Mount student takes the path of a healer

August 16, 2013

Newburgh, NY -

Colin O’Keefe

(Left) Mount Saint Mary College sophomore Colin O’Keefe supervises a patient’s exercise at Hudson Valley Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy. (Right) Colin O’Keefe, a psychology/physical therapy major at Mount Saint Mary College, prepares a warm compress to help soothe a patient’s shoulder.

Not so long ago, Colin O’Keefe, a sophomore at Mount Saint Mary College, worked through his own recovery process for injuries sustained playing high school sports.

Now the Montgomery, NY native helps to bring relief to patients’ injuries and smiles to their faces at Hudson Valley Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy in Fishkill, NY.

The psychology/physical therapy major works as a PT aide under Dennis Lopez, who has owned and operated the practice for more than 20 years. O’Keefe supervises patient exercises, prepares warm compresses, interacts with clientele, and observes Lopez in action.

“I love the atmosphere and the people I work with,” O’Keefe said. “You can build relationships with people in the community while helping them to heal. Being there for people when they’re hurt is a good feeling.”

Recovering from his own injury inspired O’Keefe to give back to his community through becoming a physical therapist, and he began volunteering at a practice in his hometown.

After less than a year in college, O’Keefe secured his current job. He heard about the opportunity through the Mount’s Career Center.

O’Keefe said that Lopez is “very knowledgeable” and “always willing to teach.”

The benefit is mutual, Lopez revealed.

“Colin has been great so far, and I expect he will keep doing well,” Lopez explained. “He’s been a real help. He’s working, but he’s also learning.”

Rae Fallon, psychology professor at the Mount, is one of the driving forces in O’Keefe’s college career. As his advisor, she has helped him succeed in his first year of college. The student also cited professor of biology Thomas Sarro as a major academic influence.

“They both taught me a lot in their classes, and I’m applying it in this job,” he said. “For example, what I learned in my anatomy class, I see here. This explains it even more.”

O’Keefe is a student of the Mount’s rigorous honors program. He also hopes to join Psi Chi, the national honor society for psychology.

Colin O’Keefe

Mount student Colin O’Keefe discusses workday plans with Hudson Valley Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy owner Dennis Lopez.

Mary Hinton, vice president for academic affairs at Mount Saint Mary College, explained that the college has a long and significant history of making contributions to the local community.

“This reflects not only our desire to support Newburgh and beyond, but it also provides important learning opportunities for our students,” said Hinton. “By engaging in internships, service learning, and community service, Mount students develop leadership skills, garner first-hand knowledge of the importance of being active in one’s local community, and recognize that learning happens both within and outside of the classroom. We are proud of our students’ service to the community and look forward to continuing this tradition.”

Successful Mount graduates in the physical therapy field include Joseph Winther, employed at the Center for Physical Therapy in Wappingers Falls, NY. Winther received a bachelor’s in biology from the Mount, and a doctorate in physical therapy from New York Medical College.

The Mount’s physical therapy/psychology 4:3 program offers students the opportunity to complete their bachelor’s degree at the Mount while taking the prerequisite courses for entrance into the physical therapy program at New York Medical College. Upon completing requirements at NYMC, students are awarded a doctorate.

At the Mount, about 37 percent of freshmen aim for health professions. In addition to pre-veterinary and pre-dental, the Mount offers a nursing program that boasts an NCLEX pass rate that consistently outperforms the state average. An online RN to BS program, launched in August, offers students quality instruction and high flexibility.