Carolyn K. Q&A


ur dear friend and long-time Boyer Physical Therapist, Carolyn Kates, recently retired from Boyer after 32 years of service. During Carolyn’s career, she made an incredible impact on not only the families she proudly served, but on the professional community as well. We will miss seeing her warm smile everyday, but look forward to this next chapter in her journey. 

Why did you become a PT?
I was trying to figure out what to do with my life after art school. I was waiting tables in St. Louis, Missouri. The restaurant was the neighborhood hangout in a well-to-do neighborhood. A lot of the patrons were ‘regulars’ and they brought their elderly parents and grandparents there with their walkers. I enjoyed helping those older clients on walkers navigate the tables and get in their seats. I applied to PT school so I could work with geriatric clients, but a course in embryology changed my entire focus, and I switched my attention toward pediatrics.

What will you miss about the Boyer staff?
I hope I don’t have to miss everyone! I hope to be able to come back at times and visit or volunteer. The staff here is the best, and I’m always happily amazed and grateful for how dedicated, skilled, and creative they all are!

When did you start adding the fun colorful streak to my hair, and why did you do it?
It’s been about 4 years now. I got tired of the white hair! Someone took a picture of me at night, and I had my white hair with a black dress against a white car, and I realized I wanted more color. I used to be an art major, and I love color and I love getting dressed up. To me it represents playfulness and joy.

What’s something you’ve learned through working with families that has impacted how you live your life?
These families are my heroes. I know how scared and insecure they may be feeling on the inside, but they put on their smiles and greet us at the door, come to the classrooms, and I see most of them go through tremendous changes before they leave us. They are the ones who make the changes in their children’s development. Having your baby referred for physical therapy is a totally deeper and more impactful concept than going for a sprained knee. I try never to take anyone for granted and hope I can always be aware of surface manners versus deeper anxieties.

What’s the best thing about your job?
Being able to tell families their children are going to be OK, whenever that is possible. Of course, that’s not always possible 100% of the time, but I still want them to never give up hope.  After all, science and research marches on.

Also watching the children and families change and grow. When I work with families, I end up sharing everything I know about development, even the neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, kinesiology, and the latest research, if appropriate. I try to raise the knowledge of the families. I put it into very, even extremely simple terms if needed so even the families who don’t speak English can get it. I ask them: ‘are you following me,’ and watch that light spark in their eyes as they get it. It takes the mystery out of physical therapy and helps them to understand why we’re doing what we do.

What is the most positive change you’ve seen at Boyer or in the EI field in your 3+ decades of work?
I think the focus on relationship-based care and play. Also seeing children and families as a developmental, multi-dimensional, integrated, whole.

What advice would you give to someone just starting their career as a PT?
I really don’t know what your interests will be as you go on, but stay open and follow your heart as much as you can.  The money will follow.

I’ve been clinical instructor for many, many future PT’s, both as volunteers who started at Boyer and PT students from various educational facilities. I ask them their interests. Some want to and need to keep an open mind. Some may chose pediatrics initially, then go a different course. But then I learn years later that even though they’re working in a sports medicine clinic, that they also will specialize in kids with sports injuries, or will later change to pediatrics. So the pediatric influence of having an internship at Boyer remains in some way.

Thank you for taking the time to answer this Q&A, Carolyn! We are so grateful for your decades of service, and look forward to seeing you around Boyer for visits!