Farewell Tom McPoil!

Name: Thomas McPoil, PT, PhD, FAPTA

Hometown: Sacramento California

Fun fact: I like to play golf – at one point, I became a 10 handicapper

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As we approached the end of July, the Regis Physical Therapy family prepared to say goodbye to some very important members of our family. With heavy hearts, but happy smiles, we say our farewells to Tom McPoil and Marcia Smith, as they are retiring and moving on to new adventures. Following 45 years as a physical therapist, 35 years of teaching, and teaching over 1800 students in over 35 states, Tom sat down with me, and I asked for any last words of wisdom. Here’s what he had to say:

  1. How do you advise that we keep a life/work balance?

“I think it’s really hard. I think that’s going to be the hardest thing for a student to figure out. I just look at the struggles you face: you want time for your personal life and clinical care. You may have to stay late and do charting. You get home and you want a break, but you want to keep up with the literature. You are worried about debt and you are worried about loan repayment. If you can, set up a time where you can read 1 or 2 papers a week, and then maybe try to establish a couple of people that want to discuss them with you. Eventually, you have to come to grips with the incredible amount of research out there…I mean it’s almost too much. That’s where the systematic reviews come in. As a clinician you’re not going to have the time to read 27 articles, but you can read one paper that summarized 27 papers for you.”

  1. What makes the difference between a ‘good’ PT and a ‘great’ PT?

“I think that’s a hard question to address. Part of it has to be your feelings of confidence about yourself. Have confidence in yourself, you know a lot. So much is thrown at you, and so quickly, that you feel like you don’t know anything. But when you go out to clinic and you come back and talk to a first year, you realize how much you do know. I think the other thing that makes an exceptional therapist is one that will always question or ask, “what is happening? What is going on?” There is one person on your shoulder that tells you, “hey, have confidence in yourself.” But there should also be another person on the other shoulder that says, “hey, you’re still learning.” And because of that, you tend to be much more aware of things. The longer you are in clinic, the easier it is to say, “well it’s just another total knee.” You know the old ad, “it quacks like a duck, it walks like a duck, it must be a duck”…that to me is where you start to see the difference: a good therapist will just treat the patient, but the exceptional therapist is the one that says, “but really, is it a duck?” and takes the time to really look at those things. The person who is always striving to do their best is sometimes going the extra mile.”

  1. Because we are Regis, we are going to reflect a little bit. What are you taking away from your time at Regis?

“Some great memories from interacting with some great students, that’s number one. As a faculty member and physical therapist I am very, very blessed, because of the fact that the individuals who are drawn to physical therapy (I know I’m speaking in generalities) really care about helping people. And I think that’s just engrained in them. I think that as a result, they’re very interested in learning to help other people. That makes my job as a teacher and as an instructor much, much easier. I think that’s the thing that I’m taking away from Regis, and why I was really happy to come here. I love the fact that the values go beyond just getting an education. And yeah, they are Jesuit values, men and women for other, the cura personalis, the magis, all the buzzwords. But I really do think, here, as a faculty and as Regis, we really help instill that on our students and I think that as a result, the students that graduate from the Regis Physical Therapy program are better humans. I think they’re better people who are going to serve society. The thing here is the sense of community. What I’ve enjoyed as a faculty member is that I really do feel like I’m involved with a community that is very caring. They’re concerned about others. I mean, they’re taking those Jesuit values, but applying it to the whole university community. There is a sense of mission and the need for people to really help one another. One of the saddest things I had happened in my career was when we had a student die in a car accident four years ago. I tell you the afternoon we heard and I had to announced it to the second years, the response from this university was phenomenal. We had counselors down here, within an hour I was meeting with the president and the director of missions, we had a service for the students here on campus. I realize that would never have happened at any other institution I’ve ever been at. Yes, people would’ve been upset, but it’s that sense of community. Yes, we’re a part of physical therapy, but we’re all a part of Regis. That to me is the piece that I’ve really enjoyed the most, and I think we do a really good job getting our students to embrace that before they leave.”

  1. What is your biggest accomplishment as a teacher, a physical therapist, and in your personal life?

“Oh that’s a hard question to answer. Well in personal life, hopefully, I was a good husband, a good father, okay with my son-in-laws and an okay grandparent. That’s what you hope for. Ultimately, you hope that God thinks you did okay. What you really hope for is that in the really little time I had with students, I was able to install firstly knowledge that they needed to go out and be successful, but also hopefully I’ve provided some type of a good role model for them.”

  1. What are you going to do now that you’re retiring?

“I really want to do some volunteer work…that’s what I really want to do! I found out about Ignatian Volunteer Corp, which is for 55 years plus people. I’ll start out doing 8 hours a week, so I’m excited about that. I’ll like to go to Denver Health and help with the foot and ankle clinic. I’ll like to get back to playing golf and pickle ball. And I’ve got the 5 grandkids.”

