Once Jerry Pomeroy moved to Harvey County, he was invested. Since taking a position as director of physical therapy at Halstead Hospital back in 1984, Pomeroy has spent 35 years treating patients throughout Harvey County — from that initial work in Halstead to consulting work in area hospitals and nursing homes to eventually running his own practice, owning and operating two Advanced Physical Therapy locations in Newton and Hesston.
Things have certainly changed over the years, even solely in the time Pomeroy has owned and operated APT in Newton. When it initially opened 15 years ago, he said he was seeing 50 patients a week with two therapists. Now, APT employs 12 therapists and sees 500 patients a week between Newton and Hesston.
"I think the thing that's helped is we've expanded into so many new arenas; we've got such advanced ways we can help with Parkinson's, even neuropathy, women's incontinence, (etc.)," Pomeroy said. "That's been a neat thing to watch over 30 some years is the evolution. I think that's why we have more therapists, because we can do so many more things and we can do it without drugs."
Focused on keeping the practice moving forward, Pomeroy will be retiring after nearly four decades practicing physical therapy and transitioning to a more administrative role with APT — leaving behind something he quickly gravitated toward once he made that career choice.
"As a kid, in high school, I liked trying to figure people out and I looked at health care. I didn't really want to be a doctor and I didn't really want to be a nurse. I enjoyed working out and that type of thing, so I started looking into physical therapy," Pomeroy said. "I've loved it the whole time because I love working with people, I love talking to people and it allows me to do that. I love helping people get better. It's fun; I still enjoy it."
While there were pit stops in Kentucky and Wichita after Pomeroy earned his medical degree from the University of Kansas, Harvey County quickly became home, and he rapidly built up a rapport with his clients, to the point where he estimates he knows at least a third of the people who walk through the doors at APT (close to 10,000 over 15 years).
Owning his own practice wasn't always in the cards, Pomeroy admitted, but he has enjoyed the challenge of managing the parameters for how things are handled with employees, clients, etc. Whether working with patients on neck and back problems (40 to 50 percent of the normal patient load) or recovering from joint surgery, Pomeroy has enjoyed it all.
Difficult as it may be to step away from that regular patient interaction, Pomeroy knows that is also key in the continued evolution of the practice.
"The fortunate thing is ... I've loved every minute of what I'm doing. I love what I do. I don't ever wake up not looking forward to coming in — whether I'm working on the admin part of what I'm doing or if I'm seeing patients, I love my days. It doesn't really feel like work," Pomeroy said. "It's not easy because I really do love my patients; I love working with them. It's actually, in some ways, the easier part of what to do because I've done it for so long, but what I'm looking forward to is being able to really grow what we're doing and expand us into some new areas. I can't do that and be treating all the time, so I've gotta make time to help us become more helpful for our community."
Dropping his patient load will free up Pomeroy to spend more time with his grandchildren and allow for more trips with his wife, Dixie, but the biggest factor behind his retirement from P/T was seeing what some of his friends with their own practices had done — with his intent to continue best serving APT's clients across Harvey County.
"I finally decided it was time that I just do that and use my other talents being able to help us grow outside of just patient care," Pomeroy said. "That was the big reason."
Somewhat serendipitously, Pomeroy received the Wichita Business Journal's Health Care Heroes award for Physical Therapy the week of his retirement announcement — a fitting acknowledgement and a humbling one, Pomeroy noted. While he may no longer be treating patients, he remains committed to APT's mission to continue furthering the care offered to clients and employees alike through his new role, a truly heroic endeavor.