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Physical Therapy Student Inspired by ‘Best Friend’ to Help Seniors

When she graduates, UTHSC physical therapy student Charquita Lightfoot wants to help older patients be more mobile. (Photo by Peggy Reisser/UTHSC)

Charquita Lightfoot’s best friend influenced her to choose a career in physical therapy.

“I used to call my grandfather my best friend,” she said. “When my grandfather was in the hospital and I saw how he benefited from inpatient physical therapy, it really drove me to want to be in the profession.”

Now, a second-year student in the UTHSC Physical Therapy Department, Lightfoot has set her sights on bringing the benefits of physical therapy to older patients, like her grandfather, whose lives would be greatly improved by it.

“I just finished my second clinical experience at a skilled-nursing facility and I loved it,” she said. “I love working with that patient population, and it’s very rewarding.”

Lightfoot grew up in Southaven, Mississippi, and graduated from Southaven High School. Active in sports, particularly basketball and volleyball, she has had her own experiences with physical therapy for sports injuries.

“That’s kind of what introduced me to physical therapy as a profession,” she said. “Once I decided that that’s what I wanted to do, I did my undergraduate at the University of Memphis as a biology major and got to see a different side of physical therapy.”

While sports-related physical therapy piqued her interest initially, a different focus soon drew her attention. “Seeing how PT can impact geriatrics kind of really opened my eyes to how we can help more people than just the sports community,” she said.

Lightfoot chose UTHSC for many reasons, including the excellent board pass rates for physical therapy graduates. The university also got high marks from her brother-in-law, Elijah Lightfoot, a recent graduate of the Master of Occupational Therapy program.

A few months before entering the PT program, she married Cody Lightfoot, a deputy with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department. The couple enjoys spending their precious spare time together going to the movies or watching their favorite shows on TV.

In addition to her studies, the 27-year-old is active in the College of Health Professions, serving as president of the Honor Council.

Though her grandfather, Robert Anderson, passed away in February 2017, several years after the hospital stay that sparked her career choice, he remains her motivation.

“I’m excited to work in the field of physical therapy,” she said. “I’m hoping to work with some kind of geriatric population. That’s the ultimate goal.”

Note: This story is from the Spring 2018 issue of Health Professions magazine.