From Alaska to California, Kesler seeks adventure, assists healing

July 13, 2022

PALO CEDRO, Calif. — Angela Kesler loves adventure, whether in the backcountry of Alaska or the mountains of California.

“Life is so unpredictable,” she said. “That’s what I love most about it!”

Adventure also can have its pitfalls, as she learned at age 15.

“I was riding four-wheelers and crashed, and as a result fractured my femur,” she recalled. “Of course, I was referred to physical therapy for rehabilitation. The rehab was brutal, but so beneficial. It changed how I perceive physical and emotional struggles and I recognized how rewarding it was to receive help from someone to improve my quality of life.”

The impact of the care she received led her to pursue a career in physical therapy.

From Alaska to Trine

Coming from Palmer, Alaska, Angela initially looked at physical therapy programs located near beautiful beaches and year-round warm weather.

But she was attracted to Trine University’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program in Fort Wayne, Indiana — with four seasons and far from any beaches — by its emphasis on clinical education.

“Trine was the only school I found that integrated clinical on the first week of school. For me, this was a standout experience,” she said. “There is a plethora of knowledge from textbooks, which is vital to education, but I believe it’s just as important to apply the textbook knowledge to clinical practice.

“It was very enriching to learn our skills in the classroom and quickly apply them to practice that same week on patients, versus our classmates.”

She also appreciated that Trine’s program assigned mentors and advisors to students.

“They would follow up with us every month to help give us the feedback and tools we needed as individuals to grow into the best versions of our professional selves,” she said. “Indiana left a permanent mark in my heart with the deep friendships I made with colleagues, friends and professors.”

Back to Alaska

After graduating in 2018, she returned to Alaska, settling in Cordova.

Though only 134 miles from her hometown, the small fishing village of 2,000 was not easily accessible, since it lacks any kind of road system.

“The only way in or out of this village is by boat or by plane,” Angela said.

She was the village’s only physical therapist, “which absolutely brought me out of my comfort zone as a new graduate.”

“It pushed me to develop skills independently,” she said. “Indiana was different because I was able to consult with colleagues as a student about patient cases or hypothetical situations, so I certainly missed that aspect.”

Though she enjoyed living off the land and living more simply, after 2-1/2 years of harsh winters, she started wishing for more sun and warmth. 

“I knew I had to take my adventures back down south,” she said.


She applied for a manager position at Palo Cedro Physical Therapy, an outpatient clinic in Palo Cedro, California, where she has now worked almost a year. The growing office recently began offering aquatic therapy and will soon add a sports medicine training facility.

“My current location has been fast and furious, but also very rewarding as far as a management side,” she said. “I continue to grow as a leader and a clinician.”

California’s winter, Angela said, is comparable to Alaska’s summer, and the area offers endless outdoor activities and mountain adventures.

But she will always remember Indiana’s cornfields and vibrant fall colors.

“I’ve learned that no matter where you go, there is always a need for therapy, whether it is a village of 2,000 people or a city of 200,000,” she said. “Everyone’s injury and everyone's recovery is equally important.”

Angela Kesler
Angela Kessler, 2018 DPT, at Lassen Volcanic National Park in northern California. The Alaska native moved to Palo Cedro, California, in 2021.
Angela KeslerAngela Kessler and her dog Zhara at Reed Lakes Trail in Alaska.
Last Updated: 07/13/2022

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