  1. Where do you hope to see the profession go in 10 years?

“In the 45 years I’ve been in this profession, we’ve made huge strides. What I hope for with the profession is that we work to get increased reimbursement…I think that’s huge. We have to do more to convince the public that we are primary care providers. I hope that the future physical therapists will have direct access, that they’ll be recognized as a primary care providers for neuromusculoskeletal disorders, and that they’ll have the ability in their clinic to use diagnostic ultrasound.”

  1. Any last advice for our class?

Keep at it! Remember you have a lot of knowledge and a lot of information. Just try to balance things, and it’s not easy. Try to balance it so you don’t feel like you’re neglecting your personal life or your work.”

 

Thank you, Tom, for your dedication to the betterment of our profession. We will miss you very dearly at Regis, and we wish you all the best in your new adventure in life! Congratulations!

 

Tom also wanted to make sure that everyone knows he will have his Regis email, listed here (open forever) and it will be the best way to contact him. He will love to hear from people! tmcpoil@regis.edu

 

Written by: Pamela Soto, Class of 2019

Budget Tips for Students

Name: Jaegger Olden

Undergrad: Central Washington University

Hometown: Aberdeen, Washington (on the peninsula, no not by Seattle)

Fun fact: my spirit animal is a hangry Terry Crews

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I have been in college for almost a decade. So you could say I am what comes close to being a professional student. However, with that title comes heaping amounts of debt. Fortunately, I have learned the art of budgeting, scholarships, and sucking up to my extreme-couponing-and-geologist wife so my debt is incredibly low. Unfortunately, most students finish their graduate degrees with six figures of student debt. I am here to share my secrets and help you avoid evil student loans (well, as much as you can).  

Budgeting

I can’t stress this enough: BUDGET YOUR MONEY. This is the key to being able to:

A) know how much money you need in scholarships/loans/income and

B) decide where your money goes

Budgeting is fairly straightforward. Create a spreadsheet with all of your expenses listed out. It is easiest to do this for each semester because, as students, we are charged tuition and given financial aid only 2-3 times per year.

Some of the categories my wife and I use are:

  • Rent
  • Utilities
  • Gas
  • Groceries
  • Internet/Cable
  • Insurance/Medical
  • Car Maintenance
  • Entertainment
  • Emergency Fund

All of this goes into our budget Excel spreadsheet. If you don’t use Excel, then you should start now. There are plenty of tutorials online if you need to refresh on the functions or even through the Regis Library/Learning Commons/Tutoring Center on campus. The best part about budgeting like this is determining how much in student loans I need to take out.

Tip: Avoid taking out your max student loan amount each semester AT ALL COSTS. This is a great way to reach your lifetime federal loan allowance (which is $138,500 with no more than $65,000 subsidized).

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Loan Repayment Strategy

I’m sorry for using the L-word, I promise you it gives me a lot of anxiety just thinking about the hole I dug for myself, but that is just our reality as students. One day, we will need to repay these loans and it’s important to have a strategy to do so.

After plenty of research, my wife and I have decided to use the Debt Snowball repayment plan. This is the famous strategy created by financial expert Dave Ramsey that bases debt repayment on the combination of psychology and interest percentages. Instead of paying off debt based on interest alone, the Debt Snowball creates a system that pays off debt based upon the total value of each individual loan to create a psychological reward as well as paying off debt as quickly as possible.

This method, along with plenty of other financial tips and advice, is featured in his incredibly successful book The Total Money Makeover, which I can’t recommend enough.

Housing

I know too well what “money dump” apartments are and how getting a cheap apartment can come with some hazards. This is typical in Denver. As of today, three students just in my class have had their cars stolen from their apartment parking lots while their managers refuse to install security cameras. Because of this, it actually can be both safer and cost effective to slightly splurge and find apartments in low crime areas. The Denver Police Department maintains a great crime map that is user friendly.
However, if you can manage it, then I suggest trying to buy a house or condo. You’re probably saying, “this guy is crazy!” but you’re putting money into someone else’s bank account every month with no equity. Not to mention a mortgage payment is less than Denver rent. So if you have enough savings to go into a down payment, or can have family help, go for it! If you’re going the family route, then I suggest giving them a return on their investment via the equity upon selling. It is truly a win-win.

Shopping

Shopping is easily the biggest way we save money. I am infatuated with couponing and am getting pretty good at it…to the point of saving up to $30 a week on groceries. I’m currently a part of a coupon club that sends me coupons daily…go figure. I also use the Krazy Coupon Lady. The last major strategies I use is shopping at Costco or Sam’s club for bulk items such as meat to freeze, fruit, vegetables, and nonperishables.

