If you’re watching a medical drama or have a stay in the hospital, you’ve likely heard someone referred to as a resident. A resident is a medical school graduate that has earned their Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathy (DO) degree and work at hospitals or doctors’ offices to continue their education and training in a specialized field of medicine.
Residencies have expanded to incorporate more fields than just an MD or DO to include more specialized fields such as sports physical therapists (PT). You’ll usually find sports PT residencies at universities and major orthopedic centers, such as the Cleveland Clinic, Duke, Ohio State and now at LMH Health.
“Our program at LMH Health is one of only 58 sports PT programs in the United States and the only program of its kind in the Midwest,” said Daniel Lorenz, LMH Health director of sports medicine. “OrthoKansas is already a regional destination for orthopedic care. This program is a step toward putting LMH Health and what we’re doing here in Lawrence on the national map.”
Similar to a physician who completes fellowship training after earning a medical degree, physical therapists in these year-long residency programs are already licensed and trained. The residency hones the therapist’s skillset to treat athletes and athletic-minded patients.
Having an opportunity like this in Lawrence seemed like a remote possibility until Lorenz approached the physicians at OrthoKansas LMH Health with the idea. Once they were on board, it didn’t take long for LMH Health president and CEO Russ Johnson to sign off. Soon thereafter, LMH received a grant from the American Academy of Sports PT to get the program off the ground.
Filling the gap
Being able to adjust to any situation is a lesson that Kaleb Whitehair learned early in life. The Salina native lived with his family in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, in August 2005 when Hurricane Katrina devastated the region. They adapted to living without fresh water and electricity for nearly three weeks before packing up and heading back to Kansas.
Whitehair became pretty shy until he met Terry King, the football coach at Ell-Saline High School, who introduced him to lifting weights, working hard and adjusting when things don’t go your way.
“You make plans and then life happens,” he said. “Coach King instilled confidence in me and led me to the opportunity to do the work and have success.”
That increased confidence bolstered Whitehair as he played football, first at Butler County Community College and then Kansas Wesleyan University. It was during his time at Kansas Wesleyan that he shadowed physical therapist Jordan Zuccarelli, an experience that inspired him to head to South College in Knoxville and attend physical therapy school.
He heard about the residency program at LMH Health when a friend shared that Lorenz might be starting the program, and Whitehair wanted to know more.
“I messaged Dan on LinkedIn a few times to get in his ear early and often,” he said. “He’s done a lot in the physical therapy profession – owning his own business, working with the Kansas City Chiefs, research and having a huge network of people to learn from. To have the opportunity to pick his brain and those of the others who work at LMH – it was a no brainer.”
The sports PT residency offers Whitehair, who is already a licensed physical therapist, the opportunity to provide clinical care to patients at the LMH Health West Campus and shadow a variety of orthopedic and sports medicine physicians, including observing surgical procedures. He assists Ashley Kampfer, the athletic trainer at Lawrence High School, to provide acute care. He also works with LMH Health physical therapist Tyrel Reed to provide care for student-athletes at the University of Kansas through Kansas Team Health, a collaboration between LMH Health and The University of Kansas Health System.
“The opportunity to educate clinicians here and expose them to the clinical and athletic components of sports medicine through this advanced training is key to advancing the sports physical therapy subspecialty,” said Dr. Luis Salazar, a sports medicine physician at OrthoKansas. “LMH Health and OrthoKansas have the clinicians, technology and facilities to provide healthcare that’s not only exceptional for a community hospital—it’s among the best anywhere. Patients benefit from our home at the LMH Health West Campus, with access to convenient, collaborative and innovative care all under one roof.”
You don’t have to be an athlete to get the best physical therapy in the area. Many patients don’t even need a referral. Call 785-838-7885 to schedule an appointment with one of our experts or visit lmh.org/pt to learn more.
A self-described physical therapy nerd, Whitehair said it would be hard to name one aspect of the sports PT residency that sticks out. He loves the process of learning and refining his knowledge so he can get better and provide better results for his patients.
“No one is great alone. It’s important to surround yourself with great people who will lend their time to you so that you can get better at what you do,” he said. “I’ve had the opportunity to talk with physical therapists from a number of major sports teams – the Seattle Mariners, Houston Texans, Sporting Kansas City – and that’s been one of the recurring themes.”
Whitehair acknowledges that there isn’t a black and white path that led him to the sports PT residency at LMH Health. He’s grateful to be on the journey.
“The hands-on clinical experience, research and shadowing, as well as the collaborations with high schools and Kansas Team Health are giving me the opportunity to be a better clinician,” he said. “I’m grateful to Dan Lorenz and [physical therapist] Danny Larson for making this residency a reality and allowing me to take another step in my journey.”