Graduate Program: Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
J.T. Podell ’15 DPT found his way to professional sports shortly after graduating from the University of Lynchburg’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program. For five years, he worked in Major League Baseball — first for the Houston Astros, then the New York Mets — and in 2020 he joined the New Jersey Devils ice hockey team.
Podell, director of rehabilitation and head athletic trainer for the Devils, manages all aspects of athlete care: everything from emergency evaluation — whether or not a player can return to the ice after an injury, for example — to cuts, concussions, stitches, etc.
He also shares what he’s learned over the years with younger members of his staff — not just lessons about medical processes, but about communicating with players, coaches, and the front office.
“Some of those things you don’t know… and you might not feel comfortable with, but after going through some of those ups and downs and maybe not handling things the best way, [I’m] able to educate them and not have that happen to them,” he said.
Podell, who grew up in small-town Indiana, was attracted to Lynchburg’s DPT program because of the “small closeness” he felt as soon as he arrived on campus for an interview. Once in the program, he appreciated the knowledge and continuing support of his professors.
“Rusty Smith was probably the one I learned the most from during my time there, from his wealth of knowledge in orthopedics that I still use day to day with evaluating and treating athletes,” Podell said, referring to Dr. Rusty Smith, DPT professor and dean of the College of Health Sciences.
He also credits Dr. Penelope Elam and Dr. Stephen Elam ’16 EdD, both DPT faculty, for taking him under their wings, talking with him about growth and internships, and how to get where he wanted to be in his career.
Even after graduation, Podell said, they “would meet up for dinners and we still talk a couple of times a year about life, kids, family, how the PT school is doing in Lynchburg. Those are a couple that I will… always cherish from my time there.”