Dr. Drew Lukes ’19 Shares His Journey from Communications Major to Physical Therapist
Drew Lukes, PT, DPT, SCS, CSCS, a 2019 graduate from the University of Minnesota Medical School, loves his role as a physical therapist with Duke Athletics, but it wasn’t a straight path for him to get there.
Dr. Lukes originally pursued communications, earning his undergraduate degree from University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2009 with a major in communications and a minor in coaching.
After graduation, Dr. Lukes spent time in Scotland working as the assistant resident director for a UW-system-based study abroad program — a program that he also participated in during his undergraduate studies.
A year later, Dr. Lukes moved back to the states and settled down in Minneapolis to look for work. He landed a job in corporate America working for a software company.
“Software was never an intention of mine. After graduating in the recession, it was just a job to pay the bills,” Dr. Lukes said. “But, it helped me realize what I didn’t want to do with my life.”
During this time, Dr. Lukes got married to his wife, who he credits with playing a big role in where he is now.
“Both of my parents are in the medical field, and for whatever reason, I always felt like I would end up in the medical field as well. I took a lot of anatomy and physiology classes while completing my coaching minor. I absolutely loved learning about the musculoskeletal system, and those were by far my favorite classes.” Dr. Lukes said.
“Physical therapy (PT) seemed like it would be a good fit for my interests, but it took me a long time to work up the courage to quit my job and actually do it,” he added. “My wife knew I wasn’t happy in my work, and she not only believed in me but pushed me to make a career change. She is probably the big reason I am where I am today. I owe her so much.”
In 2014, Dr. Lukes made the leap and quit the software job to pursue his dreams. After picking up enough prerequisites needed for medical school, he joined the physical therapy program at the U of M Medical School in 2016.
“My time in the PT program was unique — I was a little bit older than most of my class, married and working to manage 60 apartment units while taking classes. Despite this, I was determined to take advantage of whatever opportunities I had, and the U of M offered exactly what I was looking for,” Dr. Lukes said.
Dr. Lukes completed a traveling clinical rotation in Niger, Africa, where he provided PT services for people in Africa and helped teach classes at their medical school. He also volunteered and was in a leadership role at the student-run Phillips Neighborhood Clinic in Minneapolis that provides free services to people that are underinsured or uninsured, and he was class co-president.
He went on to complete a sports physical therapy residency at UW-Madison and a fellowship in Division I athletics at Duke University.
Upon completion of his fellowship in 2021, Dr. Lukes was hired on to the Duke Athletic Medicine staff as a physical therapist. He also leads the sports science data collection and analysis for women’s soccer, women’s lacrosse and women’s volleyball and serves as a teaching assistant for multiple courses in the Duke University Physical Therapy Program, helping conduct ACL-related research in the K-Lab.
Dr. Lukes enjoys the challenges that come with working in a Division I athletics setting.
“For me, the environment of Division I athletics provides an extra layer of difficulty in my practice. The demands required of a Division I athlete to return to their same level of performance after injury are significant. There is pressure from not only the athletes, but parents, coaching staff and a myriad of other interested parties,” Dr. Lukes said. “With that said, I love the opportunity to work in a collaborative environment with so many brilliant people. So for me and the way my brain works, this environment is a challenge for me. I really like that about my work.”
“I feel very fortunate and incredibly humbled to be in the position I am in. I truly believe I would not be where I am today without those individuals who were willing to invest in me. I feel indebted to those that took a chance on me — those that were willing to vouch for me, provide mentorship, writing a letter of recommendations or including me in their network,” he said. “I definitely don’t take that for granted.”