By Mary Ellen Lowney
When Edward Moran began working on a master’s degree in physical therapy at AIC in 1996, everything seemed a risk.
The program was brand new, and as-yet not accredited. Moran was walking away from a successful career in finance. Even the potential job market for physical therapy wasn’t entirely clear.
But in his quest to move to a field where he could help people in need, Moran took a chance on the program that combines academics and field experience. His 1998 graduation – he was in AIC’s first graduating class in physical therapy – launched a life change he will always appreciate.
I’m really drawn to service. I love helping other people, and I love the instant gratification of helping people improve and feel better about themselves.
Today, things could hardly be better for Moran, who is 40 and lives with his family in Springfield. He is director of therapy operations at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Center of Western Massachusetts in Ludlow. Satellite facilities are located in Belchertown, Holyoke and West Springfield.
As director of therapy, Moran oversees inpatient and outpatient treatment for nearly 300 patients per week. He heads up a staff of 50 physical, occupational, speech and respiratory therapists.
Moran said the work suits him perfectly.
“I’m really drawn to service. I love helping other people, and I love the instant gratification of helping people improve and feel better about themselves,” he said.
“I interact well with others, which is important when you are working in an interdisciplinary team environment,” he added.
AIC’s physical therapy program is among the fastest growing at the college, with 49 students currently enrolled in the professional phase. What began as a master’s degree program 12 years ago was expanded in 2005 to include a doctorate program – known in the field as DPT, or doctorate of physical therapy – to reflect changes in the profession.
Edward C. Swanson, the original program director of the AIC Division of Physical Therapy when Moran attended AIC, said students typically spend five to six years from start to finish, the first three in academic classes and the remainder working a series of field internships. For Moran, that included clinical rotations at a skilled nursing facility in Greenfield, at Western Massachusetts Hospital in Westfield, and an outpatient facility at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
Swanson said the program emphasizes the professional phase, aiming to develop and graduate autonomous clinical practitioners. Graduates are now working in jobs across the country in environments such as hospitals, school systems, private practices, in the Army, and in specialty areas of orthopedics, pediatrics and neurology.
Program staff at AIC includes eight core faculty members, all of them licensed physical therapists with advanced certifications for clinical practice, or doctoral degrees. Once the first class graduated and passed their licensure examinations and successfully passed the accreditation assessment process, the program received accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education.
Swanson said the average class size is between 25 and 30 students in the professional phase. There the learning is hands-on, to prepare students to meet the challenges of current practice.
Swanson recalled Moran as bright and engaging, one who was focused on the clinical end of the learning experience so that he could reach his goal of becoming a top therapist for people with injuries, or recovering from surgeries or other trauma.
“Ed’s career has been steady and progressive,” Swanson said. “He has progressed from a staff physical therapist, to a supervisor, and to a manager’s position responsible for all the rehabilitation services at HealthSouth.”
Moran said his work at AIC prepared him well for the real world. He remembers the program as being rigorous, and filled with the kind of learning that could be applied to the field he was headed for.
“I loved AIC,” he said.
“It was very new for all of us. They threw the kitchen sink at us as far as the education went. It was demanding, but a lot of great information. We were definitely very well prepared,” he said.
Moran’s work includes overseeing therapy services at the 53-bed inpatient facility in Ludow, the outpatient facility at the same location, and at the three outpatient satellite facilities. While most of his work involves management at present, he’s the kind of boss who frequently jumps in to help, providing direct services whenever needed.
“I like the direct service work, and I think it’s important to support my staff when we’re short-handed,” he said.
Moran also likes the management end of the job. He is part of a great team, he said.
“It’s very busy here, which I love. I need to be active. I like it that I get to see and be a part of the big picture here at HealthSouth,” he said.
He recalled an incident that happened when he was a young child as his inspiration, eventually, for the career change he sought and accomplished. It was during the early 1970s, Moran was growing up in the Hungry Hill section of Springfield, and his brother-in-law was recently back from a tour in Vietnam.
“He came back fine, but just after that he broke his neck in a horrible car accident,” Moran recalled. “They put a piece of his hip bone into his neck. He was one of the first to have that done, though it’s common today. I watched him rehab from that accident, and it made quite an impression on me.”
Moran serves on the AIC Physical Therapy Program Advisory Board. He lives in the East Forest Park section of Springfield with his wife and four sons, including three-year-old triplets.
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