In modern medicine, getting back on your feet after orthopedic surgery means spending time before and after with a qualified physical therapist. They are crucial to recovery. The good news is we’ve come a long way with less invasive surgeries and trained specialists who work diligently to get you back to doing what you love.

Meet Tyler Vaughn, one of two partners who launched Refine Physical Therapy and Performance. Refine has been instrumental in getting Linda in top-notch shape after her second partial knee replacement surgery last December. I sat down with Tyler to learn what makes Refine different.

Tyler was born in Huntsville but grew up near Atlanta. He was a star baseball player at a small 1-A school, and his coach knew the baseball coach at Troy University, Bobby Pierce. “I didn’t get a lot of attention coming out of high school, but I was offered a full academic scholarship to Troy and recruited as a redshirt walk-on my first year as a shortstop.”

He made the travel roster In his sophomore year but didn’t play. “Not playing those first couple of years was tough. I thought about quitting mid-season. I talked to my dad about it, and he responded, “Whatever you start, you’re going to finish. We are not quitters; If you start a season, you finish it.” 

Tyler got his first start in year three. That week, the NCAA named him National Player of the Week. I asked what brings him joy in baseball. “I don’t get my joy from only succeeding,” he says. "I get joy from competing. When I got my first start, Assistant Coach Smartt said, “Tyler, just compete.” That weekend, I went 11 for 13 at bat and was responsible for several RBIs."

Troy won the Division 1 Sunbelt Conference Championship the next year, and Tyler was named a First Team Academic All-American. He credits his success to a new hitting philosophy similar to Major League Baseball. “Once it clicked, it allowed me to stay in the hitting window much longer, and I became a much more efficient hitter.” 

Regarding his academic and athletic success, Tyler says, “I’m a hard worker, and that’s one thing I can control. No one skill about me would differentiate me from others. I’m like the turtle on the fencepost. You know it didn’t get there on its own.” He told me he had always liked math and had considered becoming an orthopedic surgeon. 

He shadowed Dr. Jeff Dugas of the Andrews Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham. Dr. Dugas is a throwing expert who works with several professionals, including injured college and high school baseball players. He specializes in UCL repairs that involve an internal brace.

Dr. Dugas visited Troy once a month with four or five Orthopedic Fellows to see how the athletes were recovering from sports injuries. Tyler would follow them around and met  Lesley Parrish, the physical therapist. She was high-energy and sharp, and he really connected with what she was doing. 

“Lesley was providing the physical and psychological healthcare to truly help her patients get back to their goals and activities they loved. I wanted to have that connection on the recovery side of the patient.”

Tyler broke his hand his senior year, which ended any interest from Major League teams. With a degree in Chemistry and a minor in Leadership, it was time for Tyler to decide his future, and he shifted his career goals to physical therapy. 

In his senior year, Troy President Jack Hawkins presented Tyler with the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award for Service. The award represents ideals of the heart, mind, and conduct, as evidenced by a spirit of love and helpfulness to others. At the presentation, Hawkins told Tyler that he shouldn’t hesitate to call him if he ever needed anything.

Tyler’s roommate at Troy was Kyle Thibodeaux. They both decided to apply for Physical Therapy School at the University of South Alabama, which required a letter of recommendation and an interview. Tyler visited President Hawkins the next day and he agreed to write his letter of recommendation.

“Kyle and I drove together to Mobile for the interview. Each year, South Alabama receives over 500 applicants, conducts interviews with 100 potential students, and accepts 40 into the 3-year program. It’s very competitive.” 

Tyler and Kyle were accepted into the same class.  He tells me they were both front-row students. “We want to be the best we can be whatever the task,” says Tyler. “Serving and loving people through our work motivates us both. Our roots began at Troy.”

Kyle and Tyler earned their Doctor of Physical Therapy degrees in 2017. They determined they wanted to practice a one-on-one physical therapy model, which means patients spend a full hour working with a single doctor of Physical Therapy. Easier said than done. Kyle found a practice in South Carolina, while Tyler began working with a regional group that saw multiple clients per hour. 

“I wanted a one-on-one connection,” says Tyler. “Yet starting with a multiple-patient practice, I found myself doing crowd management physical therapy to get the volume up, and after a year and a half, I burned out. I called Kyle in South Carolina and said, “This isn’t what I felt called to do. Why don’t we build something where we can work one-on-one with patients for a full hour.” 

To help pay for physical therapy school, Tyler did a lot of private baseball instruction. “I had been coming to Baldwin County baseball parks and met a lot of folks in the community. Kyle and I are both certified in strength and conditioning, and we wanted to coach people on exercise movement patterns because we know that it changes things. It’s important to decrease injury risk, especially after an injury.”

The game plan was for Tyler to get things rolling. Kyle would then move from South Carolina, and the two would build the practice together. “Everyone told us the One-on-One rehab model would not be sustainable. Yet when you truly believe that is the only way it should be done, you’ll find a way to make it work.” 

Refine PT and Performance opened its first location at a CrossFit in Daphne with one room and one table on January 31, 2019, at 8 PM. “My first client was a middle school baseball player with an injury. He is now graduating from high school with a Division-1 scholarship.” Now in their fifth year, there are four locations: Mobile, Daphne, Decatur, and Dothan, Alabama, and a fifth is soon to open in Knoxville, TN.

“The only reason this has been possible is that our entire team wholeheartedly buys into this treatment style. We found that orthopedic surgeons share a similar vision for a patient connection, which has been encouraging. We want clients to get quality care from start to finish with the same therapist each session.”

Refine PT and Performance’s mission statement is to have the “most-loved” patients in healthcare. “The relationship aspect is vital. It’s part of the healing process. Keeping the same therapist with a client promotes a true relationship and understanding through recovery.” 

“We bring in therapists with specific, certified areas of expertise to get people back to what they love doing, like golf, baseball, tennis, or dance. Every one of our staff is a Doctor of Physical Therapy. We don't have any technicians or physical therapy assistants: no students or assistant physical therapists. I absolutely believe in our team. If they are driven to love people, we want them on our team and believe they will make great therapists.”

Refine PT has two certified Titleist Performance Institute golf PTs, a dance specialist (Pilates trained), and an athletic trainer who helps with balance, concussion, and dizziness issues. In the Mobile location, there are certified strength and conditioning PTs, Crossfit Level One PTs, and a Women’s Health Therapist specialist. Every therapist is certified in dry needling.

Tyler says he is the outreach and marketing guy. “Kyle directs the show and I run full speed in that direction.” He tells me they are not about growth and expansion or chasing dollars. However, they have expanded as staff have asked to open new locations in places where they are from, each taking the same principles and goals with them. “If we have people who want to return to the town where they are from, we try to help them succeed.”

Regarding the Scenic 98 Coastal area, Tyler says he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. With his wife and three-year-old, Tyler says he’s built lifelong friendships through baseball, physical therapy, and his church community. He enjoys working out in his spare time, spending time outdoors, and snowboarding when he can get away to Colorado! “This is a special place to raise a family.” 

“We want people to have a quality experience every time they walk in the door,” says Tyler. That door will be moved on April 1 to a new, larger location at 25620 Friendship Road in Daphne, where they have a larger space connected to No Off Season, a personal training group with like-minded leadership.

The next time you need help recovering from an injury or surgery, get the one-on-one help you need at Refine PT and Performance.

Apr 10, 2024
People & Business Profiles

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