However, if you are really interested in saving money and time on healthy meals, check out my wife’s blog post about eating healthy in college. She goes over our full healthy cooking system and how we save money on our groceries.

Read more about cheap and healthy eating in college HERE.  

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Saving Money at Regis University

Being a graduate student at Regis University does have its perks! Take advantage of the amenities. My favorites are the gym, 10 free local transit passes a week, and 2 free swimming passes a week for any Denver Parks and Recreation’s Aquatic facility. One of the better pools close to the university is the Berkeley pool attached to the Scheitler Recreation Center.

Some of the other ways I save money during class are bringing my own food for lunch, bringing K-cups from Costco instead of purchasing coffee (there are two Keurigs in Claver Hall, which ends up being 34 cents a cup), getting a beer with classmates at Walker’s pub during happy hour ($1 beer), and taking advantage of free food events. I also frequently use the classroom electricity to charge devices and shower at the gym to reduce water-heating costs at home.

Income

One of the most daunting factors about being in graduate school is the lack of income. However, there are plenty of great ways to have an income with minimal time commitment. One of the easiest and best ways to do that is to turn your hobby into a job. One great way to do that is to start a money-making blog! There are countless benefits to creating a blog in college. THIS is a great post that breaks down the reasons why you should start a blog in college and THIS is a great post to help you understand how to do it!

Another great way to make money is to donate plasma. I personally donate twice a week and receive about $300 a month for less than 3 hours a week of sitting in a clinic. All plasma is donated to medical research facilities and nearly everyone at these clinics are amazing and professional people. Despite what the stigma is against plasma donations, it is a requirement that you have a home in order to donate.

Some of my other classmates use their skills as a small income like instructing rock climbing lessons once or twice a week for gym memberships or baby sitting/house sitting for friends.

A small amount of income comes a long way, but take precaution based on your performance in class. You’re a student first!

Utility Saving Tips

I got bills! Of course the more energy efficient your household is the lower the bill. One of the more helpful strategies to adapt daily is running appliances that have a high energy cost during non-peak hours. For Denver (consumers of Xcel Energy), the best times to run your appliances (dishwasher, dryer, etc.) are between 9pm and 9am.

In addition, here is a list of other easy tips:

  • Sealing doors/windows/sinks
  • Running the fan in reverse during winter
  • Don’t use heat dry in dishwasher
  • LED lights in bulk and swap out when moving out
  • Read your electricity statement: Xcel sends personalized saving tips
  • Reduce standby power (printer, TVs, gaming systems)
  • Minimize cooling by opening the windows at night (if safe)
  • Deduce shower time

Having Fun

Now I know it seems like you are not going to have time, but make time to do what you love. This will prevent getting burnt out and being miserable.

Some cheap ways of having fun is getting outside to hike, trail run, rock climb, mountain bike, or cycle. The National Park Service has an amazing yearly pass deal that pays itself off in under 8 visits.

If you’re a skier/snowboarder, then I have heard the Epic pass is fantastic. It has a student pass and pays itself off after 4 times of hitting the slopes. If you like to hangout and watch tv, save money by streaming via Netflix and Amazon Prime. If you get Spotify premium as a student, you save $3 a month and get Hulu for free.

Also, if you’re a book worm, then go get a Denver library card in combination with an app called Overdrive. You can access the ebook library, audiobooks, and most movies currently out on Redbox.

Do you have any favorite budgeting tips? Were these strategies helpful for you? Feel free to comment and share with us!

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How to Avoid Burnout in PT School

 

Name: Brad Fenter, Class of 2019
Undergrad: University of Texas at Tyler, TX
Hometown: Vernon, TX
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Burnout is an interesting thing, mainly because it only happens with things that we love. No one gets burned out on things we hate or even things we just feel a little “meh” about. The concept that we no longer want to be around or indulge in something we love is very unsettling . No one has ever gotten burned out on onions; no one loves onions. We tolerate them and can even enjoy them, but love them? No. And if you’re thinking to yourself, “I love onions!” Then you’re most likely an alien trying—unsuccessfully—to assimilate with human society.

No, burnout is only possible with something we love. For me, I love Clif Bars—specifically the white chocolate macadamia flavor. If you think another flavor is better, that’s completely fine. Just know I’ll be judging you until the end of time. Unfortunately for me and my love of Clif Bars, I went on a backpacking trip a few years ago with an entire case in tow. Every day I crammed those delicious little bars in my face until, one day, I just couldn’t eat them anymore. I wanted to eat them, but I just could not do it. I was burned out.

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My sadness is palpable.

