Graduate Alexia Adams: Sidelined by a head injury, grad student came back with more passion for health care

Alexia Adams and her dog, Samantha

By Heidi Toth
NAU Communications

Meet Alexia Adams.

Graduate program: Doctorate of Physical Therapy

Campus: Flagstaff Mountain

Alexia Adams came to NAU five years ago to earn a doctorate in physical therapy. She graduates next week with more experience than she bargained for when she enrolled.

Adams’ life took an unexpected turn her first semester when she suffered a brain injury playing intramural soccer. She had a history of concussions, and this final one was severe enough to require extensive therapy and medical management. Unable to live alone, she withdrew from the DPT program and moved home with her parents, going through rehabilitation and therapy and working with dozens of health care providers.

After two years, she was able to return to school, though going at a slower pace than she anticipated and far behind where she should have been. As she got back into the work, though, Adams realized her time needing intensive treatment provided an invaluable tool for her work as a clinician: empathy for patients who were undergoing similar health crisis.

“I want to help my patients through their journey, like those who have helped me through mine,” Adams said. “My injury has given me a greater sense of compassion and empathy, which has allowed me to connect with patients in ways that I could not before. While my journey was difficult, it was ultimately worthwhile. I am a better and more empathetic clinician and person, which is more than I could have ever asked for.”

Friends, family, professors and staff in the physical therapy program all contributed to her completing her degree, she said, helping her to build those relationships along the way.

“Alexia has won the sincerest admiration and friendship of classmates, faculty and clients over her years in the DPT program,” said Lorie Kroneberger, an associate clinical professor of physical therapy. “All have witnessed an incredible and continual display of her determination, courage and resolve in reaching her goal. It has been a difficult path, but has resulted in her becoming a stronger and more passionate clinician.”

Adams’ career goals include passing her board examination in January, but where she goes from there is still unknown. She liked her inpatient hospital rotation and being part of an interdisciplinary health care team, so she may consider working in an ICU or hospital. She also enjoyed working with geriatric and neurological patients. And she wants to have a new on-the-job partner—her dog, Samantha, who attended classes with her, went to the library with her when she studied and was a constant companion.

“I’m hoping to get my dog therapy certified so she can help bring joy and well-being to patients during their time in therapy,” she said. “Therapy is so much better with a dog.”

NAU Communications