When it comes to future careers, kids tend to go big. Doctors, lawyers, firefighters and police officers typically top the list of little ones.
But those weren’t among the choices for a young Rachel Underwood. At just six years old, she already knew she wanted to be a physical therapist.
“I heard my best friend say that’s what she wanted to do,” the Woodstock native recalled. “She was in gymnastics and broke her arm. She had to have surgery and went to PT. So I started saying that too.”
Her friend actually grew up to be a nurse but Underwood stuck to her guns. The path solidified after she had therapy herself as a student athlete in high school. Underwood was a competitive swimmer in high school and in college at Georgia Southern where she injured her knee., so she had her fair share of visits to therapists.
“I had to go a couple of times for different things” she said.
What she found in those sessions was compassionate and individualized care. And And This is when Underwood knew that was precisely what she wanted to offer others.
She finished her studies and went on to PT school in Savannah.
“I got a bachelor’s degree in exercise science, then I completed my doctorate of physical therapy at the campus in Savannah. When we started doing our first clinicals, I was supposed to be in Richmond Hill but because of COVID they moved me to Brunswick,” she said.
Underwood worked with Advanced Rehabilitation’s clinic in Brunswick where she immediately felt at home.
“I just fell in love with the clinic, the patients, and the staff. They population here is so humble and kind. I am grateful to be here,” she said.
Underwood graduated in May and received her license in August. And while she was still living in Savannah, she opted to stay right where she was rather than finding a job closer to home. Underwood practices as a general orthopedic therapist who sees a little bit of it everything. when it comes to conditions.
“I do general outpatient orthopedics. I’ve had a 14 year old who had knee surgery and a 93 year old with a shoulder problem ... so it really does vary,” she said with a laugh. “Some patients are recovering from surgery. Others have vertigo or low back pain. I see a lot of people with knee pain or shoulder pain. Really, it’s head to toe.”
Being able to offer care to patients regardless of their condition is something Underwoods values. And while she might explore further training to specialize, she has enjoyed keeping her options open.
“That was another thing I really liked about the Brunswick clinic, they don’t pigeon hole you. We treat almost everything,” she said. “In the future, I might specialize in something. I’m looking at LSVT, which assists people with Parkinson’s, or even doing some specialty training to work with stroke patients.”
Regardless of what patient or condition she works with however, Underwood’s focus will always be squarely on her patients.
“That’s one of the huge reasons I choose to drive and hour to Brunswick every day. I love my patients,” she said. “And working with general orthopedics, I am able to get my hands on in patients to do some manual adjustments--> to provide manual therapy that can really help to reduce their pain and relieve their symptoms. I also like to show them exercises they can do at home so they can manage without me.”
Another area she explores is preventative care. Underwood says that many may not know that the clinics offer free consultations and screenings to head off any future issues.
“I don’t think people realize that we do free screenings. They’re welcome to come to the PT clinic and just chat with us. We love to show them around,” she said. “Almost everyone can benefit from PT at some point.”
While Underwood is still a bit of a new kid on the block, she’s grateful that she has a team of seasoned professionals surrounding her. And, she adds, the Advance Rehabilitation team goes above and beyond to make each member feel like they’re part of the family outside of the office.
“It really does feel like a family. We’re always joking around and laughing. We actually all wore pajamas and went out to dinner at Pizza Inn not too long ago ... just something fun,” she said. “It’s great to have the same people as I was when I was a student.”
When she isn’t helping her patients in Brunswick, Underwood and her husband enjoying exploring their new town of Savannah. And they usually have a third wheel along for the ride.
“Our dog, Baxley,” she said. “He’s a golden retriever and he goes everywhere he can with me. We really love exploring Savannah ... even after three years, there’s always new places to find.”