Our Alumni Highlight this month is a Q&A session with Dr. Pam Elske-Leonetti. A 2000 graduate of Carlisle, she earned a B.A. in Athletic Training from UNC-Wilmington, an M.S. in Physical Therapy from Western Carolina University, and a Doctor of Physical Therapy from UNC-Chapel Hill. Pam is a Physical Therapist for Frye Regional Medical Center. She married in 2008, and her husband, a New Jersey native, works for the City of Hickory as the Economic Development Manager. Pam and her husband spend a lot of time traveling to various places in Europe as well as frequent trips to Disneyworld. She loves seeing new places, visiting wineries, eating good food, and hanging out with friends who she wishes she could see more of.
Q. How did your Carlisle education help to prepare you for college and career?
I attended Carlisle from 4th through 12th grade, and definitely, the rigorous course work greatly helped prepare me. At the moment, I had no idea how well Mrs. Ford, Mrs. Hardy, Mrs. Gibson, and many others would prepare me to succeed at Carlisle and life. Carlisle promotes being well rounded and involved. Most everyone in my class played sports, participated in the arts as well as other extracurricular activities. It allows everyone a chance to excel both in and outside of the classroom. We were provided opportunities such as numerous AP classes, dissection in Science classes, and amazing field trips to further expand our vision of the world. I was exposed to so many things, and my teachers were constantly challenging me to dig deeper and do more. We were given the grades we earned, which was very important in motivating us to do more and work harder.
Q: What inspired you to go into your current career?
I always loved science classes, and Carlisle gave me a great opportunity to take multiple classes including anatomy from Dr. Fraser, environmental science from Ms. Heisler, Physics from Mr. Lloyd, and Biology from Mr. Newhams, in addition to the fabulous teachings of Mrs. Hardy and Mrs. Amos. I chose physical therapy because I loved science and how things work in addition to people and how their minds work.
Q: What is an average day at work like?
I currently work on an inpatient rehabilitation unit where my patients have left the hospital but still require medical management and undergo three hours of one on one therapy a day. They have all endured life-changing events such as spinal cord injuries, strokes, amputations, traumas, brain injuries, or have been hospitalized for prolonged periods of time. My daily responsibility is to promote progress for these individuals taking into account their learning styles, current deficits, and needs to safely allow them to transition home with a family member or caregiver at their highest functional level. My patients vary greatly, with some requiring two to three people just to help them stand. If they cannot be as mobile as I would like, then I have to resort to adaptive equipment to allow them to be as independent as possible. Every day is different as people go through an immense grieving process with loss of function, and I have to keep on a positive face but manage their expectations as well. In addition to my patient care, I also supervise 14 therapists in our hospital, which is a trying time with the current nature of healthcare with the COVID crisis and social distancing greatly affecting health care.
Q: Looking back on your time at Carlisle School, what were the most meaningful experiences that helped shape you as an adult?
My friends at Carlisle shaped my life, and I learned so much from them and their life experiences. We were all from different areas, and places and I am still friends with some of those people today. I think having teachers who treated you like adults and expected you to behave as such went a long way. Responsibility was a requirement, as was accountability in everything you did.
Q: What college advice would you like to share with the class of 2020?
Explore everything and be open! Carlisle is a small slice of the world that allows a lot of experiences as a starting point, but there’s so much out there. Be brave and try new things! It’s okay to not be the best, but it’s not okay to not try. Carlisle is a very competitive place, and going to college puts you with all the other top-notch students. Rather than compete, learn from others, and recognize your strengths and your limitations….that will allow you to be an even better student and human being.
Q: As a professional, what accomplishments are you most proud of?
I am proud that I survived PT school. It was definitely one of the most challenging times of my life, and one I often wondered if I could do. I have been a physical therapist for 14 years now and continue to look for ways to improve and grow professionally. Being a lifelong learner is definitely an accomplishment because it’s easy to say “this is it,” especially when you start to feel mastery at some skills, but life is ever-changing and evolving as I am as a clinician.
Your story could be next! If you would like to be featured in an upcoming Alumni Highlight, please visit our alumni page to sign up. You can also nominate a classmate by contacting Development@CarlisleSchool.org.