The road to Girl Fit PT
Over the last 10 weeks, I have been fortunate enough to complete my third and final clinical education experience as part of my doctorate of physical therapy coursework here at Girl Fit Physical Therapy. Apart from getting to work with an incredible staff and learn an immense volume of knowledge in my field, I have had the distinct privilege to treat a unique and exuberant patient population. This population, a collective of strong and talented women and girls, has taught me as much, if not more, than I have been able to pass on to them.
Let me provide a brief history of myself and my role at Girl Fit PT before we get to the last bit of information I would like to impart. I am in my last year of physical therapy school at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, to graduate in May. This is an amazing realization for me, as I have known I wanted to be a physical therapist since my senior year in high school.
I grew up as a dancer in Scranton, Pennsylvania, studying ballet, tap, jazz, modern, hip-hop, character/cultural dance, and musical theater. I continued dancing throughout college, attending West Chester University of Pennsylvania, where I majored in Exercise Science and minored in dance, while earning my yoga teaching certification through my school’s partnership with Yoga Alliance. At WCU, I performed with and choreographed for University Theatre and University Dance Company, traveling with the latter to Ladek-Zdroj, Poland, to present original choreographic works as part of gala concerts in an international dance festival. That year, I realized that as I proceeded in my academic career, I wanted to wed my love of movement science with my love of dance and the arts; in short, I wanted to be a physical therapist who specialized in a performing arts population. While completing my undergraduate exercise science internships, I channeled this aspiration into being able to work with the resident PT for the Pennsylvania Ballet, as well as with a local outpatient clinic whose director taught an injury prevention course at WCU for music majors – a course for which I was chosen to serve as a teaching assistant.
Physical therapy seemed to be the perfect vessel to make both these passions my career. As a dancer, I fortunately never sustained any derailing injuries; however, my fellow company members surely did. I watched the recuperation process for these injuries, learning that physical therapists were the wizards at work getting these injured dancers back on stage in what seemed like no time. From the opposite end of the spectrum, my mother had always taught me, “if you don’t use it, you lose it”. This she learned from watching my grandmother’s physical health decline until she finally passed away in 2001, in part due to the fact that as her health issues increased, she led an increasingly sedentary life that at one point was no longer voluntary. My mother was the driving force behind my knowledge of health and fitness, and the importance it should hold – not just for one’s sport, but for one’s basic livelihood.
MCPHS’s DPT program consists of two years of didactic work, followed by a final year of three 10-week clinical education experiences. One clinical must be of a complex medical/inpatient nature, along the lines of hospitals, nursing homes, and rehabilitation facilities, and another must be an outpatient setting, which is the most widely known area of PT. Our third clinical is more flexible, wherein we are allowed to choose a specialty within either of the aforementioned disciplines. When it came time to work with our professors in voicing our interests for this specialty, I was sure to vocalize my passion for working with a sports medicine population that specifically served dancers and performing artists. I was delighted when my professors informed me that they had found a site that seemed to be my perfect match, a site to which they had not yet sent a student – Girl Fit PT.
My first clinical was at a skilled nursing facility/continuing care retirement community in Seattle, WA. My second was at an outpatient orthopedic site that specialized in sports medicine in the geographic center of New York City. Both experiences were incredible and I enjoyed them thoroughly. At Girl Fit PT, I became well versed in diagnoses and treatment techniques specific to dancers, as well as gymnasts, skaters, and other young female athletes. These athletes, to my surprise, were not only eager to return to full performance of their beloved sports, but also to learn about their bodies and the multidimensional importance of wellness along the way.