Whether focusing on his work as a physical therapist or game inventor, Andrew Wheeler ’04, ’05 is goal-oriented, creative, and driven to succeed.
Dr. Andrew Wheeler, ’04, ’05 was extremely active as a student at Daemen College. The Central New York native chose Daemen because of the strong reputation of its physical therapy program, and he was among the first class of graduates when the college developed its doctorate program in physical therapy.
As a Daemen student, Wheeler, who received a bachelor’s degree in natural science and went on to earn a doctor of physical therapy, was involved in the Student Association. He also co-founded, with fellow alumnus Mike Patane, Daemen’s Student Alumni Association (SAA), which still operates today. The college is also where he met his wife, Kathleen Henninger Wheeler ’03, ’04, at the first student activity he attended at Daemen – an ice-breaking game designed to introduce students to one another.
“I loved my time at Daemen, especially working with the Alumni Association and helping the alumni director,” recalls Wheeler. “I learned so much from the interaction with other students, graduates, and supporters of the college. I draw upon that ability to work with many different types of people every day. It was part of my Daemen education.”
Caring and Inventing
Upon graduation, Wheeler went right to work as a physical therapist at a sub-acute rehabilitation facility in the Buffalo area. He currently works for the Visiting Nurses Association of Kaleida Health, providing home care for patients and specializing in ostomy consulting and wound healing, a discipline taught as part of Daemen’s Physical erapy Program.
During his junior year at Daemen, Wheeler was studying with Dr. Greg Ford, ’95, ’00, ’04, chair of the physical therapy department and associate professor, when he made a suggestion for improving the orthopedic table being used in a patient demonstration. The professor liked the idea and Wheeler decided to pursue making a prototype. That led to a patent application for the idea, a type of stabilization system that helps with patient orientation on the table. Several years after he graduated, a leading manufacturer of medical equipment took an interest in the idea, licensed, and developed the patent pending system, and will launch it in the near future.
Partners in Invention
Wheeler met Phil Tudisco,’05, ’13 when they were students at Daemen and they quickly became friends. With degrees from Daemen in psychology and executive leadership and change, Tudisco had helped Wheeler with the business side of his table support invention. He was also there to help when the light bulb went off on another of Wheeler’s inventions.
Wheeler had not seen Tudisco for a few years when they ran into each other at a Daemen alumni event. The friends reconnected and Tudisco invited Wheeler, now married to Kathleen, over to watch a hockey game with a group of people. Wheeler had crafted what was essentially a mini, indoor KanJam game out of beach pails and a small Frisbee disc, and brought the game to Tudisco’s. The friends loved the idea and played the game much of the night. their enthusiasm convinced Wheeler and Tudisco that they were on to something.
The partners approached KanJam in Buffalo, the company that makes the original outdoor game, and they also loved the idea. Wheeler and Tudisco licensed the mini game through KanJam, and it is available as part of the company’s product line. The partners then invented and created KanJam Hard Count, a combination of KanJam, ultimate Frisbee, and fo otball that can be played in smaller backyards.
Wheeler balances his work as a physical therapist and the life of an inventor by working on his ideas when his daughter, age 6, and son, age 3, are in bed. He says his Daemen education plays a role on both sides, providing him w ith the m edical knowledge and training, while also instilling problem-solving and creative thinking skills that go into inventing.
“Daemen taught me about working with people, having a creative outlet, and pursuing ne w ideas,” Wheeler concludes. “that’s why I am so happy to return to Daemen and give back by helping current students as part of the school’s mentor program.”