As a varsity basketball player on the Lyndon campus, Mike Paul ’08 was sidelined his sophomore year after a knee injury. It took nine months for him to recover and compete again.
“How to get from Point A to Point B in the healing process fascinated me,” he said. His experience with the injury convinced him that his choice of exercise science as a major was right, and it led him to pursue physical therapy as a career.
Faculty Who Accommodate Students’ Needs
The small classes and one-on-one time Mike had with professors stand out for him. Because of basketball, Mike sometimes missed classes or needed extended deadlines for assignments because of his basketball schedule. “What was most valuable for me was that they really listened to what I needed as a student and could be flexible when needed,” he said. “They were willing to accommodate different needs.”
Mike also earned a bachelor’s degree in business and had solid hands-on opportunities as a student that catered to his interests in the practice of exercise science and the management side of the field. In addition to learning practical skills such as wrapping ankles and knees in classes, much of his real-world experience involved working with the broader community.
He helped lead campus programs that offered community member classes and workshops on wellness and health. He also built leadership skills in community-based outreach programs at schools, where he and other students helped in classrooms, chaperoned at activities, and officiated basketball games.
Self-Designed Internships Related to His Interests
Faculty were supportive of Mike’s self-designed internships that allowed him to “bridge the gap between the physical application and the money-making side” of the exercise science field, he said. He coordinated triathlons and other events to promote health and wellness, wrote business plans, and did financial analyses.
“It was a stepping stone to getting to where I am today,” said Mike, whose wife, Whitney Hoyt Paul ’08, also was in the exercise science program. He developed skills in administration and communication that he uses now as clinical director of the rehab department at Wayne UNC Health Care, a 316-bed hospital in Goldsboro, North Carolina, that’s in the University of North Carolina system.
To meet the needs of patients and their families, “communication skills are vitally important. They can make or break your career,” Mike said.
From Private Practice to Big Health Care
The University also prepared him well for a graduate program at the University of Vermont, where he earned a doctor of physical therapy degree.
The curriculum, with many career-relevant science courses, “was very challenging and rigorous,” Mike said. “It set me up really well for graduate school, so I didn’t feel undereducated whatsoever when I got into the UVM graduate program, especially from a science standpoint.”
Soon after he finished the program at UVM, Mike tapped his experience in the business program to team with alum and physical therapist Sean Fitzgerald to launch Transitions Physical Therapy in Jericho, Vermont. They added a second location in Essex Junction, Vermont. Sean still runs the growing practice.
Now at Wayne UNC, Mike directs a department of 40 people. “We have a team that’s eager to learn. When they are put in a position to be successful and do well, that’s the part that’s most rewarding for me,” said Mike, who lives in the Raleigh area. “I enjoy working with patients, too. When you help somebody get better who’s been dealing with a chronic issue for years, it’s also very rewarding.”