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Doctor of Physical Therapy student Otley picked for Duke residency

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UNG Doctor of Physical Therapy student Tommy Otley will begin a sports physical therapy residency at Duke University this summer.

Faculty members describe Tommy Otley as the type of student who leaves no stone unturned and never settles for anything less than the best. Such an approach is already paying dividends for Otley, who is scheduled to graduate from the University of North Georgia's (UNG) Doctor of Physical Therapy program in May.

Otley's next stop is a yearlong sports physical therapy residency at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. The residency picks one person each year.

The residency includes clinical service coverage for 30 hours per week in Duke's Department of Physical & Occupational Therapy Sports Division, a minimum of 20 hours per week in mentored and didactic time with residency faculty, a minimum of 1,500 hours of sports medicine clinical practice, and a minimum of 200 hours of sports physical therapy coverage at high school athletic venues.

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"UNG has prepared me for this experience at Duke. It's given me a really strong orthopedics background in how I'm going to treat and evaluate these patients," said Otley, a St. Louis, Missouri, native, and co-president of UNG's DPT class of 2020. "And my faculty members have encouraged me to go beyond the classroom and take experiences in assessing human movement in certain treatment approaches. It's created in me a desire for lifelong learning."

Dr. SueAnn McCall is one of the DPT faculty who has worked closely with Otley. He assisted McCall's research about guide dog users and how to fit harnesses to each user to avoid injuries.

McCall appreciates Otley's thorough approach. She became accustomed to 5 a.m. emails from Otley when he thought of new ways to examine questions.

"It's that tenacity and ability to set his sights on his goals and not let up," McCall said. "He was always coming up with fresh approaches."

Otley said UNG's faculty members gave him the freedom to explore sports physical therapy deeply in preparation for his career. Dr. Susan Klappa, department head and professor of physical therapy at UNG, is grateful to see Otley's success even before graduation.

"Our faculty have done a great job of reimagining what our students need to be successful entry-level clinicians," Klappa said. "We have some great models for Tommy within our faculty."

Otley's motivation to work in sports physical therapy traces to an injury he suffered when he was a swimmer at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky. His injury as a passenger in a car accident sidelined him for an extended period.

"Having someone to hold my hand and guide me through that process was phenomenal, and I wouldn't have been able to do it without that," Otley said. "That's encouraged me to go into sports physical therapy and help athletes return to what they love doing."

Dr. Don Walsh, associate professor of physical therapy at UNG, was not surprised to hear Duke is Otley's next step.

"He's a natural leader. He's curious. He doesn't just do the minimum. In everything he does, he applies himself to the fullest," Walsh said. "His peers respect him as well. He's going to do very well at Duke."

Duke is eager to welcome Otley, as well. The Duke Sports Physical Therapy Residency interview committee said it was impressed by his qualities of leadership, communication, teamwork and enthusiasm.

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