USciences Graduate Continues Physical Therapy Career Aboard Navy Medical Ship

By Colby Gallagher

Published on December 13, 2018


Lt. Kenny with a smiling patient

 Lt. Joe Kenny DPT’15 sought to use his skills as a physical therapist in service of his country when he began serving at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth and Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia since June 2017.

From September to November 2017 he deployed to Puerto Rico with the USNS Comfort to care for patients who had been impacted by the devastation of Hurricane Maria. From October to December 2018 he again deployed with the USNS Comfort to South and Central America on a mission to provide medical assistance to help relieve pressure on host nation medical systems, partly due to an increase in migrants crossing their borders.

Prior to his service in the Navy, Lt. Kenny worked for two years in New York as a physical therapist in a variety of inpatient and outpatient settings. Lt. Kenny said this 11-week mission to treat people in Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, and Honduras was both a challenging and rewarding experience.Lt. Kenny aboard the boat in Peru

“The physical therapy performed this time around was done primarily on land at medical sites, and more outpatient-based. It was interesting to see and work with some diagnoses that I’ve never encountered before, especially when working with a lot of young kids,” said Lt. Kenny.

While Lt. Kenny has spent the majority of his career caring for adult patients, he said he was able to rely on what he learned from Dr. Eric Pelletier PT, DPT, associate professor of physical therapy, who leads a course on pediatric care at USciences.

Lt. Kenny and a young boy with Cerebral Palsy“While I know I’m light years away from his experience with pediatric patients, his knowledge, class, labs, and teaching definitely helped out and came in handy these past few months. Never in a million years did I think I would work with as many kids and babies as I did,” Lt. Kenny said. “My education and training at USciences gave me the confidence and skill I needed to work with these patients and their parents to help out and put smiles on their faces.”

Lt Kenny and one of his patientsOne of the most memorable patients for Lt. Kenny was a little girl in Riohacha, Colombia who came to the medsite in orthotics with difficulty walking. He was able to give her a walker and crutches to help.

“It was such a precious and heartfelt moment seeing the happiness and smile on her face when I gave her and her mother crutches and a walker to help her walk better. I’ll never forget that reaction from her- literally flailing and kicking her arms and legs out while jumping in happiness and excitement,” he said.

Lt. Kenny knows his current career is far from traditional physical therapy, but said it’s well worth the push. He now encourages other students to think outside the box when it comes to their own futures. “There are still so many doors that I see for myself in the future that will be unlocked with time,” he said.

Lt. Kenny will take the next step in his Navy career in the upcoming months as he will begin the military musculoskeletal residency program, and is also penciled in to serve aboard the Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier.

Categories: News, Samson College of Health Sciences, Department of Physical Therapy, Physical Therapy, Profiles, Proven Everywhere, Alumni