Rafael Ozdemirer '97 spent some time figuring out which profession he wanted to pursue. Originally, he wanted to be a police officer, but decided that wasn't for him. Shortly thereafter, he obtained his prelaw degree at the University of Maine.He had every intention of pursuing Environmental Law. He worked in a law firm for 2 ½ years to see if this was something he really wanted to do. He realized that it wasn't.
"I'm an outdoor person," he said. "I need to move."
Rafael was always a sports lover. He played soccer for most of his life, including at Holy Cross. He continues to play to this day. While attending the University of Maine, he tore his ACL and had to go into physical therapy. It was something he really liked as he was going through it. The seeds for a new passion had been planted.
In 2003, Rafael ran into a friend from Holy Cross who worked as a physical therapist at the Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine Center in Guilford, CT. "They needed an aide," he said. "He asked if I was interested. I took their offer and worked as a PT Aide." The rest is history.
Rafael took an immediate liking to this profession. He enrolled in the University of Hartford and earned his Doctorate in Physical Therapy in 2010. He credits his boss at the time for helping him complete that program. "Normally, there is a traditional approach with these programs. You study for six years and then you get into the program. I did an untraditional approach. I needed a bunch of science prerequisites. I did them at Southern CT State University for two years. I was trying to live and go to school at the same time. My boss saw this and told me to just go to school. He said he would help where he could." It took Rafael three years to finish.
Now a licensed Physical Therapist, Rafael stayed with the Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine Center for another six years. Recently, he landed a position at Elite Sports Medicine as part of Connecticut Children's Hospital in Hartford. He works in their Farmington office. He focuses on sports medicine, and 89% of his patients are student-athletes. The highest percentage of his patients have knee pain. That is followed by ankle and hip pain, ACL tears and reconstructions, as well as labral repairs.
"I am big-time satisfied with how things are going now," he said. "At the law firm, I was in a cubicle for eight hours a day. Now, I am running around and working with patients. I am helping people get back to their sport. Watching them develop and become stronger is amazing. I take someone from their most dysfunctional state to their most functional state."
His current job also has ties to his Holy Cross roots. Rafael's current boss, Nicholas Giampetruzzi is the cousin of Holy Cross's Vice President for Student Life, Mike Giampetruzzi '95.
Rafael currently resides in West Hartford with his wife Erika and newborn daughter, Mae Maria.