Stewart family fosters generations of physical wellness
In 1987, Kathy Stewart launched Professional Rehab Associates and began treating patients in a farmhouse connected to her family’s home.
Since then, the practice has outgrown the converted farmhouse and moved to its current 5,600-square-foot physical therapy and wellness center, located beside Carilion New River Valley Medical Center, and has expanded its staff to include nine physical, three occupational and two speech therapists.
It has not, however, outgrown its family-owned-and-operated nature.
Stewart graduated from California State University, Long Beach, with a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy in 1978 and relocated to Blacksburg with her husband, Mark, the practice’s office manager, in 1980. Upon her arrival, Kathy Stewart said she felt the area was in need of physical therapists.
“Once I got here, I felt like I stepped back in time 20 years,” Stewart said.
She began working at what is now LewisGale Hospital at Montgomery and later worked with the in-home service Occupational Nursing Home Health Services before deciding to launch her own practice in 1987.
At that time, Kathy Stewart also took over as the director of the physical therapy assistant program at Wytheville Community College, which is where her son, Nolan, recalled his first memories of working in the trade.
Nolan Stewart said at about the age of 3 or 4, he would often serve as a demo for his mother’s classes, and by the time he was 14, he was working at her practice folding towels and filling papers.
With his future career’s groundwork laid, Nolan Stewart went on to earn a doctorate in physical therapy from Duke University in 2009 and join the family business later that year.
“I guess really deep down that was kind of the plan all along,” Nolan Stewart said. “I just wanted to get the best educational experience that I could — the best view of the world I could. I always wanted to come back because the family business needed another generation to continue it.”
Nolan Stewart isn’t alone when it comes to his Blue Devil background. He is one of three physical therapists at the practice, one being his wife, Brittany, with doctoral degrees from Duke University.
The family background is an aspect of the practice that patient Fran Tieleman said has created a strong sense of community.
“They are not only very competent, but they make you feel very comfortable,” she said.
Tieleman added that the facility has become a place where she looks forward to running into her neighbors and friends.
While Professional Rehab Associates utilizes multiple generations of the Stewart family, one aspect of work they pride themselves on is their ability to help various generations of other families.
“I’ve had a 5-day-old and a 103-year-old on my case load at the same time,” Kathy Stewart said.
She added that patients are often surprised at the wide age range the practice serves, as well as the variety of medical areas they have the ability to treat.
That variety is the part of the job that Nolan Stewart said he most enjoys.
“I think what I like most is having a day like today. I started the morning with an elderly husband and wife in back-to-back sessions and turned right around and have a college baseball catcher who’s rehabbing from a SLAP tear,” he said.
Despite his patients’ wide range of age and physical abilities, Nolan Stewart said there is the commonality of meeting patients where they are at and helping them maximize their function.
Helping patients to achieve such positive results is something both Nolan and Kathy Stewart said makes their profession very fulfilling.
“I think this is more than a profession for me. It’s definitely my ministry, it’s what I’m called to do,” Kathy Stewart said.
Though over the years many aspects of that professional have evolved, Nolan Stewart was quick to point out the one aspect that has always remained constant.
“All we have behind it is our last name,” he said.
The Roanoke Times | 381-1643
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