Saturday, September 24, 2016

The White Coat: Perspectives from SLU DPT Alumni

The White Coat: Perspectives from SLU DPT Alumni
by Dr. Jonathan Landstrom and Dr. Emily Anglo (DPT Class of 2016)

Students in the Saint Louis University Program in Physical Therapy have a traditional White Coat Ceremony as a formal initiation into the profession of physical therapy; an acknowledgement of their accomplishments thus far and a glimpse into their future as they develop into a doctor of physical therapy.  This blog post details two students' reflections on their experience on the eve of the ceremony for their younger siblings.

Jonathan-Like most healthcare professions, physical therapy is a service profession. The white coat symbolizes professionalism and compassion that are among the most essential qualities needed to be a physical therapist. For us to provide patient-centered care, compassion must be a core element in our practice. When I was a student at SLU, I read a McMillan Lecture written by Ruth Wood, "Footprints in the Sand". This reading has always been a perfect embodiment of ideal patient-centered care. In this reading, Ruth Wood states:
"The ultimate criterion that must be used in determining the education of physical therapists... our practice set-tings, our scope of practice, our standards for practice, and, very importantly, our professional ethics must be: 'Is the focus on, and will the end results benefit, those we serve?'
 In addition to compassion, professionalism is a fundamental value in physical therapy. Compassion allows us to grow relationships with our patients and helps us put our patient's needs before all else. Professionalism gives us the ability to meet our patient's needs. Our patients rely on us to guide them with our medical expertise, including our knowledge of the human body and the movement system, our manual therapy techniques, the use of modalities supported by research, and our knowledge of the healthcare system. As a new professional, I strive to meet my professional duties and develop the values symbolized by the white coat through continuously enhancing these skills through continuing education, professional practice, academic discussion, and clinical research.

My first year at SLU, we met with our mentors to discuss why we chose physical therapy as a profession. My answer has always been the same. Physical therapy not only includes rehabilitation and restoration of function, but also has a particular focus on a person's wellness and quality of life. I want to serve others by providing people with the exercises, the education, and the tools they need to improve their function, and overall, to improve their quality of life. My brothers and I were very active in our parish youth ministry, as our mom was the youth minister. We went on all the mission trips and participated in all the service events. We developed the values of compassion and service through these experiences. At the beginning of my third year at SLU, my brother Erik began looking into universities and professions. I remember him telling me he was going to choose physical therapy at SLU for two reasons: he wanted to pursue a degree in a service profession and the Jesuits emphasize service in all aspects of education. Additionally, compassion was a key element in his decision. He told me he was choosing physical therapy because you get one-on-one contact with patients everyday and develop real relationships with your patients. You get to cheer people on through the healing process and help them celebrate the littlest improvements in their condition.
As my brother now enters the professional phase of the physical therapy program at SLU, my one piece of advice to him is to always remember the purpose behind putting in count-less hours of studying and upholding to the professional ideals of the PT program: the patient. You should not study to get an "A" on an exam, but rather to ensure that when you graduate, you are well-prepared to provide your patients with the best quality care possible. You should not attend every class because attendance is mandatory, but be-cause attending class allows you to participate in the academic discussion, to deepen your understanding of the subject, so that you will provide your patients with the best treatments available. You're not doing it for the grades, you're doing it for your future patients. Patients must be the center of all care provided by anyone wearing a white coat.

Emily-To me, the white coat is a symbol of the core values that every healthcare professional stands behind when they choose to work in the healthcare field. In the realm of physical therapy, the values that the white coat represents to me are integrity, compassion, benevolence, and excellence. The symbolism of the white coat is a re-minder that I have a duty to my patients to strive to be the best clinician I can be, to do no harm, and to listen and care for them wholeheartedly. In the most basic summarization: wear the white coat. Don’t let the white coat wear you.
It has kind of been funny watching Courtney, my little sister, start the graduate school phase of the curriculum. The first couple days of graduate school are the typical “honeymoon phase” where you hang out with friends, maybe hit up Hump’s, not really worrying too much about school yet. My favorite is always the social media posts of “starting grad school” with pictures being tagged of people, the excitement of getting your lab bags, and everyone running to Office Depot to get a planner that’ll be your best and worst friend for the rest of the year.

However, I also found it funny when I got a call from Courtney a couple days ago basically saying, “Whoaaaa… grad school…” As in it’s a little bit more of a commitment than she thought it would be with entirely new expectations. I simply responded, “Yeah, I get what you’re going through. What you’re going to go through, and I know you’ll get through it. It’ll definitely s*** at times, but if I got through it; you will too.”

