LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 7, 2021) — In Louisa, Kentucky, a town with a population of just under 2,500 people, there are not a variety of physical therapy clinics around. Located in Lawrence County, in the far eastern part of Kentucky, the city is almost on the West Virginia border, far from metropolitan areas.
That was the county where Morgan Lester, DPT, grew up — and that was the county she returned to in October 2020, when the UK physical therapy (PT) graduate moved back home and opened her own clinic — Eastern Kentucky Sports and Orthopedic Physical Therapy. She did it to help the people she had grown up with.
“I played high school basketball and after injuring my knee twice, I realized the importance of PT and the lack of specialty sports clinics that I had in my area,” Lester said.
After being the patient, she knew that one day, she wanted to be the provider.
“I always had the thought in the back of my mind that I wanted to move home after getting my PT doctorate to give back to my community because it wasn’t easy for me to get the specialty PT that I needed,” she said. “My mom had to drive 2 ½ hours to Lexington for my knee surgery and then consistently back and forth so I could receive specialty sports rehabilitation physical therapy. I didn’t want the people in my hometown to continue to have that burden of care and lack of access.”
Lester attended UK’s Physical Therapy Doctorate Program and graduated in 2016. During her time in the program, she decided to pursue a specialty in sports medicine and was encouraged and supported by UK College of Health Sciences faculty Lynn English, Ph.D; Kara Lee, Ph.D; and Tony English, Ph.D.
“My professors and clinical directors helped me develop and improve my skill set, allowing me to gain confidence in the field, which is very important,” Lester said.
After graduating from the PT program, Lester completed a yearlong residency in UK’s Sports Rehabilitation Residency Program. She was the first student to enroll in and complete the program.
“I never really imagined becoming a specialist, but the UKPT program and the Sports Rehabilitation Residency Program helped me become a better physician — and the mentoring I received in each program was truly invaluable,” she said.
In her current work as a PT, Lester is the only therapist in her clinic, with two PT assistants working with her. In the first six months, she has contracted with Lawrence County schools to cover the sidelines during major sports seasons. In case of an incident, Lester can be with the athletes to assess their injuries, creating easy access to care.
She is also involved with the local colleges in the area, where she allows juniors and seniors to shadow her in the clinic to earn observation hours prior to applying to PT school. In the future, she wants to continue to build the caseload at her clinic and perform more outreach within the community. She also wants her clinic to become a clinical site for PT schools, including UK.
And her advice to those students wanting to tread down a similar path?
“Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there,” she said. “Get observation hours in a variety of settings because that will allow you to be more well rounded and show that you are dedicated to your future profession.”
The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers." We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.