Alumni Stories

| 16 March 2024

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Transformative journeys: Original Graduates Reflect on Their Impact

Dr. Steve Vighetti in teaching

Dr. Steve Vighetti in action.

Nestled in the historic city of St. Augustine, FL, the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS) stands as a beacon of excellence in healthcare education. Renowned for its commitment to producing exceptional graduates, the University takes pride in the transformative impact its alumni have across healthcare education.

In 1979, Dr. Stanley Paris took the first steps toward shaping outstanding healthcare professionals with the inception of the Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) program. Many distinguished individuals began their professional careers as MPT students in St. Augustine, and some returned to the University as esteemed faculty members.

Dr. Lisa Chase (MPT ’97), Dr. Megann Schooley (MPT ’97) and Dr. Steve Vighetti (MPT ’97) were part of original graduating classes of the MPT program. While their career paths have diverged, they share a common thread of unwavering dedication to their profession and a commitment to advancing the field of physical therapy (PT).

Their time as students profoundly shaped their approach to teaching and practice, instilling a deep understanding of challenges faced by aspiring physical therapists. Armed with this knowledge, they bring a unique perspective to the classroom, offering insights that only those who have walked the same path can provide.

Dr. Steve Vighetti (MPT ’97) with Vighetti & Associates Sports Physical Therapy staff members Dr. Megann Schooley (MPT ’97) and Dr. Megan Dickerson (DPT ’16).

Dr. Steve Vighetti (MPT ’97) with Vighetti & Associates Sports Physical Therapy staff members Dr. Megann Schooley (MPT ’97) and Dr. Megan Dickerson (DPT ’16).

As some of the original graduates, what unique perspectives do you bring to your USAHS role? 

Dr. Chase: The historical perspective. I think we have to learn from our history to plan for the future. As students, we were exposed to different areas of practice and learning styles. Seeing the diversity of areas where PTs can work was a part of our curriculum. I like to make students aware of that, keeping their minds open as they enter into practice.

Dr. Schooley: When I was a student, the professional and academic standards were exceptional. We were instructed and mentored not just as students but as future colleagues with the intent to advance our profession and care of patients. I try to take that approach when mentoring students.

Dr. Vighetti: When I was a student, the program wasn’t accredited, resulting in rigorous expectations and high standards set by the strict faculty. Tough love was a defining element, backed by strong mentoring relationships with PTs. That’s my approach in the classroom. I will be tough but not without that same sort of tough love. My hope in continuing that approach is to make the next generation of PTs better than the last.

How has PT evolved since you graduated?

Dr. Vighetti: Dr. Paris played a crucial role in shifting PT from physicianprescribed treatments to referrals, empowering physical therapists as movement specialists. The emergence of cash PT clinics allowed autonomous practice, enhancing patient care.

Dr. Chase: To me, the obvious one is technology. Electronic medical records and robotics need to be integrated into practice. The volume of care and patients to manage has increased. Consequently, we are integrating all forms of technology into our practice and teaching.

Dr. Lisa Chase teaches the Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation course on the  St. Augustine, FL campus.

Dr. Lisa Chase teaches the Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation course on the St. Augustine, FL campus.

How do you ensure your teaching methods resonate with the current generation of students?

Dr. Chase: I have to be real with them and honest. I try to be an effective teacher by getting to know the learner, then set expectations to prepare them for the real world.

Dr. Schooley: I’ve been teaching for 20+ years, and the students have changed a lot. I’ve had to adjust teaching methods to meet individual student needs. I’ve learned about unique needs of different generations, which require an open mind to different ways of instruction and interaction. Simple adjustments can make a big difference in meeting student needs.

What are your thoughts on the importance of alumni events in fostering connections and celebrating the University’s growth?

Dr. Chase: The University and the field of physical therapy are experiencing exponential growth. When students and alumni give back to support where they came from, it helps the University grow while remaining a family. I think that’s one of the things that makes USAHS different.

Dr. Vighetti: The University fosters a family atmosphere, with a closeknit bond among graduates. With its large and extensive alumni network, we stand out, speaking a unique but shared language. I think it’s important to leverage our strength in numbers with these kinds of events to elevate the PT profession, maintain professional standards and advance as a united force.

Dr. Schooley on her graduation day.

Dr. Schooley on her graduation day.

What advice would you give to students aspiring to become successful PTs or future faculty?

Dr. Schooley: My advice is to see your schooling as the start of your professional career. Building relationships, developing professional habits, and embracing learning and feedback should start now. Your instructors, directors and classmates are your future professional colleagues. As a student, you should strive to live like the PT you want to become.

Dr. Vighetti: Make the most of your time in school. It offers invaluable one-on-one mentoring from experienced clinicians. Utilize resources fully, develop excellent habits early and build strong bonds with instructors and classmates. Learn for the long term, not just for exams, as the knowledge gained will be crucial throughout your career.

Dr. Chase: Live and practice with integrity. In my opinion, integrity is the foundation of your character and the cornerstone of your professionalism. Practicing and living with integrity is going to set you apart as a clinician, a faculty member, but most importantly, as a human. You will be different.

Distinguished alumni, like Drs. Chase, Schooley and Vighetti, embody the University’s vision and dedication to advancing physical therapy. They bring valuable insights to their roles, shaping the next generation of PTs. With the ever-evolving field, USAHS emphasizes evidence-based practices and the integration of technology. Alumni events foster connections and support the growth of the University and the profession as a whole. The advice from these accomplished professionals encourages aspiring PTs to embrace integrity, dedication and lifelong learning on their journey to success.

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Lisa Chase, PT, PhD, holds a diverse educational background, including a Bachelor of Science in Adult Fitness and Sports Medicine, Master of Science in Exercise Physiology and a pioneering interdisciplinary PhD in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on Exercise and Wellness from Arizona State University. In 2000, she began teaching for USAHS in the DPT program on the St. Augustine campus. Alongside teaching, she finds fulfillment in outpatient orthopaedic practice and engages in paramedic and EMT instruction as a certified EMT.

With 20 years of experience in orthopaedics and sports, Megann Schooley, PT, DPT, SCS, MTC, CSCS, CEEAA, contributed to corporate/ occupational injury prevention for Orlando’s entertainment/theme park industry. She excels in program development and education, holding multiple certifications while working as a core faculty member in the DPT program on the St. Augustine campus. She also works at Vighetti & Associates Sports Physical Therapy, in outpatient orthopaedics and home health.

Steve Vighetti PT, MTC, CSCS, Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapists and owner of Vighetti & Associates Sports Physical Therapy, boasts more than two decades of experience in the field. His diverse career includes coaching roles, working with athletes from various disciplines and running biomechanics through Refine Your Run, which assists St. Augustine’s runners in enhancing their performance.


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