I originally wrote this blog about 4 years ago, but this year as I have started teaching for the first time in a formal setting I have been reflecting on the role of teachers in my life as well as the reasons that students have for coming a PT in the first place. Reading through the letter for the first time in years, even though I am in a different state/clinic etc., I can honestly say that I still feel the same way about my profession. Enjoy!
One of the most common questions that I get (on almost a daily basis) is why/how did I get into the profession of physical therapy? The answer is simple and fairly unusual. Ms. Greenberg.
I was fortunate enough to go to a public high school in NY that had a program for kids who interested in medical science. My junior year I took an elective class in sports medicine. I was so excited for this class and I can still remember the first assignment that I was given (which was a current events in sports medicine assignment).
Before I took this class I thought that for sure I was going to become a teacher. I grew up in a family of teachers, my parents, aunt, uncle etc all teachers. My high school lacrosse coach/mentor also a teacher. If you asked me what I was going to be when I was 16 my answer was probably a phys ed teacher/lacrosse coach. Everything changed when I stepped into that class. The class itself while interesting was not necessarily the most serious or challenging class ever but it was my teacher’s ability to recognize my interest and her caring to take the time to talk to me about it, to introduce me to a profession where I could continue to learn and teach and help people move and feel better. After my junior year in high school I was lucky enough to know exactly what I wanted to do and I have never looked back. I love my profession and it is because of one amazing person, an amazing teacher that I am lucky enough to be part of the only profession that I can imagine working in. I see it as my job to pay back the gift that was given to me by not only remaining a student but by teaching everything that I know and discover to my patients, colleagues and students. The teaching aspect of physical therapy is the most important part. All of the manual therapy and fancy techniques in the world do not matter if you can not teach someone how to manage their own condition. I owe Ms. Greenberg everything, I certainly owe her a long overdue thank you. I recently tracked her down and sent her a letter. Before I share a bit of that letter I will say that if you have someone that changed your life, a mentor, teacher etc track them down and thank them, and do them proud every day by passing along the knowledge that they imparted on you.
Dear Ms. Greenberg,
I hope this email finds you well. I was a student of yours in your sports medicine class at Midwood High School in 2000, when I was a junior. I owe you a long overdue thank you. I get asked all the time why/how I got into my profession and you are the answer every single time. Your class was the start but it was your teaching ability and your caring to talk to me about career paths and push me in the right direction that have allowed me to pursue the only career and profession that I have ever wanted.
After graduating from Midwood in 2001 I was accepted into a 5 year Masters in physical therapy program at Ithaca College. While I was there the profession was going through some major changes and making a shift towards a clinical Doctorate degree. I was luck enough to finish the 5 year Masters and go for a Doctorate immediately after.
After graduating and passing my boards I moved to California and began working at an outpatient orthopedic clinic with a strong sports medicine focus. I worked there for 2 years after deciding that I wanted to move to Seattle and become a better therapist. I knew that I was good at treating sports injuries and post surgical conditions but I also knew that I had a lot that I could learn about treating chronic and subacute conditions. I wanted to train as a manual therapist and found a clinic in Seattle that would mentor me in manual therapy while I studied and took additional continuing education courses from the North American Institute of Manual Therapy (NAIOMT). After three years and a much deeper understanding of biomechanics, neurophysiology and gaining skill as a manual therapist I left to open my own clinic. In January I started my own business and with two good friends and highly skilled therapists started Union Physical Therapy.
I still have more goals within the profession but after 5+ years as a PT I can say that I love being a PT. Even on hard, particularly trying days I still would not want to be in any other profession. And you are the only reason that I ever became interested in it.
I want you to know that I also teach graduate students and try my hardest to pay the gifts that I have received forward. Between the patients that I treat and the patients that my students go on to treat, you are responsible for literally thousands of people moving and feeling better.
Thank you. I hope that I can become as a good of a teacher as you were/are.