Alex Brooks and Matt Vermillion share more than being new physical therapists practicing at St. Luke Hospital.
They’re both from small towns, Brooks from Coldwater and Vermillion from Halstead. They earned undergraduate and doctoral degrees from Wichita State University, with student clinical experiences at St. Luke. Both enjoy sports and exercise for personal betterment and demonstrating to patients that they practice what they preach.
Brooks said he knew he wanted to be a physical therapist when he was 15 years old, a desire growing out of his own experience with rehabilitation after suffering a broken hip while running.
Undecided among physical therapy, dentistry, and pharmacy when he entered Hutchinson Community College, Vermillion said observing clinicians in Newton convinced him that physical therapy was his calling.
Vermillion’s connection to Marion started as a high school basketball player.
“One year we played Marion three times, and it’s hard to beat anybody three times in one year,” he said. “I think we did. It was never easy, they had so many Hetts always playing; they were good.”
Vermillion also has family ties to the county. His mother, Brenda, grew up in Peabody, and his father, Curtis, taught there about 30 years ago. The father of his wife, Mallory, a Hesston cosmetologist, is from Goessel.
A clinical rotation at St. Luke made a positive impression on Brooks.
“Once I was here, I enjoyed it, and thought it would be kind of neat to work here,” he said. “By happenstance, it worked out that way. I’m really excited to be here.”
Effective physical therapy starts with establishing good relationships with patients, Brooks said.
“I think the main thing is just to make people comfortable,” he said. “If you let people know that you care and that you’re there for them, they’re willing to put out the work.”
Brooks, who is married to Ashley, a nurse, and has a 3-year-old son, uses his skills outside of work by assisting with McPherson High School sports, particularly football and soccer. He said he’s available on the sidelines to assist when a student gets injured.
“I’d love to do more of that around this area,” he said. “I really, really enjoy treating athletes.”
Conversely, Vermillion draws on a unique aspect of his life to inform his practice at work.
“I have cystic fibrosis,” he said. “I was diagnosed at two months old.”
For much of his childhood, Vermillion needed regular intravenous treatments and sinus surgeries to combat the genetic condition, which can lead to life-threatening respiratory issues. He’s been treatment-free since his freshman year in high school, and he tries to convey lessons learned to his patients.
“You need to take care of yourself and do what you have control over,” he said. “Doing my treatments, taking my medications, and exercising, those were the things I had control over. I think that’s the same for patients coming in for physical therapy.”
Brooks and Vermillion agreed that more patients are referred to physical therapists earlier in the treatment process than in the past. Vermillion encouraged patients to seek treatment early.
“Don’t let things go too far before you come in,” he said. “If we can get people coming in early before it becomes a chronic thing, we can get them some relief and get things better for them for the future.”