Career advice for the ages

Utzinger was working on his master’s at DU when classes started for the PT program at CU Boulder. After a 10-mile run along Cherry Creek, he returned home to find his phone ringing. It was the secretary for Boulder’s physical therapy department.

“She said, ‘Hey Ken, it’s Cheryl. You made it,’” Utzinger recalls.

“Someone had been accepted but decided not to go. It was the first day of classes and he just didn’t show up,” he adds. “So, they went down the list, and the first person to answer the phone and say they can be there in an hour was getting into school.

“I got into [the] school by the hair of my chinny chin chin,” he says.

Utzinger earned a bachelor’s in physical therapy from the University of Colorado School of Health Sciences Center in 1990 and began a new career as a physical therapist in the U.S. Army at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. He completed his master’s in sports sciences and physical education from DU in 1994.

Utzinger likes the way the Army does physical therapy, describing it as a unique patient care setting. He left active duty in 1995 but stayed in the Army Reserves.

Utzinger moved to Odessa, Texas, to teach at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and opened a physical therapy clinic. He met his wife and settled down. Then came September 11, 2001.

“After the twin towers fell, and they were planning Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Army National Guard in Washington state wanted to take their own physical therapist. I submitted a packet and actively campaigned to get that position. The Army had never sent a physical therapist into a combat zone before,” Utzinger says.

In 2004, at the age of 54, Utzinger went to Iraq as a physical therapist at a military base with 18,000 troops from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. He was there for 367 days. “It was simultaneously the worst year of my life and the best year of my life,” he says.

“There was enough business to keep five PTs busy full time. We had one PT, one PT assistant and one part-time massage therapist to help us. And we saw 50 patients every day,” Utzinger recalls. “It was machine gun therapy. We worked 7 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. (because chow hall closed at 7:00) six days a week and eight hours on Sunday.”

His job was to keep soldiers with injuries that didn’t require hospitalization from leaving Iraq. “Most injuries in a combat zone are people loading up a truck and dropping something on their foot. Or lifting something and hurting their back.” Before, no one treated sprained ankles, and soldiers were sent back to the states for treatment, he says.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

More stories

Student’s fourteener project raises $85,000 for emergency aid group

Brittney Woodrum stood facing Colorado’s Little Bear Peak with a large green box strapped to her back and a decision to make....

Professor’s book inspires a forthcoming museum

For many writers with book titles to their credit, even a second edition of a published work represents a dream come true....

Myhren Gallery exhibit explored 2020’s ultimate symbol

When COVID-19 threatened to sink fall programming at DU’s Vicki Myhren Gallery, Geoffrey Shamos and Lauren Hartog elected to swim. They postponed...

More stories

Welcome to DU’s take on the inclusive classroom

How do students’ intersecting social identities affect their learning? How do the life experiences of faculty members influence everything from course design...

When rivals clash, team spirit soars

If you don’t think rivalries are important to University of Denver student-athletes, Kohen Olischefski will quickly put that misconception to bed.

Career advice for the ages

Ken Utzinger (MA ’94) calls himself a slow starter. “In December 2019, 52 years...

Traveling abroad with an influential presidential couple

In her latest book, “A View From Abroad: The Story of John and Abigail Adams in Europe”...

An invitation to innovate

Dara Wong (BSBA ’09) named her Flagstaff, Arizona, restaurant Shift because that was its goal: to shift the definition of a normal dining...