2014 Robert G. Dicus Award Winner Patrick Graham, PT, MBA
“I am a very humbled man who is extremely grateful for this award and opportunity. I truly feel like the most blessed man alive.”
When Tom Diangelis called me, I thought “Oh man, he must be calling for money,” but I answered the call since it was Tom. The call was not about money, and I was shocked when he said, “I would like you to speak at opening ceremony.” I thought what in the world would he want me to talk about? I was speechless and overcome with emotion when he told me that I had been awarded the Dicus Award. I could barely get out the phrases, “Are you sure?” and “Thank you!” I was told that I had up to 15 minutes to speak, and I wondered if that included extra time for my Southern drawl.
This evening is even more special to me as I look around the room into faces that mean the world to me. My wife, Susan, and two daughters, Mary Frances and Katie Claire, made the trip with me and I am also honored to have my parents, Dr. Donovan and Wilma Graham, here tonight. These people help define who I am and have supported every step I have made. There are other faces that I see in the crowd that have nurtured my journey as a physical therapist and as a member of the Private Practice Section (PPS). There are too many names to call but there are two people that have made such a mark on my life that I know I would not be standing before you as a Dicus Award recipient without their guidance, support, and friendship. Steve Anderson and Drew Bossen, you are true friends in the profession, in the section, and in life. Thank you and love you guys!
Everyone in this room has a unique story to tell. All of our stories are still being written and the illustrations are still being drafted. There are parts of our stories that we choose to put in but there are also parts that seem to have chosen us and were not in our control. All of these parts make up who we are and write our story. My journey to become a physical therapist started with a part of my story that I did not choose. I tore up my knee playing soccer in college and ended my career with surgery. Honestly, I had never heard of a physical therapist before and after my first visit as a patient, I was not sure I ever wanted to see one again. As my knee began to heal, I admired and was intrigued by the physical therapy profession and changed my major from pre-med to physical therapy. As I began to call physical therapy schools in the South, I found out that applications were due within the next two days. After overnighting an application, cramming in a physics class in three weeks, and contacting people who I had never met before for living arrangements, I pulled into Augusta, Georgia, at 3:00 a.m. in 99 degree weather with 100 percent humidity! That ended up being a great part of my story as Susan, my wife, was also in that class.
I have been blessed with so many opportunities in Columbus, Georgia, working with my father-in-law and brother-in-law in a 59-year-old practice that prides itself in the care of its patients and the top-notch therapists that it employs. Today, I run the practice with Brian, my brother-in-law, and am very fortunate that he as well as the entire company understand and promote the importance of being involved with PPS and support my journey. That leads me to a part of my story that I did have something to do with. In 1998, I planned to attend my first PPS meeting in Chicago and my father-in-law, George McCluskey, called an old friend and former Dicus winner himself, Ernie Burch, and asked him to find me and speak to me. That is the kind of thing we do in the South! Ernie did indeed find me and introduced me to Marilyn Moffet and Larry Fronhiser, who was the PPS president at the time. I expressed, with my Southern accent and my naïve understanding of how things worked, my desire to be involved. Before I knew it, I was asked to be chair of the Government Affairs committee. I honestly had no idea what that meant or what was involved, but I knew it was going to help write my story.
I was part of American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) and PPS Government Affairs for 15 years and had the privilege of being on the board for PPS for eight years. To have the opportunity to network with other therapists in like practices through the PPS is educational, supportive, and informative. I am a better therapist, a better leader, and a better administrator because of what I have learned through PPS. We all have a common goal of providing the best patient care possible in every situation and circumstance, even under pressing times in health care. I encourage those of you that are sitting in the audience that want to be involved to go after it, jump in, ask what you can do. Help write that chapter of your story. I can tell you from personal experience that you will receive far more than you give. For those of you out there that know me, you will appreciate my statement that wearing a seersucker suit and white buck shoes can also help when you want to be noticed.
Our personal stories include a lot more than what happens in PPS or in our journey as a therapist or health care provider. Personal challenges and unfortunate circumstances cross all of our lives. I always say that everyone has challenges whether it is related to health, finances, or relationships but the important thing is what you do with those challenges and how you handle them. As many of you know, health issues have written a lot of my story but because of them, I am a better caregiver to my patients and I can better understand what it means to be scared as a patient. I can more easily share the message of hope because that is what drives me every day. My story is unique. Your story is unique. Like the Capital One commercial says, “What’s in your wallet?” I ask you today, “What’s in your story and how are you helping to write it?” Thank you again for this incredible honor and opportunity to stand before a room full of my heroes!”