The non-clinical spotlight series exists to shed light on all of the interesting paths that physical therapy professionals have taken. Today’s spotlight focuses on Jimmy McKay, PT, DPT who went from PT—a particularly tech-savvy one with PT Pintcast—to Director of Communications at FOX Rehabilitation.
What is your full name and title?
Jimmy McKay, PT, DPT, Director of Communications for Fox Rehabilitation and Host of PT Pintcast.
Where did you go to PT school and when did you graduate?
I went to Marymount University in Arlington, VA and graduated in 2016.
Was PT a first career or second career for you?
It was a second career. I was a rock radio DJ and station program director for 9 years before coming to PT.
I had my own drive time radio show on WBSX as well as being the program director (guy in charge of everything that you see and hear on the station).
You name it, I got a chance to have a hand in it. Contests / Promotions / Live broadcasts CHECK! Music Meetings / interviewing bands YEP! Writing / Voicing / Editing / Producing commercials? YES to all of those.
My job was make sure that the radio station was on the air 24 hours 7 days a week… that’s 168 hours a week for those not great in math. If you heard it, saw it, felt it from my station, I had my hand in it.
What made you decide to go into PT?
I fell out of love…
Radio was my first Love. I did the morning announcements in 6th grade and i was HOOKED.
I went to undergrad for journalism and mass communications, picked my university based on their radio station… became program director of that station. Interned for two of the biggest radio stations in NYC (the #1 radio market in the US) 95.5 WPLJ and 92.3 WXRK K-Rock (with Howard Stern as their morning show host).
Then I got to go home where I grew up and be on the air with guys and girls that I listened to from when i was 12 years old at WRRV in Poughkeepsie NY…
Then I got the call to head to a larger station with a bigger listening audience and be their music director and eventually take the station over at age 26…think about it. At age 26, I was running 2 radio stations with more than 6 million dollars of annual income.
My job was: go to work, have SO much fun that other people wanted to LISTEN to you because of how much fun that it sounded like you were having.
I went to work in shorts and a t-shirt, interviewed bands, went to the greatest concerts on the planet and it never felt like work.
Until, it did.
Ultimately, there were larger companies owning most of the radio stations in the US… and instead of being able to go “make fun” at work, we were told what to do. I started to see the writing on the wall with syndication (shows from other cities being put on my station) and I just didn’t love that. So, my mind started to wander.
I was training for the Ironman Triathlon and on long bike rides with some local triathletes, we’d get to talking. They thought I had the coolest job on the planet.. but I knew better. They were PTs… and I wanted to know more.
I wound up studying physics in the studio while on-air in between songs. Once, during an interview with the band Shinedown, the lead singer Brent Smith actually said “Dude, are all of those numbers just scribble?” No…that was my exit plan. One formula at a time.
Eventually, I hung up my headphones and went to PT school.
What type of practice did you do when you graduated? What was your favorite setting/pt population?
I went to a sports / ortho private practice for a while…then to a developmental pediatric clinic…and now I hold a non-clinical role with a practice that treats older adults….so…I’ve done a wide range! Haha.
I like them all…I like people, and I want to hear their stories. I loved different things about each of them. The sports clinic showed me people who wanted to be better athletes or who just wanted to move without pain at home or at work.
In pediatrics, I saw movement at its most pure. Nothing is better than watching a newborn go prone on elbows for the first time, or being there when a child takes their first few steps.
To think I had ANY little part facilitating that was worth all of the late nights studying.
At FOX, my job is new and it’s still being formulated, but I get to work with some of the toughest people on the planet. People who have been places and done more than I can imagine. And I get to play a small part in helping them keep doing that, or learn something new.
At what point did you decide you wanted to try something unconventional?
My professor (Skye Donovan at Marymount) said from early in PT school that I was different… I just tend to never turn off thinking of “What if…” moments. I tend to think big picture and that doesn’t mean that granular stuff isn’t important to me. It just means I really like leverage.
I like taking what we can do and figuring out how to best scale it and that for me personally, meant going to a larger practice in FOX and being able to “Do Jimmy Things for them.”
“Do Jimmy things for FOX” is literally what I wrote on my unsolicited job description that I emailed blindly to Tim Fox and Robyn Kjar, who are at the helm of FOX.
Did you know what you wanted to do? Or did you fall into the new role somehow?
My mom (one of my closest friends on the planet) says, “You tend to just make it up as you go, but it hasn’t stopped working yet, so why stop now?”
I know I wanted to be creative, and for me that means media, content creation, finding that thing that speaks to someone and leveraging it (for the powers of good of course).
So I actually went and found a company that had a lot of clinics and had a lot of potential and I applied for a marketing director job. I figured “hey I can see a TON of things I can do here right off of the bat!”
But, after nine…yes you read that right…NINE interviews with the same company, they couldn’t see what they needed me for.
So, after talking to a non-pt friend, I flipped it and went to a company that I thought was already doing many things the “right way.” My thinking was if they value customer care, communications, clinician mentoring, and overall putting the patient first, not only can I find a place in there that I can help further that with my own experiences—MAN I WANTED TO LEARN FROM THEM! I wanted to see what an amazing company can do from the inside.
