Farewell Marcia Smith!

Name: Marcia Smith, PT, Ph.D.

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As we sadly said farewell at the end of the summer to another beloved faculty member, Marcia Smith, who has been with us at Regis for 20 years, second-year student Meg Kates made sure to catch some of her words of wisdom before her retirement! Read the interview below for Marcia’s amazing journey as a PT, educator, and advocator.

How did your journey with physical therapy begin?

When I was 8 or 9 years old, I read a story in a Reader’s Digest publication called Karen, which was the story of a young woman growing up with cerebral palsy in the late 1930s. At the time in history, many of those individuals lived in group facilities for people with disabilities. I remember, in the story, Karen learning how to walk with the help of a physical therapist. My interest was further reinforced in 8th grade, when I saw a television show called Route 66. In the show, main character came down with an illness and had to be hospitalized, and, I remember, a physical therapist helped him get well. Lastly, the gentleman who became the head of the Rehabilitation Center in Grand Junction moved across the street from me. I had lots of opportunities to talk to him and watch him. So, I had lots of opportunities for physical therapy to be reinforced as the career I wanted to pursue.

I graduated with by Bachelor’s in physical therapy from CU, and then I moved to upstate New York, where my husband went to law school. A Bachelor’s degree was all that was really available at the time, unless a person wanted to teach, in which case he or she got a Master’s degree. I had never met a physical therapist with a Ph.D. at the time. I lived in Ithaca for 3 years, and then I moved back Colorado in 1972. There were zero positions open in the state, so I worked vacation relief at nursing homes. Colorado has been saturated a long time. Eventually I got a call from the head therapist at Denver Health, who had heard I was looking for a job and asked me if I would like to interview…I said yes! I was hired and it was the weird, the wild, and the wonderful. At Denver Health, therapists are assigned to teams, so I worked in the Amputee Brace Clinic for 6 months. Then, I did hand therapy. Then, I rotated onto the Neuro-/Neurosurgery team. After that, I told everyone they could rotate around me because I was not going to leave that team.

Starting out, did you always know that you wanted to pursue neuro-focused PT?

No, in fact, I thought I wanted to be a pediatric therapist. In New York, I worked at Tompkins County Hospital and Rehabilitation Center for 2 years. That was a wonderful opportunity. I would see a patient who had an acute stroke and I would get to follow them from acute care to rehab to outpatient. I had the opportunity to fill the spot of a physical therapist on maternity-leave at the Special Children’s Center, which was a freestanding outpatient school in Ithaca. Interestingly, the head of the Special Children’s Center had her Ph.D. in Education and her Master’s in Speech Language Pathology. And she had cerebral palsy. In fact, she was one of the people in the book “Karen.” It was a full circle moment for me. I worked with this woman in the pediatric setting for 8 months before I moved back to Denver where, like I said, there were no pediatric positions. There were hardly any positions, but it was at Denver Health where I decided neuro is what I really wanted to do.

 

Can you tell me more about your experience with Ranchos Los Amigos?

When I was at Denver Health, I felt like I needed to know so much more. I expressed these feeling to my husband and he encouraged me to apply to universities for a Master’s degree. I was admitted to a program for clinical specialization at Rancho Los Amigos, where I learned at a couple of years. The first year was mostly class work, and the second year was all clinical specialization. We rotated between specialties, and I chose traumatic brain injury, stroke, TBI children, GB, and it just goes on like that.

 

What advice would you to someone who want to get into a specific specialty of work?

When I was finishing my Master’s, I can remember a classmate saying to me, “If there are no openings, I will just go do anything.”

And I can remember saying, “I won’t. I refuse. If I can’t be a neuro therapist, I will flip burgers!

So, my advice is to find a place you want to be and stick with it. Secondly, try to pick your final clinical rotation in a setting where you know you would like to practice. Lastly, don’t disregard what you have learned based on the setting you are in. For example, I have used my musculoskeletal and cardiopulmonary skills in practice with my patients with stroke, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease. Always be searching for opportunities to use a wide breadth of skills and never putting people into a “box.”

