For many people, long distance running is a great time to think and reflect and have epiphanies. Holly Ray, PT, DPT, a native of Starkville, Miss., and a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Doctor of Physical Therapy class of 2011, this was no different and she enjoyed all running from 5Ks to marathons to half-ironman triathlons. However, Ray’s life-changing epiphany occurred while running - but not in the way it occurs to most.
“I had my fair share of minor injuries like patellofemoral syndrome and plantar fasciitis and that led to trips to physical therapy, which led me to realize I really enjoyed going to physical therapy,” said Ray. “While I was researching various schools across the country I learned UAB had a strong PT department so I toured the school and the area. I loved everything I saw and submitted my application the next week to be a part of the Doctor of Physical Therapy class of 2011.”

While doing an inpatient rehab rotation at St. Catherine’s Rehabilitation Hospital in Hialieah, Fla., just outside of Miami, she learned that her interests were in rehabilitation in the field of geriatrics. In August 2012, she began the year-long residency program that helps physical therapists learn and prepare to sit for special board certification to become a Geriatric Certified Specialist (GCS). She takes the test in March of 2014.

And even though she is no longer at UAB, the lessons learned in Birmingham are the lessons that will help her in Miami.

“You cannot get through school alone, so don’t be scared lean on the people around you and let them lean on you,” said Ray. “If you are a part of a small group of students, get to know everyone and study with them. Graduate school is hard, and becoming friends with the people that are in it with you and getting your motivation to keep studying and working hard from them is invaluable.”

Today, Ray lives in Miami and works for Catholic Health Services in both the inpatient rehabilitation unit and in a skilled nursing facility. She works mainly with geriatric patients, helping them improve their function and mobility after any of a multitude of insults including stroke, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s, hip/lower extremity fracture and total joint replacements.

And like a true long distance runner, she added one final brilliant burst at the finish.

“Be open to go where life takes you. I did all of my clinical rotations in different states, and I learned so many different things in each place both concerning physical therapy and about life in general,” said Ray. “Being a girl from a small town in Mississippi, I would have never dreamed that I would be studying physical therapy in Miami, but UAB made that possible for me."