Body of Work: Educator, Physical Therapist at Home, at Lackawanna College
Physical therapy and cybersecurity may not have a lot in common on the surface, but Kelly Musti, P.T., D.P.T., has come to realize things sometimes are more similar than they are different.
Musti, a physical therapist by trade, now serves as associate vice president of academic affairs and dean of health sciences at Lackawanna College. Musti’s role also includes overseeing the Kiesendahl School of Hospitality and Tourism as well as the Center for Technology Innovation programs.
Though she never saw herself working in education at all, at its core, her mission remains the same as it was when she worked as a physical therapist: helping others.
“To be able to help others to better themselves, through physical therapy or through continuing education, I can’t think of a better way to spend my time,” Musti said, who lives in Clarks Summit and has two daughters, Amelia, 6, and Annelise, 2, with husband, Geoff, and dog, Roxy.
Musti grew up in New Jersey and enrolled at University of Scranton, where she earned a doctorate in physical therapy. While she never had a set path to become a physical therapist, she fell in love with it along the way. The way we use our bodies and what our bodies do for us fascinated Musti.
“The body was just so cool to me. … And we take the body for granted until something goes wrong,” she said. “(Working in physical therapy), I learned to appreciate the beauty in seeing the body heal itself without needing anything else except just exercise or different movements. It was so enriching to me that I realized this was my career.”
After graduation, Musti moved back to her hometown to work as a physical therapist in direct patient care. When she was working, Musti also would occasionally speak to students in PT programs or serve as a clinical instructor, which sparked something inside her. While being in any profession for long enough can leave a person feeling jaded, the students’ eagerness to learn was refreshing and inspiring.
“It was cool to be an observer and help to foster their love of physical therapy,” she said.
A few years passed and Musti and her husband were ready to settle down and raise a family, so they moved back to the Scranton area, which is her husband’s home region. Musti was looking for a job in Northeast Pennsylvania when she noticed Lackawanna College was hiring for its physical therapist assistant (PTA) program. With a nudge from her family, Musti decided to apply and was shocked and happy when she landed the position.
“I thought, ‘I love direct patient care too much (to leave the profession for education) and they’ll probably pick somene else, someone more qualified anyway,’” she remembered saying to herself. “Then, I started with Lackawanna and, honestly, I’ve been here and loved it ever since.”
At the heart of her mission, Musti loves connecting with students. She enjoys listening to their ideas and watching them succeed, whether they’re recent high school graduates continuing their education, adults changing careers or those who are going to school for the first time later in their lives.
“It’s an inspiring work environment and it’s like no other, I can tell you that,” she said. “The students who have come through these doors always amaze me.”
Though physical therapy will always be Musti’s first love (she continues to teach PTA courses when she can and even worked per diem as a physical therapist at Geisinger Community Medical Center, Scranton, up until the end of last year), Musti’s position and responsibilities at Lackawanna have evolved over time. She was named program director of the PTA track before she was promoted to a dean role, overseeing the college’s health care programs. This now has expanded to overseeing the school of hospitality and the center for technology innovation programs. Students in this program will receive training in robotics, cybersecurity and electric vehicle and advanced automotive technologies. The program is set to launch classes as early as this fall and get inside of its new home on the corner of Mulberry Street and Adams Avenue sometime in fall 2024.
Supervising and organizing several different programs is a huge undertaking, but Musti credits her countless mentors in both physical therapy and higher education for encouraging her to keep reaching for something new.
“I’m very excited about (the new program) and I’m also very lucky that the college has noticed how dedicated I am and how committed I am to this region in wanting to do whatever I can to make it better,” she said.
Musti juggles many moving parts in her day-to-day, which can seem daunting considering she began her career in health care and now oversees programs in completely different fields like technology and hospitality. However, Musti’s passion for learning keeps her motivated and she swears she learns something new every single day.
“I think in the beginning I was maybe a little intimidated, but I’m so eager to learn about something new, like the ins and outs of a totally different profession,” she said. “We have incredible program directors who are so knowledgeable and I love working with them toward these common goals.”
This is something Musti tries to pass on to students. For instance, Musti explained that if a PTA is one day employed in a clinical setting, they may have to work with a cybersecurity professional to learn to use the specific software for the office’s patient database. Even though a student may not think they will cross paths, it benefits everyone to get used to working together and honing those interpersonal and communication skills. Musti has facilitated interprofessional events for students to mingle and get to know each other and what they do in their respective fields. This not only motivates students in their respective career tracks, but also facilitates teamwork and professionalism within members of the future workforce.
“I think, at the heart of it, no matter what field you’re working in, it all boils down to interpersonal relationships and professionalism,” she said. “If you know how to connect in meaningful ways and you can see where the other person is coming from and be open to learning and accepting new ideas, that’s really it.”
Though Musti did not grow up in NEPA, she feels home here. While in college, she said she didn’t get to see much of the area beyond the U of S campus. Musti was able to appreciate the beauty and close-knit ties of the region when she and her husband settled here. As a transplant, she’s amazed by the rich history and heritage of Scranton and the surrounding areas. She’s also taken aback by the compassion and care from family, friends and neighbors.
“I was embraced so quickly, but mostly, I’m just happy for my children. I’m glad they will grow up in a place where they have so many people who are interested in what they do and who love and care about them. I’m so happy they have great friends with wonderful families,” she said. “This area is pretty special and being able to be part of it and giving back to the community (through my work at Lackawanna) is the least I can do to pay it forward.”
Musti stays focused on the future of Lackawanna College, seizing opportunities to connect with students and colleagues and do her part to help NEPA thrive. Musti continues to inspire – and be inspired – by all the different facets of her life and work.
“I love waking up and coming to work every day,” she said. “I couldn’t have imagined I would be here today, but I’m so grateful I am. You never know where you’re going to end up.”
Read the original article written by The Times Tribune’s Gia Mazur Merwine.