photos: Erick Anderson (top), provided by Brooke (bottom)
Brooke is starting her third seasons with the Tennessee Titans and holds a Bachelor’s degree from Western Kentucky University in Exercise Science and a Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy from Milligan College. She plans to begin a Doctorate in Occupational Therapy in the next 1-2 years!
What turned you on to science and when?
My interest in science began in high school, but it was when I began college that I made the decision to pursue a health care-related major. I chose exercise science because it provided me with a baseline knowledge of the human body and facilitated an understanding of the links between fitness, exercise, diet, and health. This major also provided me post-collegiate options in order to obtain a more advanced degree.
Why did you try out to be a professional cheerleader?
I grew up dancing at a young age, my mother owned a dance studio, and therefore naturally dancing has always been an integral part of my life. I also share a love of football. I grew up near Nashville, TN and would attend Tennessee Titans games growing up. I also wanted to be a part of the Nashville community and have an avenue to be able to give back to the community I grew up in. After graduate school, I moved back to Nashville and had the opportunity to audition to become a Tennessee Titans cheerleader.
Please describe what you do as an occupational therapist.
As an occupational therapist you are able to work in a variety of settings (school systems, outpatient facilities, rehabilitation hospitals, inpatient/acute care hospitals, skilled nursing facilities). I work at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in the acute care setting; so the patients I work with have been admitted into the hospital and have some type of disability or illness that hinders them from functioning as they would normally. Occupational therapists (O.T.) in the acute care setting work with patients to regain their ability to complete their daily task/need(s). We call them ADLs (activities of daily living), which include dressing, bathing, toileting, grooming, self-feeding, and IADLs (instrumental activities of daily living), which include cooking, managing medication, laundry, household tasks, driving, etc. O.T. also has the skills to makes splints and provides exercises if someone has an upper extremity/hand injury. O.T. plays a vital role in making discharge recommendations to the physicians on what the next level of care should be after patients leave the hospital. Working in a teaching hospital also allows me to engage in research project/studies in order to stay up to date in my career.
The flow of my workday is typically treating 6-8 patients a day, meeting with nurse practitioners, attending physicians, case managers, and social workers to discuss patients progress regarding rehabilitation. I currently work on the orthopedic, geriatric, and general medicine floors in the hospital, so a lot of patients have had an orthopedic surgery and need education on post surgical restrictions/precautions and with the aging population that may have had falls at home or have become weak from an acute illness.
How do the qualities that make you a great cheerleader benefit you in your O.T. career?
I find that working as an O.T. and working as an NFL cheerleader actually have a lot of similarities. I am a ‘cheerleader ’often times working as an O.T. to motivate patients to reach their goals and to help patients regain small steps in order to return to their normal lives outside of the hospital setting. You have to be very motivating and positive when you work in a hospital setting. Most people have injuries or have a lot of pain, so you have to possess qualities to be able to talk with all types of people and have a high level of compassion.
The two jobs provide a unique balance in my life. I see a lot of devastating situations in the hospital setting so when I have the opportunity to spend time in the Nashville, TN community and at Tennessee Titans games cheering and talking with fans, it is exhilarating. The excitement in the stadium is something that is hard to put into words. The balance between my two jobs helps me to be humble. I am humbled by the mere opportunity to be a part of the NFL and humbled at my job as a therapist to be able to help people.
How do you feel about breaking down negative stereotypes about cheerleaders?
Unfortunately, in our society the cheerleader stereotype does still exist. I feel like it is more motivating to demonstrate and educate those individuals that may think you can’t be in a science-related field and be a cheerleader. It is always enlightening when co-workers including other therapists, nurses, or doctors realize I am also an NFL cheerleader. They are always so surprised, but positive and eager to hear how I balance the two jobs. I feel that sometimes those are the moments the stereotypes begin to break down and people realize that cheerleaders are so much more than what they may see on the field.
Best cheerleading experience?
If I had to choose just one experience to be the best I would have to say, walking out onto LP Field for the very first time. The crowd is so excited and loud, and it’s breathtaking to have the opportunity to be a part of the NFL community and have the best seats in the house cheering on the sidelines!
Best science-related experience?
The best science-related experience was probably working with a young woman who suffered a car accident with multiple physical/emotional injuries. I worked in a trauma unit at the time in an acute care hospital and helped assist the young woman onto her feet. At that moment she was able to begin engaging in simple tasks like brushing her teeth or putting a shirt on herself. Her mother was unable to see her out of the hospital bed in many days prior to this moment and tears filled her eyes, as she wasn’t sure if her daughter would ever be herself again. At that moment, the young woman was beginning the rehabilitation process and able to begin her recovery from the accident by engaging in daily tasks. It is always an amazing experience to be a part of something so significant in someone’s life.
What advice would you give your 12-year-old self?
Advice that I would give my 12 year- old self would be to never compare yourself to others; each person has their own special gifts and strengths. My coach, Stacie Kinder always says, “Set your own goals and strive to reach them in order to be the very best version of yourself!” I love those words because they can be true for anyone and in any situation!
What’s one thing people might find especially surprising about you?
I do not enjoy getting ready or putting on make up. I would rather wear shorts and t-shirts than to get all dressed up.