 

What do you think is the next step for the career of physical therapy?

I think that we will always need educators. So, if you’re interested in that route, be considering in what subject you would like to get your Ph.D.

There are other things I worry about. I worry about the cost of education, and the loans that people have to take out. I see how physical therapists are reimbursed in Colorado and nationwide, and it’s hideous. So, I see residency taking us to another level, but, ultimately, we need to be addressed as primary care providers.

Ultimately, we need to be our own advocates. That means writing up clinical studies, asking questions, and answering questions.

 

What is the first step in becoming an advocate? How did you get your start?

When I lived in New York, there were two physical therapists at Ithaca College who would regularly invite me and some others to attend district meetings, and everyone would go. Then, in 1970, New York had its first state conference: that night, everyone volunteered to participate on a committee of the APTA. When I moved back to Colorado, one of my mentors invited me to a picnic, where she asked me if I would become the secretary of the Colorado APTA Chapter.

I asked her, “Do you think I can?”

She said, “Of course you can.”

So, I became the secretary and did that for 4 years before I moved to California to pursue my Master’s, where I continued to follow through with my responsibilities until I came back.

 

What’s the next step for you? What’s in your future?

I am going to continue to do some research. I am going to continue to answer some questions about how we dose exercise for people with Parkinson’s Disease.

I will be doing some traveling. In September, my husband and I will be escorting some friends to Ireland. I am going to see Iceland next. We are going to go for Hawaii for a few weeks, and, then I thought, since we are halfway there, why not go to New Zealand? Why fly back to the mainland? Then we have friends that we will be joining on a river trip on the Rhine. I don’t know after that!

 

Thank youMarcia, for your work and dedication to both Regis and our profession! We are so grateful for all of your contributions and will miss you very dearly at Regis, and we wish you all the best in your new adventure in life! Congratulations!

5 Ways to Make Your Summer Last Longer

Name: Evan Piché, Class of 2018
Undergrad:
 Colorado State University
Graduate: 
Masters in Public Policy
Fun Fact: 
I’m an ordained minister (thanks, Universal Life Church).
Hometown:
Holyoke, MA

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The air is starting to get crisper, your neighbors are raking the first leaves into huge piles that just beg to be jumped into, Instagram posts contain things like #pumpkinspice, and–of course–decorative gourds are beginning to make their annual appearance on countertops everywhere. Soon we will perform the yearly ritual of enjoying one extra hour of sleep in exchange for enduring six months of perpetual darkness.

Lamentably, summer is drawing to a close. Skiers and snowboarders are understandably stoked. But even football fans and snow-sport enthusiasts must acknowledge the bittersweet mood that accompanies the changing of seasons as we collectively bid farewell to flip-flops, sundresses, grilling, swimming, drinking margaritas on the porch, and falling asleep in a hammock. If you are like me—still wearing sandals and denying the inevitability of winter—or you just want to make the most of these final few precious days of summer-like weather (while also avoiding adult responsibility), you will find the following tips useful:

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#pumpkinspice

1. Watch the Sunset with a Beverage

This is self-explanatory. The sun typically sets in the west (if you’re directionally challenged, and reside in the Front Range, look towards the mountains) sometime between 7:00 o’clock and it’s-way-too-early-for-it-to-be-dark-already o’clock. Sunsets pair well with beer. The type/brand of beer doesn’t matter so much; just about any beer will taste good when enjoyed outdoors. Can or bottle? Doesn’t matter. Actually, the beer isn’t even the important part; this will work with Coke, or tea, or V8 juice, or whatever. The important part is the sunset.

