Suzanne Leach is a familiar face in the Owensboro running community, especially those associated with Legends Outfitters or the Daviess County High School Cross Country team.
Runners and athletes alike have sought Leach’s advice over the past several years on topics ranging from advice on the proper shoes to wear to how to best deal with a certain type of running injury. It only seemed natural for Leach, a former University of Kentucky runner, to go back to school to pursue her physical therapy degree and join the team at Rehabilitation & Performance Institute (RPI), PSC.
“I kind of came to physical therapy with a little different background,” Leach said. “I graduated from UK in 2011. My degree was in business and I had no idea what I wanted to do. But I’ve always, from a young age, even in high school, had a passion for seeing other people get into exercising and get themselves healthier. I just like seeing people try to improve their own personal health.”
Leach said she often found herself getting excited when lifelong smokers would quit smoking or friends would come to her for advice on how to get into better shape.
“That’s always been something I’ve kind of had a passion for,” Leach said. “That’s sort of what landed me at Legends whenever I first graduated. I met John Moore and he said his vision for the store was to help people get active, be their home base…and help encourage community health.”
Between working at Legends and coaching cross country at DCHS, Leach said she was constantly exposed to people that had nagging injuries that could often sideline them from doing the things they loved. She also found that many of these people had mixed experiences with healthcare providers and soon found themselves in a running shoe store asking for health advice.
“I figured out what I really enjoyed was helping people with their injuries and trying to get people to a spot where they could do the things that they love — whether it be walking, or playing with their kids or running,” Leach said. “I had a few people mention to me that physical therapy was a career where I could get to do that all the time.”
After heading their advice, Leach observed RPI President and CEO, Craig Pfifer, and soon found herself enrolled in school to pursue her degree in physical therapy.
Leach left Legends full time in 2015 to complete a year of course work before enrolling in a 3-year Physical Therapy (PT) program at the University of Evansville.
“I drove back and forth to Evansville,” Leach said. “My husband and I are kind of rooted here and it’s where we wanted to be.”
While the past few years have seen their challenges, including 14 weeks in California for clinicals and studying for her boards while tackling home renovations, Leach is confident she has landed in the right spot.
“A lot of the reasons I had for wanting to return to school kind of match RPI’s mission as a business — to really just serve as a health care provider but really better the community and be different — to go above and beyond your expectation of what healthcare is going to be,” Leach said. “I was really fortunate that there was this place that matched my passions and matched me so well.”
Suzanne will also be taking part in RPI’s Orthopedic Residency Program, in a partnership with the University of Evansville, which recently received official accreditation for the next five years.
“I’d definitely say I’m most excited about being part of a team that is not only invested in the community, but invested in each other,” Leach said. “We all have different skill sets, and to be able to share those with each other, better helps our patients.”
RPI will be hosting a Community Appreciation Cookout on Friday, June 28, from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m.
“This is a chance for me to meet people and say, ‘Hello,’” Leach said. “ We’re always looking for ways to give back to the community — what better way than by cooking out.”