So, I wrote down (and reflected) and came up with “Seven things Jimmy likes to do well.” Haha, catchy right?
Then I gave reasons why I thought those things would help FOX…and I sent it to Tim and Robyn…I got an email back a few hours later and we set up a meeting.
We met over lunch and, halfway through our first beer, they asked when I could start. The second half of that beer tasted really REALLY good because I knew I found a place that I could do “Jimmy things” and that those things would help a company do great things for patients, and that’s the point right?
Yes I want to: Create, Innovate, Listen, Talk, Connect, Communicate and Travel … but it has to MEAN something to someone else.
And that’s where FOX came in; they’re set up to leverage my skills and experience before and during PT school to do just that. And that feels good.
Where do you now work? How long have you been there?
I’m also the host of a PT centered podcast where I interview people way smarter than I am, and we talk about PT things, over a beer.
Did you have any curveballs during your interview?
CURVEBALLS? Sliders, knuckleballs, high and tight fastballs, changeups and even an eepuhs pitch (google it, it’s hard to hit).
To my right were Tim Fox and Robyn Kjar, PTs who founded and lead FOX. They were asking clinical questions, business questions, culture questions…nonstop.
Then to my left was Roy Condell, the Director of Marketing. He was asking me marketing/communications, website, SEO, podcast, and branding questions…nonstop.
During all of this, Tim and Robyn kept saying, “Grab some food! Eat something!” But only thing in my head was: How can I eat and have 2 VASTLY different conversations at the same time?! (while also having a beer).
But somewhere during that beer, Tim and Robyn (who talk faster than I do…and I talk fast) stopped and looked at me and said “We get it… you speak both of these languages, fluently. You’ll fit, we don’t know what it’ll look like 100% right now, but when can you start?”
I said, “right now.”
Also keep in mind this was in the restaurant of the Ritz Carlton in NYC…. yes, “The Ritz”.
Coolest. Job Interview. Ever.
What are the biggest challenges in your role?
Right now, figuring out what “Jimmy things” will help FOX the most right now. Really that just means I know I have things to offer, but where will those things fit in right now, with all of the many things FOX does. When you have 1000+ clinicians working across 3 disciplines (PT/OT/SLP) in 15 states day in and day out there’s no “time out” to figure things out.
But the staff has been great, letting me probe, listen, watch…. sound familiar?
It’s like I’m doing an PT evaluation on a PT practice and then, once I have enough information on how I can help, that’s when my treatment starts. LOTS of really exciting things that I cannot WAIT to start creating for the patients, clinicians and the rest of the field(s) of PT / OT and SLP….
So to answer your question: the challenge has been to find the one that needs to be worked on right now and start on that. I can’t wait for you to see what we have cookin’!
What are the biggest rewards of your role?
The minute-to-minute things. The people whom I’ve met so far (and that’s just a fraction of all of FOX) haven’t stopped being helpful, so that’s a plus. Hearing our “Success Stories” from our clinicians and their patients gives a great grounding in Hey THATS WHY WE’RE HERE! I had a part in that!
But really, so far, feeling like I actually found a place where I belong is pretty rewarding for me. They want me to succeed so we can succeed together at rehabilitating lives. That is rewarding.
Does anyone else work with/for you? How collaborative is your role?
I interact with our Social Media Coordinator, Liam McKenna, a lot. I also work with our Marketing Director and then with all of the VPs of our departments: PT/OT/SLP
Can you describe a day in the life?
Not sure I can right now honestly. It’s a lot of assessment and crafting possible plans, not very sexy. The fun stuff will start soon though.
Where do you see yourself in another 5 years? 10?
Doing jimmy things. haha
Did you ever experience any judgment for your decision to take a non-clinical career path?
Yes. Internal and external.
I deal with this a lot. People look at me and ask, “But I thought you wanted to be a PT?”
And I struggle with that question sometimes, as well as other thoughts. Did I need this degree to do these things? And I know that I do, but I didn’t see this path for me when I left radio. And it’s “unique.”
It’s not like can ask the other “Radio DJ-turned-PT-turned Director of Communications” a question.
But I seek out other people doing things that are sort of like what I’m doing. And the thing is, PTs get what I bring to the table, and so do the business/marketing/communications people. (Editor’s note: I getcha, Jimmy!) I’m just in between them, speaking both languages.
What would you tell someone who is considering a non-clinical role or career path?
We all default to what we are comfortable with right? So I am drawn to talking to people and asking their views and opinions (probably too much, says my girlfriend). But for me, answers are never in books; they’re in people. So if you want to go down a route, seek a person out who’s done something similar (it doesn’t have to be the exact same).
The thing that makes me happiest is… when I can shut out the voices of the people who tell/told me that I couldn’t just create a job. And I realize tomorrow I get to wake up and do all of the things that I like and I’m good at. That’s the top of the mountain.
My dad, a very direct former NYC firefighter, has a great quote: “One day, were all going to be dirt.”
While it might come off as morbid, it’s a good reminder for how to live life. One day, people’s opinions won’t matter, and we’ll ALL be gone, so have FUN while were going around. Find your thing and don’t stop until you’ve created it.
Thanks for your insight, Jimmy!