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Sunset-beers with anatomy lab group

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Enjoying sunset-beers in Zion

2. “Food Poisoning”

Autumn is a great time to stay home sick with “that gnarly stomach bug that’s been going around” and go do something fun outside (*Editor’s note: for the responsible student, skip to #3). It’s starting to get dark earlier and earlier with each passing day; you can’t realistically be expected to go mountain biking after class when the sun sets at 4pm. I can’t condone faking sick, but if you do decide to head up to the mountains for a hike instead of going to class, make sure your fabricated illness is embarrassing/gross enough that no one will dare question you. Food poisoning is a personal favorite—it’s extremely common, utterly plausible, and no one likes to ask probing questions about that kind of stuff.

Bonus Tip: The phrase “it’s coming out both ends” and adjectives like “explosive” and “violent” should be sprinkled in liberally as they will lend credibility to your story. This is important to ensure that the legitimacy of your “illness” will not be questioned. Fall is a great time to hike to Bierstadt Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park while recovering from your unfortunate gastrointestinal distress.

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Sky Pond, Rocky Mountain National Park

 

3. Ride Your Bike to Nowhere in Particular…But Make Sure to Get Ice Cream While You Do It

Perhaps you can’t justify skipping class (*responsible students, continue reading here). Fair enough. Maybe an afternoon of avoiding studying and reconnecting with your childhood is more your level of procrastination. Have you ever ridden your bike to Sweet Cow at 2:00 pm to “study?” No?! Try it sometime! After stuffing your face, spend an hour or so just cruising around the block on your bike and embrace that feeling of being twelve again.

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High Lonesome Trail in Nederland, CO

4. Camp

Myth: camping season runs from Memorial Day Weekend to Labor Day Weekend.

Fact: those are actually the starting and ending dates of white-pants-wearing season for people who own white pants.

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Camping in Zion

5. Drive Around with Your Windows Rolled Down While Doing That Airplane Thing with Your Hand

How many hours did you spend driving around this summer with the windows down, blasting 90’s Hip-Hop/Dixie Chicks and pretending your hand is an airplane? Quite clearly, you did not spend an adequate amount of time engaging in this activity. Today, after class, hop in your car, crank up the stereo to that obnoxiously loud volume that makes things in your car vibrate and take a drive to absolutely nowhere.

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Cruising around (and climbing) in Crested Butte, CO

Since the author is approaching 30, and therefore not “hip” to what the “kids” are grooving to these days, I will suggest a few classic summer anthems that are sure to enhance the stoke level:

-I Believe I Can Fly – R. Kelly (pre-weirdness)
-Wide Open Spaces – The Dixie Chicks
-Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen
-Boys of Summer – Eagles
-Milkshake – Kelis
-Pretty much anything by Prince, David Bowie, or Snoop-Dog/Lion

These are only suggestions. I encourage you to be imaginative and creative in your recreational procrastination.

How to Conquer Time Management

Name: Sarina Tamura, Class of 2018
Undergrad: University of Colorado at Boulder
Hometown: Aurora, CO
Fun Fact: I won 2nd place at the World Cup Stacking Championships in 5th grade!

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Sarina is a full-time student and competitive dancer

You dance. Why?

My life has always been an endless mixtape of dynamic tracks. Two days after graduating from CU Boulder in 2014, I started work as a full-time PT aide, travelled Europe for 3 weeks the day after moving on from that position, and returned home literally the day before I started PT school.

My childhood was no different. I was completely engulfed with dance, gymnastics, and the violin. I trained in both dance disciplines (dance styles including ballet, pointe, tap, jazz, and Irish) from age 3 until 13, then I decided to pursue gymnastics instead. I competed, coached, and judged until I tore my ACL at 17, then returned to dance, where I fell in love with hip-hop and breaking. It seems like my life is perpetually skipping from one track to the next.

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I normally hesitate to tell people that I’m a breakdancer because I feel that breakdancing has a great deal of negative stereotypes associated with it. We aren’t “hood,” we don’t live on the streets, we aren’t violent and aggressive people, and no, we don’t all spin on our heads. It’s actually quite the opposite–the hip-hop culture is all about peace, love, unity, and having fun. In fact, I’ve met some of the most influential people through the world of dance and have brothers and sisters all over the world now thanks to this culture. Dance has provided me with so many cool opportunities that I could have never imagined. For instance, I’ve opened for the Jabbawockeez, performed for the NCAA Final Four Opening Ceremony, performed at the Buell Theater, and performed/competed nationally and internationally in Japan. Not to mention, I get to travel all the time with my closest friends!