In all honesty, grad school does s*** at times. However, I think it’s important to remember why you’re there. Realize that it’s ok to be alone holed up in the library for a couple hours. Go talk to your teachers. Get to know them. They’re there for you. Make friends with your classmates. Go out and celebrate after a test. Have holiday parties with your class. While there are times the next couple of years will s*** they will also be some of the best years of your life.
Courtney and I were both in-between becoming a physicians assistant or a physical therapist. I shadowed people in both professions as a way to narrow it down. When Courtney was in the same boat I told her to shadow the different professions and see which one she could relate to the most. It was eerie how similar the reasoning we liked physical therapy – We both really liked how well you get to know your patients and how well your patients get to know you.

We mainly both decided on SLU because of their direct admittance into the physical therapy program. Another reason Courtney chose SLU (even though she probably won’t admit it) is because her role model and favorite big sister decided to go there first ; ).

I have always thought of a mentor as someone you go to if you need help or advice. Someone you look up to and who challenges you. However, being in the unique position that I am in, my concept as a mentor has slightly changed. I think it’s important for the mentor to reach out to their mentee and have an open dialogue with them. I think it’s important for the mentee to know that the mentor is interested in them as a person and how they’re handling things. You never know if they secretly need to vent or if they’re suffering in silence.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

SLU PT Students Gain Global Health Experience in Belize

SLU PT Students Gain Global Health Experience in Belize
By: Emma Bowen and Annie Fordonski (SLU DPT Class of 2017) 

1. Why did you choose your site?

We both chose this site because it was an opportunity to practice physical therapy in a setting with limited resources and we wanted a global health experience focused community based rehabilitation. We were really excited about the combination of our passions for service and rehabilitation that a rotation at Hillside offered. Hillside has a fantastic reputation and we heard nothing but great things from students and faculty, like Dr. Carol Beckel, who had been previously. We were also really excited about the opportunity to work closely with students of other health professions, including pharmacy, public health, and medical.
(The front of the Hillside Clinic)
2. What did you anticipate? Were you nervous? Excited?

We were both nervous and excited before beginning our rotation at Hillside but since Hillside has such a strong program for students we felt very well prepared. We anticipated extreme heat and humidity and several mosquito bites, both of which were delivered to us. As for the clinical part of the rotation, we knew it would be different but we really weren’t sure what to expect. We both tried to keep our minds as open as possible to avoid going down with too many expectations or assumptions.
(The physical therapy area at Hillside)
3. What surprised you the most about your experience? What about the other culture surprised or shocked you?

We anticipated that there would be a language barrier that would require us to be creative with our patient education and clinical practice but we were both a little shocked by the lack of understanding about the profession of physical therapy as a whole. Since physical therapy is not yet a government recognized health profession in Belize, we were frequently refered to as “the people who will give you exercises and make your pain go away.” Additionally, we had been told numerous times before leaving about the friendliness of the Belizean culture but it was not until we arrived that we realized the depth of their kindness. The residents of  the Toledo District are incredibly grateful for the sustainable care that Hillside provides and this is especially evident in the ways they interact with Hillside students, even outside of clinic operations.
(The Hillside van at the mobile clinic at San Vicente)
4. What did you see (monuments, historical sites, palaces, etc.) that impressed you the most?

One of our favortie weekend trips was to Tikal, Guatemala where we got to see and climb  Mayan ruins. It was truly breathtaking to be standing at the foot of structures that were built thousands of years ago and we certainly had some Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness afterwards. The next day, we went to AtunTunichil Muknal Caves and were able to see Mayan artifacts (clay pots and tools) and the only completely intact set of human remains in any of the Mayan caves. We got a few bumps and bruises from swimming and free hand rock climbing in the cave but it was well worth it!

On another trip some of the locals from Punta Gorda took us out snorkeling on the Barrier Reef off the coast of Belize. We did not find Nemo (not for lack of trying) but we did find Dory!
(Mayan Ruins in Tikal, Guatemala)

(Lime Caye, an island on the Barrier Reef)
5. Can you describe some of the food that you loved best? Any food experiences that didn’t go as planned/well? 

It was lobster season in Belize so we got lobster every chance we could and were not disappointed! We also got to try fun exotic foods such as breadfruit, conch, lionfish and we even tried our hand at making homemade mango salsa and making chocolate at a chocolate factory. One of the most common meals in the surrounding villages was “caldo” which is a chicken based soup usually served with homemade corn tortillas. As for food experiences that did not go so well, let’s just say the hot sauce is always 1,000x hotter than it looks (especially if you mistake the hotsauce for ketchup).
(The kitchen stove of a typical Mayan home)
6. Did you make friends with some of the people native to that site? What was that experience like? Did they make you notice things about your own culture that surprised you?

