From Student Athlete to Team Physical Therapist

Monica Baker, PT, ATC, has always had an interest in sports, which is what drew her to pursuing a career in physical therapy and athletic training. She played basketball and ran cross country while earning her undergraduate degree at Southern Arkansas University. Fast forward several years, and Monica was a physical therapist at Baptist Collierville’s rehab center.

She wanted to match her two interests, so 16 years ago, she took a class at University of Memphis – taught by former University of Memphis head athletic trainer Eddie Cantler – to earn her athletic training license.

Monica then started volunteering with the University of Memphis football program, working the sidelines during football games to tape up and ice injured players and work with special case rehabs. Because of her professional relationship with Cantler, Monica was given more and more duties working with student athletes. Starting in late 2018, she officially became the team physical therapist at University of Memphis while still being a Baptist Memorial Health Care team member.

“U of M has more than 400 student athletes and until recently, only had five full-time athletic trainers for all of those athletes,” said Monica. “So U of M had a real need for additional help providing rehabilitation and care to those athletes.”

Now Monica runs an on-campus clinic with normal business hours for the student athletes, but she still continues to volunteer. She operates as a one-person shop, entering cases into Baptist OneCare, billing insurance and providing the same documentation she was providing while working at Baptist Collierville. Because she is on campus, the students have quicker, easier access to her, typically leading to quicker recovery times and kept appointments.

Monica mostly works with the student athletes whose parents have health care insurance. However, no student athlete is denied care because of insurance, or lack thereof.

The U of M is not the only university that has health care professionals on-site who also work for a health care system. However, most undergraduate campuses have medical schools with an established health care system on their campus, leading to easier access and a built-in clinic. The U of M program was based on programs at several schools, including the University of Central Florida and the University of Toledo.

“This is a dream job for me,” explained Monica. “Each sport and each athlete offers unique challenges. Working with 18-23-year-olds, I have to change up physical therapy routines more often to keep it fresh, but I love it.”

This U of M and Baptist agreement was signed in August 2018 and became operational in October 2018.