Two of our Fellows reflect on their experiences…
When I left my clinical position in January of this year to begin my on campus fellowship in St. Augustine, I was filled with a mixture of apprehension, excitement and sadness for leaving my patient population. It wasn’t an easy decision to leave the clinic I had helped to open and grow over the past four years. The fellowship had always been a career goal for me, and I knew that my growth as a clinician had led me to a place where I was ready to accept the challenge of the fellowship.
As I reflect upon my experience from the midway point of my year-long fellowship, I realize just how grateful I am to be here at the University. The fellowship has been an incredible growth opportunity for me as a clinician, a professional and an educator. I never imagined just how much I could improve at all aspects of our profession in such a short time.
The fellowship consistently provides the right amount of challenge at the right time. With the help of many mentors, I’m constantly being guided to become a more effective, knowledgeable and skillful clinician. My clinical skills and decision making have grown exponentially due to the dedication of the expert clinicians we have on campus. I simply practice at a much more effective, intelligent and skillful level than I was able to just six months ago.
Perhaps the aspect of the fellowship that I was the least experienced in was education. Growing into the role of an educator has been a thoroughly rewarding process on many levels. Revisiting the curriculum I was educated in has greatly increased my knowledge and understanding of the basic science of our profession and it has helped me broaden and improve my manual therapy skill set. I’m learning that there is no better way to become an expert in our field than to teach it. Although I see the process of becoming an effective educator as a lifelong journey, the growth I’ve already made far surpasses where I thought I would be at this point in the fellowship. Helping students go through the process of grasping a concept to comprehension and application of that concept is a very rewarding process. It is an honor to be a part of developing a passion for our profession in this cohort of future therapists.
The fellowship allows for many great opportunities for learning within the structured framework that is required by the University and our accrediting body AAOMPT. Beyond that framework lies many other opportunities to learn about any specific subject area I’ve had an interest in. Every faculty member at the University is generous with their time in facilitating learning in their area of expertise. Whether it be opportunities to participate in research or political activism, practice in greater depth with imaging modalities, or participate in further anatomical studies, the possibilities to further expand my knowledge have been endless. I’m very privileged to have access to faculty who are so Fellows in Action enthusiastic about sharing their knowledge with me
On a personal note, I’ve found balance amongst all the hard work of the fellowship by continuing my triathlon career. I have been a competitive triathlete for many years and after having a very successful 2011 season including an 18th place finish at the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, several opportunities for racing presented themselves this year. I’m currently racing for an elite team based in southern California and this spring I qualified to race in the Half Ironman World Championships in Las Vegas in September. In addition, due to my national rankings in 2011, I was invited to compete for team USA at the Olympic distance world championships in Auckland, New Zealand in October. I’m very much looking forward to the second half of my fellowship and the opportunity to visit the homeland of Dr. Paris!
– Elizabeth Bergman, PT, DPT, MTC
I had thought about applying to the fellowship program a couple years after receiving my Doctorate from USA in 2002. Although, I was still learning so much about the profession and was just starting my private practice in Seattle, WA. At this point I was not sure if I wanted to be involved in academics, research or if my passion was to become a master clinician. After a few years of gaining some experience in teaching in-services, being involved legislatively, and acquiring a significant amount of manual therapy skills, I started thinking more seriously about a fellowship program.
I remember the day I decided, “I am ready to move on to the next level, I need to do this for my patients and the profession of physical therapy.” In late 2009, a 33-year-old patient came to me with the diagnosis of L4/5 disc prolapse. She was in so much pain during the evaluation that she literally had to “dance” to make it through the session, which is a classic sign of instability. She explained to me that she was an avid runner for many years before her injury. She was okay with never getting back to running, and her only goal at this point was to be able to sit and drive to work. I had treated many patients with this diagnosis and had no doubt that I could help her. I worked with her for about three weeks and not only was she not getting any better, she was getting worse. I remember thinking, “what am I missing, I have treated many patients with this diagnosis and helped them. Why is she so different?” I could feel that I was missing something, whether it be a technique, or not having a trained eye to look at the big picture. I thought, “I don’t want to be this clinician, I want to at least take advantage of all of the opportunities out there to provide the best quality health care to my patients. Even if I can’t help them all, I want to know why.” That weekend I submitted an application to University of St. Augustine for an off-campus fellowship.
I was accepted in April of 2010, with the intention of completing fellowship requirements by April 2012. I knew that this was going to be a long journey for both myself, my husband/business partner, and our patients. But I could feel it in my heart that this was the right direction for me professionally. I hired a mentor to come to our clinic and complete the one-on-one mentoring hours. The mentor I worked with was involved academically, legislatively, and had been a clinician for over 40 years. His wealth of knowledge and experience in the field was priceless. He not only shared amazing techniques with me from all schools of thought, but promoted me within the manual therapy community. Most importantly, he encouraged me to take a step back clinically and see the big picture. The one-on-one mentoring was challenging, especially with my patients that viewed me as the expert not “the student.” I had to open my mind to new approaches, and it paid off, as the mentor’s teachings impacted my clinical practice forever.
The didactic coursework during the fellowship challenged me in every way Fellows in Action possible, and pushed me in ways that I could never have achieved on my own. Ultimately, the fellowship elevated my clinical thinking and reasoning to that next level of expertise that I had been missing before. The past two years have been the most challenging time in my life since physical therapy school. Although, just like physical therapy school, the fellowship enabled me to learn more about myself and my ability to continue learning from others, as well as acquiring the skills to educate other clinicians that have shared my past experiences or want to further their education in manual therapy.
Every year our clinic hosts a half-marathon trail race in Seattle for patients, friends, and family. I continued to work with the patient mentioned earlier during the fellowship, and she was able to complete the half-marathon in 2011. I can honestly say that the skills that I learned from the mentor and the coursework from the fellowship enabled me to rehabilitate this patient successfully, and many more that I may have failed with previously. When people ask me, “why did you do a fellowship?” I think about this patient and say, “I want to have the knowledge, the skill, and the expertise to be the best clinician possible and set a high standard for practicing clinicians.”
Thank you USA for all that you have done for me in my career and the passion for physical therapy you evoke in me.
– Sarah Anderson, PT, DPT, OCS, MTC, FAAOMPT