Hillside has a group of full-time Belizean staff members and they were really great to work with, not only because they translated for us and played bumpin’ jams in the vans but because they were really dedicated to making the students feel at home. The laid-back lifestyle of Belizeans made us hyper-aware of how focused we are on time and schedules in the United States. Life in Belize moves at its own pace. We were also very fortunate to form good friendships with the other students at Hillside from the US, Ireland and England.
(A group shot at the steps of a temple in Tikal)
7. How was your clinical experience?

The clinical experience was definitely wonderful and unforgettable but did not come without challenges. Working in a resource limited setting really pushed us to be creative and the cultural differences encouraged us to emphasize patient education and understanding. We were also challeneged in the sense that we needed to think of ways to make our care more sustainable and more suitable to the patients’ lifestyles. We both agree that our clinical experiences were how we really came to understand and immerse ourselves in the Belizean culture. There was a great variety in our clinical exposure because we practiced in 3 different settings we practiced in which included home health visits in Punta Gorda, mobile clinics to surrounding rural villages and outpatient clinic on Hillside’s main campus. Also, being the only providers of physical therapy in the district means we got to see a great variety of conditions!
(Wielding the machete and fashioning the lepob)
8. Would you recommend that other PT students study abroad for clinical experience? Would you recommend your site to them? 

Absolutely! Practicing PT in another country has shaped the way we view our futures in this profession and will have a lasting impact on the ways we practice. We could not more highly recommend Hillside for any student looking to get out of their comfort zone and have a global health experience. We both plan to go back someday, maybe we’ll see you there 
(A view of Punta Gorda)
(Clocktower in the center of Punta Gorda)
Fun Facts

  • There is no Ketchi (the Mayan dialect spoken in many of the surrounding villages) word for “Good Night.”
  • Beans and Rice and Rice and Beans are not the same thing.
  • You can never have too much bug spray on.
  • The bus will NOT be there on time... schedules are more of a suggestion.
  • There will be a thunderstorm every night during the rainy season, you’ll learn to enjoy falling asleep to them and almost miss them when you leave.
  • Chocolate tastes better in Belize.
  • A “fall” is a waterfall and a “drop” is when a patient falls and the word “foot” might mean the whole leg.
Interested in learning more? Read about it here at

Students in the Saint Louis University Program in Physical Therapy have required clinical experience as part of their professional years in the program.  This blog post details two students' reflections on their experience.

SLU PT Faculty Provides Medical Services to US Paralympic Athletes at International Competition

SLU PT Faculty Dr. Jason Bennett Provides Medical Services to the US Paralympic Shooting Team
By: Jason E. Bennett, PhD, PT, SCS, ATC (Assistant Professor, Program in Physical Therapy)
Dr. Jason E. Bennett, Assistant Professor in the Program in Physical Therapy, traveled with the US Paralympic Shooting Team to Hannover, Germany from May 5th-15th, 2016 for the International Shooting Competition of Hannover (ISCH).  Dr. Bennett primarily provided medical services to the athletes competing for Team USA, but also assisted athletes from various other countries who were traveling without a medical provider.  
"I feel very fortunate to have been invited to serve as the medical provider for the US Paralympic Shooting Team competing in this prestigious event.  It was so enlightening to meet and work with medical providers from around the world, and to be involved with this amazing group of athletes.  It is definitely one of the highlights of my professional career," says Dr. Bennett.
Don't forget to cheer on Team USA at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games!

See below for additional photos of Dr. Bennett's experiences in Hannover.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

SLU PT Faculty Joins the NEXT Annual Physical Therapy Conference & Exposition in Nashville

The APTA's NEXT Conference and Exposition, held this year in Nashville at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, offered participants a look at some of the forward thinking research taking place in physical therapy. The event has trend-setting programming with more than sixty educational sessions from seasoned physical therapy professionals. You can access their videos and presentations here. Saint Louis University's own Mary Jo Davenport, Ph.D. PT attended and presented at the conference. Below, she shares a few words on her experience as well as her presentation.

Attending the NEXT Annual Physical Therapy Conference & Exposition in Nashville was a great opportunity to reconnect with old and make many new friends in my area of interest.  I had the pleasure of attending some great presentations during the conference.  Some of these presenters shared cutting-edge research on practice as a movement system expert, collaborative practice opportunities and interventions for children with developmental and movement challenges.  Overall, it was a great experience.  I look forward to meeting up with students and colleagues next year in Boston!

See her poster below!

Learn more about the conference here.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Our very own Dr. Alicia Flach is on the cover of Town and Style Magazine.
 The article is about SLUCare  Movement Disorder clinic.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Turkey Bowl

Turkey Bowl 2015:

And the winner is......... PY III. Way to go!!! If you didn't make it take a  look at the pic's from Sunday!!
                                             Congratulations PY III.