Name: Thomas McPoil, PT, PhD, FAPTA
Hometown: Sacramento California
Fun fact: I like to play golf – at one point, I became a 10 handicapper
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:
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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! firstname.lastname@example.org