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Doctor of Physical Therapy

Kelly Kersten



How to succeed

"My classmates were very supportive of each other. And the faculty cared about us as individuals, not just students. I had two children while I was in the program. If I ever had any personal issues, I could approach my advisor. The door was always open."



After earning a bachelor's degree in psychology from Iowa State University and a master's in sport psychology and athletic training from the University of Kansas, Kelly became an athletic trainer for Rock Valley Physical Therapy. At Rock Valley, Kelly worked alongside physical therapists Mark Levsen and Kevin Farrell, who are also faculty members of the St. Ambrose University DPT program. "They were the ones who encouraged me to go back to school. So either they were sick of working with me, or they thought I could be a great PT someday!"

Now a graduate of the DPT program, Kelly is a Rock Valley physical therapist who works with outpatient orthopaedic patients, with a concentration on knees and shoulders. He hopes to continue to work with athletes and to one day own a clinic.

In his own words

Why St. Ambrose?

I had heard many great things about Ambrose prior to enrolling. Learning in small classes with instructors who all work in clinics throughout the Quad Cities was a big draw for me. I think it's fair to describe the program as intense, which is what I was looking for in a doctoral program.

Which faculty members made an impact?

During the lectures, the instructors were great at telling stories about their successes and mishaps while treating patients. I'd already developed excellent working relationships with Kevin and Mark. Kevin teaches kinesiology, biomechanics and orthopaedics. And Mark teaches musculoskeletal therapeutics, orthotics and prosthetics, and differential diagnosis. Because I wanted to focus on the same setting, and become an orthopaedic PT, I learned a lot from them. They both showed me how they used acquired skills and evidence-based practice to treat patients.

I also worked closely with Dr. Nora Riley on my evidence-based practice scholarly project about vestibular rehabilitation, or balance rehabilitation. I met weekly with Nora over the course of the year. She showed a real interest in the work and was a good source of support.

What new skills did you gain in the program?

I obtained a very solid foundation in physical therapy. I gained a lot of knowledge and experience in just two years, especially during my clinicals. One of the most valuable things I learned is when to use and when not to use certain techniques. Each patient is different. Some are appropriate for therapy, and some aren't. It's about helping the patient progress.

At Rock Valley, we've implemented a Phase Three ACL rehabilitation program, which helps local athletes acquire a skill set for high-level activity. My time at Ambrose prepared me for this program. I really enjoy working on the ACL program and would like to see it expand in the next five years.

Where did you intern?

Each student has a set number of clinical experiences to complete in a variety of settings. I was very fortunate to have great instructors at each one. It was a great way to combine the book information I'd studied with real life application. I did seven rotations, from inpatient to outpatient, non-operative to post-operative. I worked in Nebraska, Illinois and the Quad Cities. But the main goal was always the same: find the patients' physical limitations and restore their strength and gait.

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