For Nicholas Annichiarico, DO, last year was one of new beginnings. After completing a physical medicine and rehabilitation residency at the UK College of Medicine, he joined the faculty as an assistant professor and physiatrist.

Just as Dr. Annichiarico’s career has soared to new heights, so has he – literally. In March of 2021, he started learning how to become a pilot. He has completed approximately one-fifth of his training in order to take the official flight test.

The idea had been a longstanding one, but it really took flight when Dr. Annichiarico learned that a small plane would be a convenient way to visit friends in smaller towns with municipal airports.

“I always thought it would be pretty cool to learn how to do it,” he said. “I think once my time opened up as a fourth-year resident, it came more to the forefront, and I was like, I think I can do this now.”

If there was anything that could have prepared him for the high-stakes, complex training it takes to fly an airplane, it was becoming a physician. Dr. Annichiarico completed four years of medical school in New Jersey, where he is from, and then landed at UK for his residency. He has been in Lexington since July of 2017.

As a physiatrist with UK HealthCare he is stationed at Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Center, Dr. Annichiarico typically sees patients diagnosed with strokes, brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and amputations. His team also helps with musculoskeletal-related conditions like shoulder pain, knee pain, and back pain. Though they don’t perform surgery, they do complete interventions and administer injections.

“If you ask any physiatrist, you probably get something a little different,” he said. “A cardiologist is a heart doctor, a nephrologist is a kidney doctor, and we are like function doctors. Whenever someone has anything that impacts their ability to function and live their life, that falls within the realm of what we do.”

His goal of flying to friends’ small towns won’t be in the near future, as that will take more certification. Beyond making sure his skills aren’t rusty, Dr. Annichiarico is in no rush to complete his pilot training. Instead, he enjoys it as a hobby and is learning at his own pace while his medical career takes off.

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