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Post-Graduation Spotlight: Annie Quarles Soars Above Challenges to Achieve Her Physical Therapy Dreams

Dr. Annie Quarles achieved what many thought would be impossible — she completed UTHSC’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program in spite of being an amputee.

After being delivered at 25 weeks with a congenital amputation of her left arm, College of Health Professions graduate Annie Quarles was born weighing a mere one pound and ten ounces. Her parents, Robert and Susan, raised her to be grateful for life and she desires to use her one arm to impact the lives of others. However, her biggest accomplishment is one that no one ever saw coming: she completed her Doctorate in Physical Therapy.

Dr. Quarles originally set out to be a physician assistant. She attended the University of Alabama her first two years of college, and then transferred to the University of Memphis to initially pursue a degree in biology. She shadowed physician assistants, in a variety of specialties from Emergency Medicine to Oncology and Cardiac Surgery.

Little did she know that her future as a physical therapist would begin after experiencing low back pain and becoming a patient herself. She ended loving the environment, and eventually went on to work as a physical therapy technician at Campbell Clinic Orthopaedics from 2010-2013. She also changed her major to sports science. She enjoyed overcoming life’s challenges and teaching others to do the same.

In 2013, Dr. Quarles was admitted into UTHSC and served as a member of the honor council for the College of Health Professions. While enrolled, she discovered she loved the follow-through in outpatient care, while simultaneously finding joy in treating the highest acuity of patients.

“Throughout her time as a DPT student, Annie maintained an attitude of perseverance and determination,” said Marie Hatten, PT, DPT, OCS, certified orthopaedic clinical specialist and assistant director of clinical education in the Department of Physical Therapy in the College of Health Professions at UTHSC.

“She exhibited compassion and positivity toward the patients she worked with and remained positive and professional through her experiences. I have no doubt that she will continue to shine throughout her career.”

“PT school was the most challenging and rewarding experience of my life thus far,” she said. Now that she has her degree, she is contemplating outpatient orthopedics or acute care as a specialty.