CHT in the Making: Sadie Kurk #HTW2024

In honor of Hand Therapy Week 2024, Axes celebrates hand therapists everywhere. Hand therapists (CHT) are experts in managing acute, chronic and post-surgical conditions of the upper extremity resulting in the loss of function and inability to perform daily activities. From our newer grads to seasoned hand therapists, we are so incredibly proud of the 12 highly-skilled clinicians that make up our Hand Therapy team.

Our Hand Therapy team has grown and expanded with our steadfast, company-wide dedication to continuing education. Axes Physical Therapy has developed an in house mentorship process that pairs therapists new to hand rehabilitation with highly experienced hand therapists. This goal of this process is to assist in furthering his/her hand and upper extremity rehabilitation knowledge base and patient care, while also serving as preparation for the Certified Hand Therapist (CHT) exam. Special congratulations to Axes therapist, Haley Finnegan, OTR/L, who earned her highly esteemed CHT designation last week! Haley has been dubbed the Queen of Splints by one of her mentors, Julie Freiner, OTR/L, CHT.

Last week, we sat down with one of our current mentees, Sadie Kurk, to hear about her journey to become a Hand Therapist and her time in the Axes Hand Therapy Mentorship Program. Let’s hear from this CHT in the making and a few of her mentors…

Sadie, Tell me a little bit about yourself. Are you from St. Louis? Where did you go to school? What about college?

“I’m actually from Quincy, IL, a little town where I spent most of my childhood. However, I’ve called St. Louis home since 2017, and I’ve really grown to love this city. For my education, I attended Maryville University. During my time there, I earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology, with a minor in rehabilitation counseling, and went on to complete my master’s degree in Occupational Therapy. It was a really great experience that laid a solid foundation for my career.”

You’re a pretty new grad! Congratulations on all of your hard work paying off. What made you want to work in the field of Occupational Therapy? Moreover, what made you want to become a Hand Therapist?

“Thank you so much! My journey into occupational therapy began when I was a junior in high school. I was looking for a career that was deeply rooted in helping people and making a tangible difference in their lives, and occupational therapy seemed like the perfect fit. It’s such a patient-centered field, and that really appealed to me. My passion for hand therapy, in particular, grew during my time as a student. I spent the majority of my observation hours in hand therapy settings, and my final clinical rotation with Jeff Cowdry truly sealed the deal for me. Jeff taught me a valuable lesson: “touch people’s hearts before you touch their hands.” That philosophy resonated with me deeply and continues to guide my practice every day.”

Choosing a place to start your career as a Hand Therapist was a big decision! What made you choose Axes?

“Choosing Axes was an easy decision for me, honestly. The people here and the values they uphold were major factors in my choice. The atmosphere at Axes is always warm and welcoming, with every staff member going above and beyond to support each patient. It feels like a community where everyone genuinely cares about each other’s well-being and success, and that’s exactly the kind of environment I wanted to be a part of.”

Who are your professional mentors?

“I have been incredibly fortunate to have mentors like Jeff Cowdry and Julie Freiner. Both have provided me with invaluable guidance and support throughout my career. Additionally, everyone at Axes has been amazing. The collective knowledge and encouragement from my colleagues here have been crucial as I continue to grow and advance in my practice.”

What about your job is your “Why”?

“What I love most about working in hand therapy as an occupational therapist is the opportunity to witness my patients’ progress firsthand. There’s nothing more rewarding than helping someone regain their ability to perform activities they love and seeing the joy and confidence that brings. It’s incredibly fulfilling to be a part of their journey to recovery and to make a positive impact on their lives.”

Do you plan to sit for the CHT exam? 

“Yes, I absolutely plan to take the Certified Hand Therapist (CHT) exam! I’m aiming to do so in about three years, once I meet the eligibility requirements. It’s a challenging exam, but I’m looking forward to the opportunity to further validate my skills and expertise in hand therapy.”

What advice would you give to young students that are considering becoming a Hand Therapist?

“My advice to students interested in hand therapy is to get as much hands-on experience as possible. Observing a hand therapist or working as a tech can provide invaluable insights into what the job entails. Additionally, try to observe multiple Certified Hand Therapists (CHTs) to understand different approaches to problem-solving and patient care. This exposure will not only help you decide if this is the right path for you but also broaden your perspective and enhance your learning.”

Not only did we get to hear from Kenzie, her mentor had quite a bit to say, too…


We are so proud of you all – Sadie, Jeff, Julie, Claire, Megan, Mackenzie, Sharon, Annie, Matt, Sara, Chantell, Shawn, Haley, Jen, Dena, Sarah – our entire team of hand and upper extremity experts that we are building at Axes Physical Therapy. Thank you, Hand Therapists everywhere, for your dedication to serving and improving the lives of your patients and your communities. Happy Hand Therapy Week!

If you are experiencing pain, symptoms, or limitations – we encourage you to have your condition evaluated by a Certified Hand Therapist at one of our 20 Greater St. Louis area locations offering hand therapy services. We understand the physical and emotional toll that accompanies these injuries and we are here for you. After all, helping you is what we do.

To schedule an appointment with any of our expert physical therapists, request an appointment online today.