Christopher Ciccarelli ’17 chose Shenandoah University because of the family atmosphere and his experiences with the faculty on his interview day. Ciccarelli, as he prefers, shared that he enjoyed the opportunity to experience all four seasons here in Virginia since he was born and raised in Florida. “It’s an amazing place with amazing people, and I will always be a Hornet,” said Ciccarelli.
Some of his fondest memories at SU in the physical therapy program were his relationships with the faculty and classmates. In addition, some of his best friends in life were met while at Shenandoah. Ciccarelli says they became a family due to the time they spent together studying, enjoying the walking mall downtown, or snowboarding in West Virginia.
As a student, Ciccarelli also participated in various volunteer projects. He worked with Hope Shines where he traveled to Rwanda to mentor children, did physical therapy in Haiti and is a founding member of American Business Clubs (AMBUCs) in Winchester, working to help provide adaptive trikes to children with disabilities.
Upon graduation, Ciccarelli became a physical therapist, working in multiple level-one trauma centers in Tennessee and Virginia before returning to Florida. His current role is within Cleveland Clinic where he provides acute care physical therapy services to patients between three hospitals. “I think the best way to describe my job is as a patient advocate first and an educator second,” said Ciccarelli. He also works as an inpatient rehabilitation therapist at HCA Florida Lawnwood Hospital, the same hospital where he was born.
If two jobs were not enough, this past fall, he became an adjunct faculty teaching acute care skills for Indian River State College’s physical therapy assistant program. “I enjoy passing on my experiences and knowledge to my students to help develop them into better therapists,” said Ciccarelli.
The most rewarding experience Ciccarelli has had in his career thus far was working with a young girl, who was in a serious car accident. The accident left her with a traumatic brain injury and multiple fractures that led to her being intubated and sedated in the intensive care unit. Ciccarelli worked with her daily in the hospital and followed her to the inpatient rehabilitation center, where she was transferred. For six weeks, he worked with her to teach her how to stand and walk so she could get strong enough to return to nursing school. Then, after being out of the hospital for a year, she visited him. “When I was called to the front desk and saw her walk up to me… and give me a hug… it was about as emotional as I have ever been,” said Ciccarelli. “Her mom sent me a compilation video of our time together and thanked me for what I did. It means the world to me, and I’ll never forget her. That’s why I do what I do.”
His advice to students who go into healthcare is: “Always be a patient advocate, FIGHT FOR THEM! Don’t worry about making the system mad, you are here to help people, not help businesses make money. If it’s in my patient’s best interests, I’ll take the slap on the wrist for upsetting the standard.”