After the trip, I had just one bar left and it has stayed in my pack as a sad, dilapidated reminder of what once was. I want you to learn from my mistakes and avoid burnout. Since this is a PT blog, here are 3 ways to ensure your time in PT school does not become a macadamia Clif Bar.

1. Pace Yourself

This is most important for when you’re first starting out in PT school. That first semester you tell yourself you’re going to read all the textbooks, watch all the online videos, and take excellent notes. If you do everything at top gear, you’ll be out of gas by October. Then what will you do? There are approximately…all of the semesters left at this point. Instead, take the time to learn good study habits and you won’t have to worry when you feel a little fatigued halfway through a semester.

When we discuss long commitments, the analogy of a marathon is always used: “Remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint!” When I ran my marathon, though, it took only part of 1 day and I was finished by noon. To contrast, PT school is 8 semesters—which is around 3 years—which equates to…A lot of days. A better saying would be, “Remember it’s a 3-year commitment.” It may seem long right now, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a long time. If you start with the right pacing in mind, then you will be better off. Do not be the brightest star for the first month only to flame out spectacularly for the next 32 months.

Had I paced myself a little better, Clif Bars and I would still be going steady and I would have my first love second love. My wife, of course, is my first love (as the bruise on my ribs proves after writing that previous sentence).

2. Get Involved (but not too much)

This point may seem to run counter to my previous one, but it will all make sense in the end (just like neuroscience except for the sense-making part). There are many opportunities to get involved with things outside of the main curriculum. You can run for a position as class officer, you can be a part of the puppy program, you can join a student interest group. You can go to conferences (quite handy since some of them are required, anyways) and get to know practicing PTs. All of these things are important. Getting involved in more than just schoolwork can remind you of why you started PT school in the first place.

The way I stay involved with my classmates is through Ultimate Frisbee. If there’s a pickup game going on after class, I’m there. I get to interact and stay engaged with my classmates outside of the lab or lecture hall; it’s great. I enjoy the exercise, competition, and group aspect of the whole thing. But all of those other things I listed before? I do exactly NONE of those things because I’m antisocial and don’t like new situations. Now, that may sound like the ramblings of an angry old man who wasn’t hugged enough as a child, but it is actually a larger part of my point. I have time to play a pick-up game of Ultimate Frisbee and enjoy a drink at the brewery afterwards. I don’t have time to attend the fellowship meeting after class, play frisbee, participate in the puppy program, volunteer to pass out flyers at commencement, and also do well on my finals.

You may be thinking, “I can do all of those things and still be successful!”

Is it possible to do? From a strictly physical standpoint, sure. If you want to end up like this:

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The point is not that all of these things are impossible. But, you will be drained by the end of each semester—just in time for finals.

3. Keep Perspective

This is, I believe, the most important point. I put it last to weed out the unworthy people who get scared of words milling about in groupings of greater than 140 characters. Now that they are gone, we can discuss the most important tool we possess to avoid burnout.

Perspective goes both directions in time. It’s important to remember the future we are working towards as practicing clinicians, but it is also important to see where we came from. If I were not in PT school I would still be plugging away at my old job with little satisfaction and a feeling that there is something more I could be doing. Anytime I feel a little down on myself, I think about how stressed I was beforehand; this serves as great motivation for the present. If you’re one of those young folks and have not had a previous career, then your perspective should be forward. Most people in life will never have the opportunity to work in such a fulfilling field as physical therapy or even get into PT school! When we zoom out from our studies, case assignments, skill checks, and lab practicals, we can see just how great we really have things.

You may be thinking, “I know this is important! But how do I actually accomplish this?” My most important tool for keeping perspective is to prioritize time for myself. Whenever a day is available, I will try to get outside and hike. Or bike. Or camp. Really, anything outside will do. Even when it’s just a weekend and there are exams on Monday, I will take a long bike ride to a coffee shop to study. That way I get to study with the addition of sunshine and exercise thrown in. If you hate all of these things for some unfathomable reason, there’s still hope for you. Maybe you like going to the movies or reading books. That’s great. Make time to do those things because if you do, you will be more successful.

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Making time for myself on a hike to Handies Park

 

For me, outdoor activities allow me to see the wider world and keep perspective on how insignificant many of the major stressors in my life really are. Regis’ DPT program is very good at pushing you to the edge and then pulling back just in time. But what happens when you feel like you’re going over the edge? What happens when you feel you’re on the road to burnout? Do you have the tools to pull back from the bleary-eyed, emotionally drained abyss? If you can pace yourself and get involved (but not too much) and keep perspective, you will be better equipped to avoid burnout. Remember, life doesn’t get easier once we are done with school, but this experience will prepare us to handle the difficulties that come our way.

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Here’s me, fellow student David Cummins, and more friends after tackling another one of life’s difficulties