Interview with Perry Smith – Nashville Fitness Expert

Fitness Expert

Perry Smith, Nashville fitness expert, is the founder of Perry Smith Fitness Concepts, his latest health and fitness venture.

Over the past 15 years, in Nashville, Tennessee, Perry Smith has channeled his passion for health and wellness into starting and expanding two successful physical therapy businesses.

Today, Perry Smith is looking forward to turning his business acumen, innovative marketing strategies, medical knowledge, large network of professional contacts in the Nashville area, and drive for success toward helping a company in the healthcare industry build its business.

Tell us a little about your Biology studies at University of Alabama at Birmingham and the process of getting your Masters in Physical Therapy at Emory University School of Medicine. 

My undergraduate degree is in Biological Sciences. It is a great foundation for going into any field in healthcare and going into academic or industrial pursuits. Many courses are rigorous, including Genetics, Cell Biology, Physics, and Immunology. The course series that stood out as the most challenging for me was Organic Chemistry. Organic Chemistry studies the chemistry of organic compounds containing carbon. It was very challenging but also eye-opening to learn the chemistry of life. 

The graduate program in Physical Therapy at Emory University is a professional program, so similar to medical school, you apply and then have to be selected for admittance to the program. The year I started, they accepted a class of 34 students out of hundreds of applicants. When I went through the program, it was 2.5 years going to classes Fall, Winter, and Summer. Since that time it has expanded to 3 years. 

Professional programs are very different from the undergraduate university experience. Most of your courses and times of classes are determined for you, and your same classmates are in each class. Most days would consist of class or lab from 8 am to 4 pm. The first year of physical therapy school is very similar to the first year of medical school. It is heavily loaded with your core science classes. Neuroanatomy, Gross Anatomy. Human Physiology, Kinesiology, Medical Practice make up the bulk of your classwork. 

Gross Anatomy is always interesting because, for most of us, that is our first experience dissecting a human cadaver. Towards the final semester of your first year and throughout your second year is when your coursework specific to the practice of physical therapy is woven in. Most people do not realize that there are several branches of physical therapy in which you can practice. Orthopedic, Neurological Rehabilitation, Cardiac Rehabilitation, Pediatrics, Wound Care, Acute Hospital Care, among others, are possible branches of physical therapy you could work in, and you are trained in each one. 

During the Spring semester of your second year, you also start Clinical Rotations. These are rotations in healthcare facilities working under the guidance of a clinical instructor. Initially, they are shorter two to four-week rotations in different disciplines of physical therapy. Ultimately you choose three long-term rotations in areas of interest which last from six to eight weeks each. Going concurrently with the classes and clinical rotations during the last year, everyone conducts a research project under the guidance of a faculty member, which will be presented for publication and possible presentation. 

To sum it up, the 1st year of a professional physical therapy program is foundational medical training needed for physical therapy. The 2nd year involves coursework that covers all disciplines of physical therapy and integrates clinical rotations in each to allow you to fine-tune your interest. The 3rd year is made up of elective courses within your interest, your research project, and long-term clinical rotations. Overall the program gives you an excellent educational and practical foundation to begin your career. 

Then the next stage of learning begins! 

Why did you choose to pursue physical therapy instead of another health profession such as a doctor or nurse?

Initially, as an undergraduate, I was an engineering major. It spoke to my geeky science side and my fascination with design. 

Even though I had always been interested in health and fitness I really didn’t think about a career in it until a period of self-reflection following my first year of college. I researched physical therapy and interned with a physical therapist who really allowed me to see how physical therapists were “engineers” of the human body. I changed my major to Biological Science to prepare for my application to physical therapy school. 

Physical therapy was the correct fit for me within the many fields of healthcare because it really does look at the body from a biomechanical perspective of how factors such as motion, force, and tension affect the human body and how you can intervene to restore the body after injury and also work to prevent injury. I will have to admit I did for a hot second think about a career as a physician when I took immunology, the human immune system and viruses are really fascinating.

What are you most proud of in your professional career?

Growing something that offers exceptional value and service to my clients has been personally and professionally rewarding. The business results I’m most proud of is the pride that comes from building both businesses from the ground up and helping both businesses achieve profitability in under 6 months.

Both businesses yielded an average yearly net profit growth of 23% over a 16 year period and we exceeded our target referral goals every year.

I was able to combine my knowledge of biomechanics with a solid business model that disrupted traditional physical therapy business models with better patient results and solid financial success.

What do you think are some of the keys to your personal and professional success?

Aside from the love and support of my family, I believe the keys to my success include:

  • Being innovative in how I and my team provided care to our patients
  • Focusing on excellence in service and caring about our patients
  • Expertise in movement patterns of the human body and their impact on injury, treatment, recovery, and prevention
  • Confidently and consistently presenting our business to the market with fearless determination, thereby building trust, referrals, and a solid base of returning customers who also referred family and friends
  • Being a good listener, problem solver, and optimist
  • A deep drive to maximize the potential of any situation — overcoming obstacles and challenges; celebrating and leveraging successes.
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