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Sarina competed in Japan over the winter break

What does your typical week look like?

I wake up at 5:30 and leave the house by 6:30. I commute to Regis from SE Aurora (roughly 45min-1hr commute) so I try to beat the morning traffic. Having a long commute is both a curse and a blessing: it forces me to get to school early and study before class, yet it’s also my ideal time to listen to music and relax. After classes, I stay at school to study until it’s time to teach and/or practice in the evening. I teach 3 days/week at 2 dance studios and teach privates some weekends (this is how I manage to fund my dance travels). I usually practice 4 days/week for 2-3 hours per session. I get home around 10 or 11, fit in some more studying, then repeat it all again the next day.

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Sarina in Downtown Denver

While being out all day sounds exhausting, it forces me to be productive. It prevents me from taking naps, watching movies, and snacking on junk food – all things I would probably do if I were home. I typically compete or perform almost every weekend (some months are busier than others). I sometimes get hired to perform at events and that brings in some extra cash, which always helps. I’m a weekend warrior in that I take short weekend trips to competitions quite often, so studying on planes have become a regular requirement. It can be exhausting, but it’s super rewarding. On weekends that I’m not out of town, I like to leave Sundays open for studying, spending time with family, or going hiking/snowboarding. While this is what my typical week looks like, I often have to make sacrifices to study (this was especially true during the rigorous 1st year!). Having a schedule is important, but you also need to be open and flexible – things don’t always go as planned.

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Sarina with some of her Class of 2018 classmates

Being in PT school has made me realize the true value of time. Having so little free time encourages me to focus primarily on the people who are most important to me, and that’s been invaluable to my quality of life. My planner is my bible. I try to plan out my days in advance so that I accomplish everything that needs to get done. This is especially important on weekends that I’ll be competing or traveling so I don’t fall behind. Mental image training has also become a skill I’ve refined over the years; on the days that I just can’t make it to the studio, I can sit and choreograph or think of new combinations as a study break. I’ve found that mental practice can often be just as effective as physical practice.

What are the biggest tips you can give to an incoming DPT student?

  1. “I don’t have time” is just not an excuse—if something is important to you, you’ll make time for it. My biggest worry going into PT school was that I wouldn’t be able to dance anymore, but that didn’t end up being true at all. In fact, I’m entering more competitions and traveling more now than I ever have! (I actually counted out of curiosity and I’ve done 34 competitions/ performances since starting PT school–10 of which were out of state and 4 of which were international!) If anything, having a life outside of PT school and having dance as an outlet to relieve stress has been a huge asset. It’s nice having an identity outside of just being a physical therapy student.
  1. Learn to say “no.” This is also advice for myself because it’s something I still struggle with. There’ve been many times I agreed to do a gig or sub classes at the studio when I shouldn’t have and broke down because I was so overwhelmed. Life is all about balance. Always ask yourself what your priorities are. If it interferes with your priorities, say no. Respect your time and take care of yourself!

Now, granted, I’ve structured my life in a way that allows me to do all of these things. I’ve put dating aside for now to pursue my passions, and I don’t have a family to take care of unlike a lot of my classmates–so I have the freedom to live the lifestyle I do while still excelling in school. I can get burnt out and frustrated, but there’s nothing a little ice cream can’t fix! 😉 Structure your life in a way that works for you. PT school is tough, but it’s definitely doable. Pursue your passions and do the things that enrich your life. In this world full of temporary things, it’s a dangerous mentality to believe there’s always next time. It’s our last few years of being a student—it’s the best time to do whatever you want, so take advantage of it! Good luck!

 

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