LMH Health program helps physical therapists grow

photo by: Courtesy of LMH Health

Kaleb Whitehair is a sports physical therapy resident at LMH Health.

Just like medical professionals in other fields, physical therapists want to hone their skills beyond what they learn in school, and LMH Health is filling that need with its sports physical therapy residency program.

Traditionally, a resident is a medical school graduate who has earned a doctor of medicine (MD) or doctor of osteopathy (DO) degree and works at a hospital or doctor’s office to continue their education and training in a specialized field of medicine. But residencies have expanded beyond just MDs and DOs to include more specialized fields such as sports physical therapists.

“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’s 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 yearlong residency programs are already licensed and trained. The residency hones the therapist’s skills 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 after that, LMH received a grant from the American Academy of Sports PT to get the program off the ground.

Filling the gap

When a friend told Kaleb Whitehair that Lorenz might be starting a physical therapy residency program at LMH Health, Whitehair’s interest was piqued immediately.

Whitehair, who went to South College in Knoxville, Tennessee, for physical therapy school, knew that Lorenz had connections with lots of experienced people who could help him grow as a clinician.

“I messaged Dan on LinkedIn a few times to get in his ear early and often,” Whitehair 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.”

As a resident, Whitehair provides clinical care to patients at the LMH Health West Campus and shadows a variety of orthopedic and sports medicine physicians, including observing surgical procedures. He helps Lawrence High School athletic trainer Ashley Kampfer provide acute care, and he also works with LMH Health physical therapist Tyrel Reed to 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.

Dr. Luis Salazar, a sports medicine physician at OrthoKansas LMH Health, said it’s important to provide these kinds of experiences for people entering the profession.

“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,” Salazar said.

Surrounded by experience

For Whitehair, who describes himself as a physical therapy nerd, it’s hard to say what his favorite part of the sports PT residency is. 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,” he said. “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. 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 might not have gone to physical therapy school at South College in the first place if not for his time shadowing a physical therapist earlier in his education, when he was at Kansas Wesleyan University. He said his path to the sports PT residency at LMH Health wasn’t black and white, but that he was grateful to be on the journey and to have an experienced team to help him grow.

“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.

— Autumn Bishop is the marketing manager and content strategist at LMH Health, which is a major sponsor of the Journal-World’s Health section.


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