Military Medic Learns How to Heal Veterans at Mercy

Photo of Lacey

Tech. Sgt. Lacey Kehlenbeck, D.P.T. ’24, has big plans to support fellow veterans once she earns her Doctor of Physical Therapy from Mercy University. Building on her almost 11 years of service as a military medic in the Air National Guard, she plans to open a physical therapy practice that employs and serves veterans. She is already on her way to achieving this dream after recently being awarded an Association of Schools Advancing Health Professions (ASAHP) Scholarship of Excellence, which recognizes outstanding students who have significant potential to assume future leadership roles in health professions.

Joining the military fulfilled a childhood dream for Kehlenbeck, and she has demonstrated her commitment to service and duty in the years since. As a military medic, she trained herself and dozens of others in health care services such as blood draws, eye exams, pulmonary function testing and electrocardiogram testing. She also serves on the search and extraction medic team of the Chemical, Biological, Radioactive and Nuclear (CBRN) Task Force, which was formed after 9/11 to respond to any future domestic terrorism events. Her team is trained to find survivors in rubble and debris, stabilize them and transfer them to the nearest hospital.

Kehlenbeck works as a physical therapist assistant during the week and attends Mercy on the weekends. Once per month, she spends the weekend serving in the Air National Guard, but her Mercy professors make it possible for her to keep up with her studies. “Dr. Nannette Hyland is very supportive of the fact that I'm still serving in the military,” she said. “And the mentorship I’ve received from the faculty at Mercy is beyond anything I could've imagined. They all want me to be a better practitioner than they are.”

Her Mercy professors deeply admire her as well. “While her academic achievement speaks for itself with her high GPA, that doesn’t begin to tell the story of how special she is as a person,” said Nannette Hyland, P.T., Ph.D., D.P.T., director of the Physical Therapy Program, in her letter recommending Kehlenbeck for the ASAHP Scholarship of Excellence. “In a time where our country needs leaders, voices of reason and compassion, Lacey embodies those traits. Her personal values, positive outlook, calm demeanor, and cultural humility make her a positive influence in her cohort and the entire Mercy University community.” Kehlenbeck plans to put the scholarship toward her schooling and her future business.

After graduating from Mercy, Kehlenbeck hopes to become a physical therapist in the Air National Guard so she can continue serving our country. In her work as a military medic, she often encounters those who must retire from the military due to injuries. “But they feel lost because the military is all they’ve ever known,” she said. “I could employ those people in my physical therapy practice. It’ll be a safe and friendly place that’s full of veterans helping each other. Being able to give back to those who supported and defended their country is the best way I know to give back to my community.”

Nanette Hyland and Lacey Kehlenbeck at Florida Conference
From L to R: Nannette Hyland, P.T., Ph.D., D.P.T., director of the Mercy University Physical Therapy Program, and Tech. Sgt. Lacey Kehlenbeck, D.P.T. ’24