Carol Madary Ehlen '90, P.T. '93, and Colleen Madary Wesel '92, P.T. '96 : Two Sisters, One Field
By LeeAnn Kriegh '94
Growing up together in Medford, Ore., sisters Carol Madary Ehlen '90, P.T. '93, and Colleen Madary Wesel '92, P,T, '96, shared the same room for 16 years. They also shared the same interest in band, the same love for volleyball, and the same passion for the sciences. But that was only the beginning.
Two years after Carol chose Pacific, younger sister Colleen did the same, and the pair lived together while Carol began her studies in Pacific's School of Physical Therapy (PT). Their paths, which had been so closely intertwined up to that point, nearly diverged when Colleen, who earned her undergraduate degree in biology, started considering her own career path. She wanted to go to graduate school at Pacific, but she insisted physical therapy never crossed her mind.
"I thought about going into optometry, but I never had trouble with my eyes and didn't really know anything about that," she said. "Both my parents were teachers, so I knew that was the last thing I wanted to do. I finally told my adviser maybe occupational therapy was right for me."
Knowing Colleen's interest in athletics, her adviser pointed her toward a more obvious choice: physical therapy. "I was so surprised," Colleen recalled. "I hadn't been thinking about it because my sister was doing it, and I guess at that point I wanted my own separate identity."
By choosing once more to follow in her sister's footsteps, Colleen may have given up a bit of independence, but she gained a career she said she enjoys, as well as even greater camaraderie with her sister. "We're each other's physical therapist now, which is great for both of us," Colleen said. The sisters take continuing education classes together, and Colleen said they share a similar holistic approach to treating patients.
Carol, who is married to Rick Ehlen, O.D. '92, earned her undergraduate degree in chemistry and almost pursued graduate school in the subject, but "decided to go into something more people-oriented." Physical therapy also appealed to her because she had suffered an injury in high school and she found the work interesting.
"You get to help a lot of people; it's rewarding in that way," she said. "PT is a good field, and I've been fortunate to be able to pick the days and hours I want to work." For her part, Colleen said, "I love being a physical therapist. I'm so fortunate I got into a career I love."
Carol said one of the sisters' bonds growing up was the need to combine forces against their older brother. "If he was being mean, we'd try to team up against him," she said with a laugh. More importantly, she said she and her sister have similar likes and dislikes and share a calm temperament.
Even now, they share many other things as well. They both work on outpatients at hospital satellite clinics - Colleen in Aloha, Ore., and Carol in Eugene, Ore. They both work part-time while they raise their young children - Colleen has two, Carol three - and they both focus their practice on orthopedics.
Colleen insisted the two "are not carbon copies of each other." She said she's messier than her sister and Carol shoulders the big-sister role. "She has always kind of looked after me, kind of like a second mother," Colleen said. "She's always offering advice - good advice, and most of the time I try to follow it."