Father’s Day stories: A daughter learns how to help return people to full strength

Published 12:30 am Sunday, June 18, 2017

This is one of three stories Father’s Day stories about area children following in their fathers’ footsteps

Once a profession gets in your blood, it is hard to shake it. For several Miss-Lou sons and daughters, that profession — be it law enforcement, physical therapy or ophthalmology — was something with which they were born.

William Mitchell IV, Summer Milliken Thompson and Dr. Aaron Smith all tried to fight their father’s profession for various reasons, but ultimately all were called to professions they love, and their fathers could not be more proud.

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This is Milliken’s story:

Thompson only tried to fight being a physical therapist for a semester at Louisiana State University. Because Thompson’s aptitude tests pointed her toward being an accountant, Milliken wanted her to try going in that direction.

“I tried that but I kept gravitating toward (physical therapy),” Thompson said. “I knew this was it forever. I grew up working here and got to watch him help people. People would be so enamored by him because he made them well.”

Her father Tom Milliken said he was never against his daughter becoming a physical therapist, he just wanted her to do what would make her happy.

“I didn’t want her to do this without considering her other options,” he said. “That was my concern.”

Milliken said more than 30 years ago, he ended up in physical therapy by chance. When he was applying to medical school, he heard from two friends who said they would soon need a physical therapist. He started looking into what a physical therapist was and became enamored.

“I would not want to be anything else,” Milliken said. “In this profession you get to know people because you work with them for months, sometimes years.”

Thompson said the relationships with people a physical therapist gets to form is what she loves most about the profession.

“It is not just a quick, fleeting thing,” Thompson said. “We get to spend a lot more time with people and can form friendships.”

Milliken said as a physical therapist you also get to learn from patients.

“I’ve learned about gardening, cooking and many things,” he said. “Once you get people talking about the things they want to talk about, then you can start to really help them.”

Growing up doing many little jobs around her father’s business, Thompson said she picked up a lot about the profession.

“I always say I won the dad lottery,” Thompson said. “As far as being a physical therapist, I learned how to listen. And to always put my hands on a problem, to not just rely on tests and measures, but to feel what I think might be going on.”

Milliken said he has also learned from Thompson.

“Summer was a very smart child, smarter than her mother and I both,” Milliken said. “I have learned a number of new techniques from her.”

Milliken said one such technique is dry needling, which has become an important part of the business.

“At the ripe old age of 60, I went back to school and learned how to do it,” Milliken said. “I never would have done it if Summer did now show me the benefits of that. She stays on the cutting edge.”

Thompson runs the office on the Mississippi side of the river, and Milliken runs the Louisiana side of the river. Eventually, Milliken said the plan is for Thompson to take over the whole business, but Milliken is not looking to retire.

Thompson said he cannot retire.

“He is too good to quit,” Thompson said. “Even when he does get too old, I’m going to stick him in the corner to talk to patients.”

Milliken said he is proud of his daughter.

“She is a hell of a physical therapist,” he said. “Summer will become a better physical therapist than I am.”