Tilghman Alumna Opens Physical Therapy Practice Down the Block

Fiona Caywood, Arts and Entertainment Editor

2009 Paducah Tilghman graduate Rachel Atufunwa has opened her own private physical therapy practice right down the road from Tilghman. During her time at Tilghman, Atufunwa participated in track, speech, choir and other smaller clubs.

“Tilghman was an incredibly challenging school. I never took any classes in college that were harder than the AP classes I took in high school,” she said. She also credited Tilghman for teaching her about responsibility and accountability. “Here, I’m not accountable for anyone but myself, but I have to work just as hard. Tilghman taught me how to do that,” she said. 

After graduation, Atufunwa studied exercise science at Lipscomb University in Nashville. She majored in kinesiology and minored in biology. Her original plan was to study business, but she quickly changed her decision after a brief introduction to a standard business class. After some debate on her new major, Atufunwa landed on kinesiology with the help of her dad.  

Atufunwa graduated physical therapy school and got a job in Chattanooga as a physical therapist for a larger company. Soon after that, she realized that she wanted to open her own private practice. She disliked the “corporate” feeling of it.

“It felt like we were hurrying people through and billing and billing and billing,” she said. She felt that her clients were being overcharged for the level of care they were receiving and had a reputation for getting in trouble with her boss for undercharging. “I wouldn’t be able to sleep a night any other way,” she said.  

This is what sparked her desire to establish her own practice. She said, “I will never get rich doing this, but I will be able to treat people how I see fit, and I won’t have to justify what I’m charging them to someone else.” So, in 2019, Atufunwa established Ideal Fit Physical Therapy on Broadway in Paducah, just a few blocks from Tilghman. She has been running her practice solo for three years now.  

For any rising graduates with the goal of opening their own private practice, Atufunwa has left you with some advice. She said, “My best advice is to just do it, but be prepared to work harder than you have ever worked in your life. Don’t go in thinking you won’t have to do as much work just because you are your own boss. You have to do 20 times more work, but at the end of the day being able to take pride in your work and know that it is yours is the best feeling.”