completed her studies, she began working full-time as a physical therapist, but kept her eye on the sports physical therapy residency program taking shape at UK. The program was developed and created, and on Sept. 1, Lester became the program’s first resident.
Completing a residency program after earning a DPT is uncommon. There are thousands of physical therapy graduates each year, but there are far fewer accredited programs in the nation that offer a specialized residency. The sports physical therapy program at UK wants to change that, aiming to become the first accredited program of its kind at UK HealthCare.
The program is currently in a two-phase process to become accredited. The guidelines and requirements of the program have been set, and soon a team from the American Physical Therapy Association will observe Lester and her mentors in order to complete the accreditation process.
Ryan McGuire and John Jurjans, staff physical therapists and directors of the sports physical therapy residency program, worked with members of UK HealthCare, UK Sports Medicine and the UK College of Health Sciences’ physical therapy program to build a collaborative program.
“A team approach to rehabilitation is what works best for an athlete, and this is the best kind of program to demonstrate that,” Jurjans said.
A resource for her hometown
As part of her residency, Lester works with physicians, athletic trainers and physical therapists. She frequently works with Jenni Williams, an athletic trainer assigned to work with Lafayette High School athletics. This experience gives Lester the best opportunity to see an athlete’s journey from the initial injury, to physician diagnosis, physical therapy rehabilitation and return to play. Seeing multiple perspectives throughout the residency will better prepare Lester to work with injured athletes in a way that simply working in an office might not.
After completing the one-year residency, Lester plans to return to her hometown of Louisa, Ky., with her husband, who is a student in the UK College of Dentistry.
“When I was in high school and had my injury, I had to come all the way to Lexington to have functional testing and see the doctor,” she said. “I’m hoping to be a resource to the area so people don’t have to drive the 2½ hours to Lexington to get the care they need.”