The School of Physical Therapy celebrated its 20th birthday this year. For two decades, the school and its faculty have influenced the lives of students, and indirectly, the lives of the people those students go on to serve.
Keirns is one of its founding faculty. With Dean Barbara Tschoepe and Joanne Whipple, he drew up the original curriculum.
“We had a vision of what the physical therapy profession should look like and so we created a program to match that vision,” Keirns said. “Our curriculum embraces Jesuit values like service, leadership and treating the whole person: body, mind and soul. Those values make our program one of the best in the country.”
Assistant Professor Christian Little agrees. She graduated from the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program in 2007 and came back to teach in 2010 because she believes so strongly in Regis’ mission. She was mentored by Keirns and sees herself as a mentor to the next generation of compassionate physical therapists.
“At Regis, students come first,” she said. “Our goal is always to help students develop as professionals and leaders, but also as individuals.”
One of the ways this is accomplished is the program’s intense focus on service learning, which is built into the curriculum. The program gives students the opportunity to serve in local organizations and even globally, through immersion experiences in Ethiopia, Nicaragua and Peru.
There are also opportunities that don’t count for credit, but still teach valuable lessons. For example, Keirns takes a group of volunteers to Arrupe Jesuit High School each week. There, future physical therapists work with high school athletes, most of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds, to prevent injuries.
“It’s fulfilling to see these high school students getting the same care as professional athletes,” said Keirns. “And the Regis students are growing, too. They are learning what it means to serve. As physical therapists, we literally put our hands on people. We touch them. But a great physical therapist touches people’s lives, too.”
That’s the way Keirns sees it – every interaction is an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life, whether it’s the Denver Nuggets’ star forward, a high school athlete or a Regis PT student on his or her way to great things.