Elizabeth Timmons found her calling during a meeting of the health preprofessional organization Alpha Epsilon Delta meeting at Clemson University.
Timmons, a biological sciences major and psychology minor, wanted to work in the medical field but didn’t want to go to medical school. That was the extent of her career plans until she attended the meeting at the end of her sophomore year and heard a pediatric physical therapist speak about the profession.
“I called my parents that night and told them I found what I wanted to do the rest of my life,” said Timmons, who graduated from Clemson in 2014 before earning her doctorate in physical therapy in 2017.
Timmons is the lead physical therapist for the Meyer Center for Special Children in Greenville, South Carolina, which provides educational and therapeutic services for children ages birth through 8 years. She also works part-time as a physical therapist at Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System’s main campus and at Prisma Health’s Patewood Medical Center in Greenville, working with patients who have had total joint replacements.
“What I love about my profession is that it is clearly medical, but there’s such a relational aspect to it,” said Timmons, who earned her doctorate in physical therapy from the Medical University of South Carolina. “We’re not just seeing our patients once every couple of months or once a year, so we really have the ability to make connections with our patients.”
Timmons spent the first two and a half years of her career working at Spartanburg Regional full-time.Life-changing work
When she entered the hospital daily, she’d remind herself that it wasn’t her patients’ “everyday.”
“When you’re on the working side of the bed, it’s your everyday, and you’re in and out. But it is not my patients’ everyday. It is life-changing for them. I remind myself of that and have the empathy to connect with them,” she said.
While Timmons admits she’s not that patient with friends and family, she has patience for her “kiddos” and adult patients.
“It goes back to figuring out their why. Why is this patient not wanting to get up out of bed? Why is this patient not engaging?” she said. “You have to figure out the why to make a difference. If you can get to the root of it, it is so rewarding.”
At the Meyer Center, Timmons works to help children reach their maximum potential.
“We take them where they are and take them to their potential, whatever that looks like. Everyone’s potential is different. It’s all about figuring out how to get there,” she said. “Seeing kids meet milestones is so rewarding. They may meet those milestones in ways other than what looks typical. My kiddo may be unable to walk across the room to get the things they want, but maybe they can roll and scoot there.”
She tells the story of one 7-year-old girl who has cerebral palsy. The girl was in the P.T. gym the day she received a power wheelchair. Timmons suggested they go to the playground.
“I don’t know how to get there,” the girl said, stopping Timmons in her tracks.
“Because she had been carried or pushed in a stroller her whole life, she never had to figure out directions on her own,” Timmons said. “Now that she’s in that power chair and knows where she’s going, her personality has come out because of the independence. We say all the time that independent mobility is so important for cognitive development.”
In addition to being a physical therapist, Timmons is a foster parent.
“If you had asked me at 25, it wouldn’t have been even Plan Z,” said Timmons, who is 31. “Being a foster parent wasn’t on my radar, but the Meyer Center has a lot of children who are either in foster care or have been adopted through foster care. Some of my co-workers foster. I think I just saw the beauty of a stable and loving home. I have an extra bedroom, and I have love and stability. That’s all these kids need.”
Trust is key
Timmons said some of the training she received to become a foster parent — trust-based relational intervention — has changed how she interacts with children, even at the Meyer Center.
“The whole premise is figuring out the why and building trust,” she said.
Timmons hadn’t originally planned on attending Clemson. Her older sister attended Clemson, and Timmons didn’t want to follow in her footsteps. That changed when she visited Clemson, attending biology classes and hanging out with her sister’s friends who were science majors.
“MUSC gave me my career, but Clemson gave me so much as a person,” she said. “The experiences I had there made me who I am today.”
When she was a sophomore, she applied to be treasurer of the Panhellenic Council. Two days later, the president met with her and said they saw much potential and that she’d make a good president.
“You worked your way up, so it was a two-year commitment. I truly think that’s where all my leadership qualities truly stem from. I’ve always been a leader, but I look back and realize that was a lot of responsibility,” she said. “I think the leadership skills I developed at Clemson are absolutely part of why I’m in the positions I’m in right now.”
Timmons is a former Clemson Young Alumni Council member. She received a 2022 Roaring10 award from the council. The Roaring10 award recognizes 10 individuals who graduated from Clemson within the past 10 years and embody Clemson’s values of honesty, integrity and respect.
Timmons serves as a mentor through the TigerLink online network and meets with students interested in physical therapy. She also has done presentations to the University’s pre-physical therapy club, much like the one she attended the night her career plans became clear.
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