Special to the Village News
William Atkins’ lifetime career choice to be a physical therapist is written in his DNA.
The pugilistic accomplishments of two generations of Atkins men, his grandfather and his father, fueled family stories and inspired in longtime Fallbrook resident Atkins a devotion to both community sports and a profession that helps injured athletes and non-athletes alike get back on top of their game.
“Athleticism does run in the family so I suppose it was a natural choice for me to go into physical therapy and sports medicine,” said Atkins. The 61-year-old is an orthopedic clinical specialist and certified strength and conditioning specialist who heads All Star Physical Therapy in Fallbrook.
Although he didn’t take up the family passion for pugilism, Bill Atkins also learned early on that physical size should not stop a person from achieving athletic goals.
Arriving in Fallbrook in 1957 while still a toddler, after his parents moved from their farm in Vista, Atkins grew up and played in the freshly planted groves of avocado and citrus trees that were beginning to populate the hillsides. He attended school in Fallbrook and graduated from Fallbrook High School, but not before he made an athletic dream of his own a reality.
“I wasn’t interested in boxing. It was football for me, and I wanted to be a linebacker,” said a smiling Atkins, who, despite a calm demeanor and a middling sized frame better suited to be a corner back, managed to earn his defensive position behind the scrimmage line.
After high school sports, Atkins graduated from California State University Long Beach in 1981 with a bachelor of science in physical therapy, a profession that involved the treatment of a disease or an injury of the muscles or joints with massage, exercises, heat, assistance devices and patient education and training.
Atkins’ career choice was perfectly timed with technological changes sweeping through the field. Although the use of physical therapy is as old as Hippocrates. The profession grew in the modern age after both world wars, and by the 1980s, the explosion of technology such as ultrasound, electric stimulators and computers led to more technical advances in rehabilitation.
Returning to his roots, to the Fallbrook community where his father Raymond and mother Lillian Atkins were busy running their avocado and citrus nursery, which still operates today under the Atkins name but under different ownership, Atkins began working as a registered physical therapist at Fallbrook Hospital in 1981.
In 1984, he started his own physical therapy business in Temecula, adding two partners along the way and, by 2006, Atkins’ company had successfully expanded to include 19 clinics located throughout Moreno Valley, Riverside, southwest Riverside County and North County San Diego, including Fallbrook.
However, Atkins was dealt a hard blow when unforeseen circumstances in 2013 led to his departure from the company he built. He and his two partners, who also left the business, were faced with the question about how to start anew in providing physical therapy services for the community.
Luckily, Atkins also has pluck and confidence in his genes and doesn’t let life’s obstacles get in his way.
So in 2013, Atkins joined All Star Physical Therapy, Inc., a company which had been founded by occupational therapist Paul DiMeglio in 2008 and consisted of two clinics at the time Atkins and his two partners signed on. Today All Star Physical Therapy is a bustling business comprised of 16 physical therapy clinics in Riverside and San Diego counties.
Atkins opened All Star Physical Therapy’s Fallbrook facility which, in addition to usually having a busy waiting area full of patients, has a staff of five physical therapists as well as assistants, aides and office personnel.
Two of the physical therapists at the Fallbrook facility have worked with Atkins for years – Carrie Loomis, PT, MPT, hand specialist, for 17 years and Amanda Lucy, PT, DPT, for nine years – and they happily continue to describe Atkins as inspirational, very attentive to patients, treats the staff as family and someone they “learn from everyday.”
The family genes continue to play it forward for Atkins’ and his wife Lori’s sons, Andrew and Aaron.
“Both of our sons played football for Fallbrook High School and then in college, and now both of them are practicing physical therapists,” said Atkins with quiet pride.
“Andrew has a doctorate in physical therapy and works at All Star Physical Therapy in Temecula. And Aaron is at USC with one year left to go for his doctorate in physical therapy,” he said.
Today, Atkins’ physical therapy business is busier than ever.
“I knew that, no matter what, I always wanted to continue with offering physical therapy services because that is what I love to do,” he said. “There is such a need for it, what with the Baby Boomers getting older, post-surgery rehabilitation and balance building for the very elderly and more injuries in youth sports, particularly for young women because they are now in sports too.”
Atkins continues to do the work he was destined to do and still enjoys every day of it.
All Star Physical Therapy’s Fallbrook clinic is located at 577 Elder Street, Suite I. For more information, call (760) 723-2687 or visit www.allstarphysicaltherapy.net/find-a-location/589-elder-street-fallbrook/.