While Dr. Alycia Markowski never served in the military, she knows firsthand just how important Heroes In Transition’s work is.
She spent four years at the Albany VA where she helped integrate injured veterans back into civilian life. “We participated in a winter sports clinic where we would take disabled veterans who sustained injuries resulting in amputations, spinal cord injuries or blindness to Colorado and teach them how to adapt to skiing, fly fishing or snowmobiling with the support of a physical therapist,” she said. “I always saw a need to get them active and support the transition. From my experience, you can’t treat someone physically separate from the emotional component.”
It is why, Dr. Markowski is so passionate about Heroes’ mission –- it focuses on the whole person, not unlike her role as a physical therapist.
Since 2016, Dr. Markowski has lent her medical expertise to supporting Heroes by serving as the medical coordinator for its annual Ruck4HIT. She will do so once again in May, leading a team of physical therapists who assist runners during the grueling 36-hour relay race.
A professor at Northeastern University, Dr. Markowski has invited some of her students to serve on her PT team, gaining practical experience on how to treat injuries – from leg cramps to ankle sprains to muscle pulls to ruck rash – that may arise from the one-of-a-kind endurance event. Two years ago, Dr. Josh Avery and Blithen Davis, two of her former students, were part of that team; they were so inspired by the event that they decided to actually run the Ruck4HIT on team Ruck-Habilitation last year.
Ruck4HIT an Inspiring Event
“I’m amazed at the dedication of everybody, from the volunteers to the participants to the people who contribute to the fundraising. The money they have brought in can help so many people,” Dr. Markowski said. “To see an event that draws so many people to contribute in different ways and which has a fantastic outcome in supporting our local military is incredible.”
While the PT team may not get the fanfare that the runners do, Heroes In Transition Executive Director Nicole Spencer said they are a vital piece to the event. “We couldn’t do the Ruck4HIT without them,” Spencer said. “They ensure the safety of our participants and that small injuries don’t become bigger ones. We can lean on them to know when we can keep pushing and when we should pull back.”
Last year, Spencer did just that after twisting her ankle in the middle of the race; despite the pain, she was able to continue thanks to Dr. Markowski and her team.
As long as the Ruck4HIT continues, Dr. Markowski, who also serves on Heroes In Transition’s Board of Directors, sees a need for a small, dedicated squad of physical therapists to be on the race route to keep runners safe. “I definitely believe the last few years the team has made a positive impact in most people’s runs,” she said.
To understand why she is so committed to the Ruck4HIT and Heroes In Transition, one only need look at what she loves about her profession: “The enjoyment you get in helping other people achieve their goals,” she said.
So on the first weekend in May, Dr. Markowski will help 10 teams of 80 runners achieve their goal of running 220 miles across Cape Cod. She will do so because it’s in her nature; it’s also a way she can use her talents to support Heroes’ mission and express her gratitude to those who serve. “I think with everything going on in the world, it’s so important to be thankful for the sacrifices our country’s men and women are giving to the military,” she said.