Jake GillilandJake Gilliland was playing high school football in Addison, Ala. when he tore the Ulnar Collateral Ligament on his left thumb. That resulted in reconstructive surgery with the doctor harvesting part of a flexor tendon in his wrist to repair it. He was sent to an outpatient rehab at UAB when he met an Occupational Therapist who was also a Certified Hand Therapist.

“He was great and taught me about the different splinting materials that can be used for different conditions,” said Gilliland. “He was also the first to explain to me the details about my surgery.”

That encounter led him to inquire more about occupational therapy.

“I loved the broad range of possibilities,” said Gilliland. “I am the type of person that likes variety, spontaneity and creativity. OT allows me to be myself while helping others. It’s perfect.”

Before entering the occupational therapy program at UAB, Gilliland received a bachelor’s degree in Education with an emphasis on health and physical education.

“OT has a strong education component to it so a degree in health and physical education has been extremely helpful for everything we have done so far,” said Gilliland.

Pursuing a degree in a female-dominated profession didn’t deter Gilliland either.

“I thought being a minority would offer me more possibilities since there is a huge push for diversity in the workforce right now,” said Gilliland.

After graduation in 2013, he plans to eventually open his own clinic and couple his love for therapy with baseball which Gilliland says goes hand in hand.

”When looking at OT from a rehabilitative frame of reference, we are more familiar with the shoulder, elbow, forearm, wrist and hand,” said Gilliland. “Considering that throwing a baseball is not a natural motion, most of the injuries are in the upper extremities, which makes it an area where we can provide a great deal of services.”