Physical therapist takes a holistic approach

Submitted photo Dr. Tiara Rolle

Fourth in a series

The MSR recently attended a four-day virtual “So You Want A Career in Athletics” (SYWACIA) sports leadership academy for girls and young women of color in sports. Afterwards, several panelists and speakers agreed to share with us, as they did with the attendees, their individual career journeys and lessons learned in their fields. Coaching, executive leadership, sports medicine, and entrepreneurship will be addressed in this multi-part series.

Related Story: Dream’s athletic trainer took roundabout career path

This week: The TNT Effect

Dr. Tiara Rolle is a physical therapist and certified athletic trainer licensed in four states, including her home state of Georgia. Also, during a pandemic, she started her own business.

The coronavirus has affected her start-up, Rolle told us. “I haven’t figured everything out just yet. The marketing is like the biggest piece that is not necessarily within my wheelhouse or even what I would say that I enjoy the most, but it’s something that I’ve been able to do.

“I don’t have a brick and mortar [business site]. I do like [being] mobile. I offer virtual services,” she explained. Her twin sister even helped her with naming the business: The TNT Effect.

“Her name also starts with a T,” said Rolle. “We would be called T and T—some people would say it like dynamite. So, when I was starting the business, trying to figure out a name, my sister said why don’t she do something with TNT.”

Nearly 60 percent of all U.S. physical therapists are women, but according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 5% of practicing physical therapists are Black. The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education estimated the number of Blacks studying PT to be around 3%. 

Rolle has an athletic therapy bachelor’s degree from Florida State in 2008 and received her doctor of physical therapy degree from Emory University in 2013. She has volunteered in the Dominican Republic, the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado, and worked with USA Volleyball and the U.S. Soccer Federation.

She told her story to young Black women as a panelist at the So You Want A Career in Athletics (SYWACA) virtual academy in July, and afterwards elaborated in an MSR phone interview. 

“My motivation to even get into the health care profession was when I was in the third grade. My oldest sister wanted to be a pediatrician. I just wanted to be like my older sister,” recalled Rolle. “I always wanted to be a doctor from that moment on.

“The type of physician changed a number of times throughout those years, but by the time I got into or just before my senior year of high school, I was introduced to athletic training,” she continued. She then attended an introductory PT course for interested high school students. The instructor was a White male.

Despite the lack of diversity in PT, Rolle looked toward a medical career. “Prior to graduating [from high school] I was at a crossroad,” she said. Although she looked at several schools, she questioned whether she wanted to spend the necessary years in school. “I didn’t want to go to med school anymore. I don’t think I wanted to be in school that long.” 

Yet she loved athletics, and being an athletic trainer seemed ideal for her. She settled on studying PT as a result. “I ended up, needless to say, going to school after undergrad for an additional three years.”

As a PT, Rolle said her roles can be multiple, including “unofficial counselor” with her clients “telling you a lot of their personal issues that they’re going through, good or bad. You want to be able to approach your relationship with [clients] from a holistic viewpoint or perspective. You’re not just treating the condition, the injury—you’re treating the whole athlete, and you have to be able to feel that comfortable, trusting relationship with them.

“I’m still in the process of getting to my ideal career,” Rolle said, “being able to operate and function and work in a way that honors my vision, my vision for my work life, my vision for my personal life. And more importantly, what honors God.

“I want to leave a mark, be impactful in the lives of each and every person.”

Next in the series – Yes, Virginia, there are Black female doctors.