Bishop Carroll Catholic High School has proudly seen many graduates move on to positions in the medical field. Alumni have become nurses, physicians, surgeons, researchers, and more. One of the growing fields that has seen several BC students enter over the last few decades is Physical Therapy. Two 1994 graduates, Karen (Fox) Leppert, and Lucrecia Mervine, shared their stories. While these stories are similar in origin, they have taken very different directions in their work.
After graduating from Bishop Carroll, Karen (Fox) Leppert attained a BS in Health Science and a Master of Physical Therapy from Saint Francis University. She then moved on to receive her Doctor of Physical Therapy from Temple. She became a board certified Pediatric Clinical Specialist in 2014. She began her career as a physical therapist with Camco Physical and Occupational Therapy, providing school-based physical therapy. She founded Milestone Physical Therapy in 2013 to provide therapy services to her own community in Bedford County, where she specializes in providing early intervention and pediatric outpatient services as well as contracting with Conemaugh Home Health in Bedford.
Karen commented that she was always interested in the health field, but injured her knee playing volleyball in her freshman year at BC. After going for physical therapy, she knew that was the career she wanted! She is proud of the work that she does for her community. “Prior to starting Milestone, there was not an early intervention agency based in Bedford County and services were provided by companies based in Johnstown and Ebensburg, so it was often difficult to find providers willing to travel throughout our area. After having my son, I would often dream of being able to stay close to home to provide services in our community for families. One day, my husband said, ‘why not?’ and we began to look into what we could do. We had our grand opening in January 2020, and while Covid slowed things down, we are now in the process of expanding the clinic. My little company has grown to a team of 14 full and part time employees.
Lucrecia Mervine attended Duquesne University for Pre-Health Sciences and the University of Ulster at Jordanstown in Northern Ireland for Physiotherapy. She has worked in various Physical Therapy positions in Honolulu, Hawaii and Juneau, Alaska before taking her current position as a personal trainer and outpatient physical therapist at Pavitt Health and Fitness in Juneau, Alaska, as well as running her own private practice. Like Karen, Lucrecia was always interested in the health field, but was unsure of the path to take. “I thought I wanted to be a pediatrician, but I also had a passion for exercise and sports throughout high school. I also volunteered at an outpatient clinic in Altoona and fell in love with it. I had found something that merged all I enjoyed. As a physical therapist, I get to meet new people, see a variety of conditions, and am challenged to apply my knowledge and skills as a diagnostician, problem-solver, and educator to my patients.
Lucrecia is proud of her work in her community. “There is great responsibility in guiding someone’s rehab in order to get them back to living a better quality of life, helping them feel vibrant and healthy again, return to sport, achieve their goals, return to work, or even just get back to being able to perform normal, everyday tasks.” She says that living in southeast Alaska creates very unique goals and circumstances that are not found anywhere else. “A total hip replacement patient that lives in a remote community has to first take a ferry boat, then a skiff (smaller boat) at low tide, to be able to walk up a ramp to get to a 4-wheeler waiting to drive him out to his community, all without dislocating his newly operated hip!” She also does a lot of work with commercial and recreational fishermen and crabbers, big game hunters, sled-dog mushers, miners, seasonal cruise ship workers, and endurance runners in the mountains of Alaska. She says that the lifestyle is unique in Alaska and when she sees a neighbor getting “back to living Alaskan” after rebab, it makes her proud and happy.
Karen and Lucrecia both expressed gratitude for the education they received at Bishop Carroll. “While I had never experienced the public school system until after graduation,” said Karen, “I now realize that BC gave me opportunities that I may not have had otherwise. As a teen, I was quiet and was happy to blend in, but the supportive environment brought out talents that I wasn’t aware I possessed through encouragement by faculty as well as participation in after school activities such as volleyball, forensics, and theater. BC helped me to realize that we all have different talents and helped me to find those talents. I also learned to try to see the good in everyone I come in contact with.” Lucrecia commented, “BC truly made me a well-rounded human being. The faith-based education has been integral to my life in how I live, what I believe, and how I treat others. The education was top notch and delivered by the best teachers who genuinely cared about me as a person.”
Karen offers advice to students who want to follow in her footsteps. “Be open to new opportunities!” she exclaimed. “I became a physical therapist thinking I wanted to work in outpatient orthopedics, but God had a different plan. As a business owner, I often find myself wondering why life is taking me in a certain direction, but I have learned that everything happens for a reason, and we just have to go with it and see where things end up.” Lucrecia emphasizes volunteering and observing in different settings such as hospitals, clinics, or nursing homes. “Variety is key,” she said. “Each setting/specialty requires different things and have different energy about them. Ask questions of the therapists and get involved when possible. It’s then when you’ll know if it is a right choice for you! The most important thing is to always remember to keep God at the center of your life and your decisions!”
Both Karen and Lucrecia welcome questions from our current students seeking more information about their field. Anyone who would like to get in touch with them should reach out to Mr. Nagy for their contact information. Great work, Karen and Lucrecia! Your Bishop Carroll family is very proud of you and what you have and continue to accomplish!