5/24/2012 - Sheila Gaffney, P.T., M.S., freely admits she can’t sit still, and when she retires May 25 after 19 years at Vanderbilt and 43 years in the field of physical therapy, she certainly won’t be slowing down.
Gaffney started at Vanderbilt in 1993, after her former husband, Drew Gaffney, M.D., was recruited as clinical chief of Cardiology. She is an expert in physical therapy for joint replacement, trauma and amputees and developed numerous programs, including a dialysis exercise program and protocols for limb salvage physical therapy.
“Sheila has been a wonderful asset to the Orthopaedic Rehabilitation program at Vanderbilt,” said Heather Skaar, P.T., director of rehabilitation services at Vanderbilt Orthopaedic Institute.
“She has tremendous passion for the provision of physical therapy services, and is frequently observed going above and beyond the call of duty for her patients and her colleagues. Sheila’s dedication, compassion and clinical expertise will be missed by all those with whom she interacted.”
Gaffney was born in Kansas but spent much of her childhood in Venezeula. Her family returned to Connecticut during Gaffney’s high school years, and she was a candy striper in the local hospital, planting the seed for a career in medicine. After graduation, she spent a year studying and traveling throughout Europe.
Physical Therapy school at the University of Oklahoma came as a shock to such a globetrotter. By her senior year, she was anxious to travel anywhere, and did an internship at a hospital in New Mexico. A blind date with a medical student named Drew changed everything.
“I had a boyfriend and a job lined up and I dumped it all to go to Albuquerque where he was,” Gaffney said. She worked in burn therapy, as he completed his training in Cleveland, Dallas and Copenhagen, Denmark.
But, in addition to raising two daughters, she was always doing something else on the side – stained glass, running a flower shop, teaching English as a second language.
Despite living all over the world, Gaffney says Nashville will always be home now.
“It’s one of those places where you always run in to someone you know. I’ve cared for everybody in Nashville and gotten to know so many people,” she said.
Gaffney just returned from a medical mission trip to Mexico with the Walk Strong Foundation. The group replaced 22 knees in nine days. She plans to do more trips with the foundation and will fill the rest of her time with glasswork, golf and kayaking.
“There’s not enough time in the day to do everything I want to do. When I was working and caring for my family, I felt I could only do so much. Now I am really going to get going.”