Philip Heine, left, and Mackenzie Hutto are earning their doctoral degrees in physical therapy and will marry in June.
Philip Heine, left, and Mackenzie Hutto are earning their doctoral degrees in physical therapy and will marry in June.
Main Content

#UMMCGrad2023: ‘Dynamic duo’ in PT caps off busy semester with wedding in June

Published on Monday, April 10, 2023

By: Danny Barrett Jr., dlbarrett@umc.edu

Photos By: Jay Ferchaud/ UMMC Communications

They say opposites attract, but there’s a healthy competitive streak in Mackenzie Hutto and Philip Heine that bonds them like good teammates.

“She’s better speaking in front of people than I am,” said Heine, a Madison native, as they neared completion of their doctoral degrees in physical therapy in May. Heine was a golfer in high school and college, which is perhaps the best clue to his ideal study setting.

“I’m more of a quiet and independent studier,” he said. “I can’t have noise whatsoever. So, we don’t study together.” 

Hutto, whose background is dance, naturally loves a good soundtrack to her study sessions.

“I have to have music or some kind of background noise going to concentrate,” she said. “We’ve had to learn how to not be too competitive with each other with grades and such. Just get the A and leave the details under the rug.”

They met and courted while attending the University of Southern Mississippi, where they were in the same kinesiology class.

“I just couldn’t figure out who he was,” Hutto remembers. “He wasn’t in a fraternity or anything like that, but I just thought he was cute. Then I saw him in a restaurant one night. My friend pulled him over to the side and introduced us. Our first date was at the same place.”

Heine and Hutto share a tender moment after Heine proposes before heading off to clinicals this semester. Each is earning a doctoral degree in physical therapy before their wedding in June.

Heine was an all-region golfer in junior college at Copiah-Lincoln Community College before becoming a Conference USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll selection in each of two years on the team at USM. Hutto, a native of Waynesboro, was a member of the storied Pride of Mississippi Precision Dance Team, and each honed in on the other’s athletic resumes much like a skilled recruiter.

“She’s a beautiful person to start with, so that drew my eye first,” he said. “But afterward, I saw how involved she was with dance competitions outside of school.”

Seeing loved ones fight health battles is what put them on the road to helping people of all ages get back on their feet physically after an injury or health condition.

“My father is also a physical therapist and had a partial spinal cord injury when I was a senior in high school,” Heine said just before his eight weeks of clinical work in Atlanta, where he assisted those recovering from strokes, heart issues and traumatic injuries similar to his dad’s.

“The work is near and dear to my heart, with my dad having had such an injury,” he said. “Seeing him recover from that and the impact he had made on those in the field who came back to help him recover just drove me into pursuing PT even more.”

Hutto’s credential in PT will have come after some soul-searching as to just which health care career best suited her.

“Neither med school nor nursing school was for me,” she said. “A friend of mine in kinesiology told me, ‘Why don’t you just try it? You’re very athletic and you like helping people.’ I didn’t think I had the patience to be in physical therapy, but I met the faculty and people involved and found that it was what I’m called to do.

“I lost one of my good friends to leukemia in the 10th grade. She was here at the Batson Tower, so this place holds a special part in my heart. Since then, I’ve made it a goal of mine to help kids and their parents stay as active as they can.”

Graduation in May is just the first part of a busy summer for them – they plan to marry on June 24. And as with Heine, Hutto’s also doing eight weeks of clinicals, at an outpatient pediatric physical therapy facility in Nashville. In August, she begins a yearlong stint in UMMC’s pediatric certified residency program. And all that follows a year where Hutto served as president of her class and of SHRP student government.

Going “long-distance” in their relationship isn’t new for them, as he worked an internship at a PT clinic in Madison while she finished up her undergraduate degree on the Gulf Coast. “It all works out for us because we stay so busy with what we’re trying to do with our lives,” Heine said.

To their instructors, their persistence has made them just another part of the SHRP family.

Portrait of Janet Slaughter

“Mackenzie sets a goal, finds out the best way to meet it and then puts her whole self into accomplishing it,” said Dr. Janet Slaughter, professor of physical therapy. “She possesses the ability to rally people around her to accomplish a mission. Philip is a solid rock with a quiet and gentle spirit. He just strives for excellence in whatever he does.

“Together, they make a dynamic duo and will surely accomplish anything they put their minds to.”