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!

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

Dry Needling…Not a Type of Craft that Your Grandmother Does

Name: Katherine Koch

Undergrad: The Ohio State University

Hometown: Cleveland, OH

Fun Fact: Last summer, I climbed six 14ers

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Dry needlingnot a type of craft that your grandmother does. This type of treatment uses thin filiform needles inserted by a physical therapist into myofascial trigger points, or a tight band of muscle that might be causing pain (1). Dry needling is based on physiological evidence supported by research that is usually part of a broader treatment plan (2). If this needling sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone. Acupuncturists use the same type of needle to adjust the flow of energy, or chi, throughout meridians in the body. Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medicine and operates based on the belief that these thin needles can relieve tension, stress, and pain when inserted by an acupuncturist (3). While you won’t be getting an itchy sweater from this treatment, it can lead to pain relief for many people. 

However, there is still confusion and debate among physical therapists and acupuncturists concerning the rights and responsibilities of physical therapists in performing dry needling on their patients. This debate of dry needling by physical therapists was recently taken to a Denver district court when the Acupuncture Association of Colorado (AAC) challenged the Colorado State Physical Therapy Board (Board). The AAC claimed that physical therapists had not undergone enough training to perform dry needling and requested the Board reverse the rule that allows physical therapists to practice this method of treatment. The AAC argued that physical therapists only perform 46 hours of training to be certified to practice dry needling, while acupuncturists train for almost 2,000 hours. The association claimed this made dry needling by physical therapists an “unsafe practice of acupuncture” (4). However, this statement is strongly misleading due to the additional 3,400 hours of doctorate level schooling that physical therapists already have behind them before they complete those 46 hours specific to dry needling training. Physical therapists spend three years in graduate school learning how the human body works, what can go wrong with it, and how to fix it within the realm of physical therapy. Additionally, doctors of physical therapy are required to take continuing education courses throughout their careers.

Additionally, the AAC made the claim that dry needling is just a misnomer for acupuncture, while the two are fundamentally different practices. They may look similar to the untrained recipient, but physical therapists and acupuncturists perform their respective treatments with fundamental ideological differences between the two. This is not to say that one is better than the other, and patients may make the informed autonomous decision to receive either or both treatments. However, as the Denver District Court decided, there is no need to prevent members of one profession from performing treatments all together. In December 2017, the court recognized that physical therapists are acting within the Colorado Physical Therapy Practice Act when they perform dry needling.

As the Colorado Chapter of the APTA President Cameron MacDonald put so eloquently,

“this legal debate was brought forth by those who wished to restrict the practice of another profession from their own. This debate could have been about any intervention utilized by physical therapists, and not just dry needling. It is imperative to consider this legal challenge and the lawsuits brought against the Colorado PT Board through the lens of the Colorado consumer of healthcare. Consumers in Colorado are provided access to health care providers which have a defined scope of practice under which to deliver patient care. Health care professionals are expected to provide the best care they can, and to practice under a scope flexible enough to both protect the consumer and not limit the development of practice by health care providers.”

When physical therapists perform dry needling, they are practicing within their professional scope. When acupuncturists perform acupuncture, they are practicing within their professional scope. Both professions can live harmoniously alongside each other while helping patients within their respective realms.

Why does any of this matter? First, any judicial ruling or legislative rule concerning a profession as a whole likely has implications that affect many of its members. In this case, physical therapists that perform dry needling in Colorado were in danger of losing their legal right to treat patients in this way. Further, patients were in danger of losing out on a treatment that can benefit them. To be effective health care providers, it is imperative that physical therapists are informed practitioners in order to best advocate for their profession and best treat their patients. Denying to inform themselves and take positive action does a disservice to future physical therapists and patients who will benefit from the work done to advance the profession today. In order to practice as autonomous providers, physical therapists must continue to advocate for their profession and understand the issues surrounding it. It also stands to reason that since the American Physical Therapy Association participated in this case as an amicus party and presented information that no doubt helped sway the case, physical therapists should support and be members of the organization that advocates for them on this broad level.

This debate is not in Colorado alone; lawsuits in three states have gone the opposite way and the state boards have been forced to remove dry needling provisions from their practice acts.4 Since each state has their own physical therapy act, it is important that the Colorado practice act, which will be revised next year, continues to maintain its inclusive language that provides “for new developments in physical therapy practice, which includes dry needling” (Caplan and Earnest, LLC, personal communication, January 9, 2018). For the good of physical therapists, patients, and the future of physical therapy as a profession, this particular case is closed.


If you are a student physical therapist, like myself, who hopes to perform dry needling as a professional one day or if you simply would like to learn more about its practice, please refer to the references below.

  1. Dry Needling by a Physical Therapist: What You Should Know. American Physical Therapy Association. http://www.moveforwardpt.com/Resources/Detail/dry-needling-by-physical-therapist-what-you-should. Published December 25, 2017. Accessed January 28, 2018.
  2. Gattie E, Cleland JA, Snodgrass S. The Effectiveness of Trigger Point Dry Needling for Musculoskeletal Conditions by Physical Therapists: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2017;:1-41.
  3. Miller J. Physio Works – Physiotherapy Brisbane. Acupuncture and Dry Needling. https://physioworks.com.au/treatments-1/acupuncture-and-dry-needling. Accessed January 28, 2018.
  4. Migoya D. Acupuncturists sue Colorado’s physical therapy board over the very definition of their craft. The Denver Post. https://www.denverpost.com/2017/04/05/acupuncturists-sue-board/. Published April 7, 2017. Accessed January 28, 2018.

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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