Physical therapy grad makes rehab plans but says real recovery is all about the patient

From the UWM Alumni magazine, Fall 2015

College of Health Sciences alum John Kuhn works as an inpatient physical therapist at the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center in Milwaukee.

College of Health Sciences alum John Kuhn works as an inpatient physical therapist at the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center in Milwaukee.

When John Kuhn began his undergraduate studies, he thought he had already decided on a career path. “I was always interested in the human body. I thought I would become an orthopedic or sports physical therapist,” he explained. But then his undergraduate courses offered him a close look at the body-brain connection. “Seeing people who have had life-altering events such as strokes, amputations or progressive neurologic disorders, I became very interested in neurologic issues and inpatient rehabilitation.”

After receiving his undergraduate degree in exercise science from the University of Minnesota Duluth, Kuhn entered UWM’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program (DPT), which he completed in 2010.

Today, Kuhn works as an inpatient physical therapist at the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center. He specializes in providing treatment for patients suffering neurologic, musculoskeletal and neuromuscular conditions. Once the patients are ready to leave the facility, his duties include working with the rest of the rehab team to implement a cohesive discharge plan.

For Kuhn, the key to successful rehabilitation ultimately lies with the patient. “I can provide the expertise and the knowledge of what would benefit the patient, but they have to put in the hard work and consistent effort to make functional improvements which will ultimately make their everyday life easier and allow them to live with reduced pain levels,” said Kuhn.

Kuhn says his job is truly rewarding when the patient follows the plan, works hard and eventually shows improvement, “I see people who have had life-altering events every day, and I love that I get a chance to make a significant positive impact on their lives.”

Beyond his work at the VA, Kuhn works with Equip Africa to deliver computers to developing countries and, along with fellow UWM alum Ryan Tully, implemented a scholarship for first-year DPT students at UWM.

The $1000 scholarship was set up to assist in offsetting the cost of textbooks. “At present, Ryan and I fund it ourselves. It is our way of giving something back to the College of Health Sciences. We are hoping to develop it further in the near future so that more people can reach their goals and become practicing physical therapists.”