The treatment of patients as a diagnosis
The lack of ownership over the need for change
The failure to arrest the epidemic that is chronic pain and productivity-centric treatment
Students, new graduates, and clinicians feeling ill-equipped to make a difference.
We have been the frustrated student
We have been the burnt out new graduate
Nobody should feel like they are part of the problem
We have created a solution.
Allow yourself to view failure and challenge as an opportunity for growth.
Embrace this mindset and take action to become your best self.
Always ask why. Don't take things at face value.
Embrace this way of thinking, and become a problem solver of the world.
Humans crave telling their story and to be understood.
Embrace this skill as the foundation for building powerful doctor-patient relationships.
Before working with Zak I wasn't sure how to incorporate my passion to encourage and support others into my practice as a future physical therapist. I was excited to become a PT but I was lacking direction.
In addition to providing advice and encouragement, Zak motivated me to be the change I want to see in the PT profession; he leads by example and his passion is contagious.
Zak helped me (and is still helping me) find my direction and voice within the PT world and I am so grateful for that. As a result of knowing Zak, I have a new energy and fervor for learning, helping others and fostering positive change within PT and within the world.
My path into PT was by no means traditional. I did not do a 6 year program or even know that I wanted to be a PT until junior year of college. My degree in exercise science leverages well to get into PT school but not fully. By the time I am ready to just apply to PT school I will have taken classes at 4 different institutions and will have spent the last 3 summers in the classroom.
The road to PT school as a postbac is bumpy and at times straight up overwhelming. There have been many times where the anxiety of all the paperwork, transcripts, and classes has been crippling and I have wanted to quit. No matter how bad the anxiety over the process gets I always come back to the same reasoning as to why I am doing this; imagining what it will be like to walk across the stage as a DPT and knowing all the hard work has paid off. This is the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing I think about before I go to sleep.
My Level Up moment came when I realized that I can't walk this path alone. Asking for help and realizing I am not alone has been one of the hardest things I have ever done. As Navy SEAL Admiral William McRaven said in his famous Make Your Bed speech, "If you want to change the world, find people to help you paddle." I know that no matter how long it takes me just to get to the starting line, that the support system I have built will always have my back.
I have realized that failure is a choice and that if you think you can go through life alone, you are making the choice to fail.
I am making the choice not to fail. I am making the choice to never f*cking quit.
I am making the choice to surround myself with awesome mentors and friends.
I am making the choice to challenge myself and Level Up. - Nick Calandra (@strengthcoachstudent)
I felt like I had a solid foundation to begin my career, but lacked the additional resources that I knew were necessary to help me achieve that next level to provide the care my patients deserved.
While working with Zak, he helped erase those nerves and replaced them with excitement. He inspired me to be better each day. He did so by teaching me to question “why”, by challenging me to explain my thought process, and by encouraging me to establish a voice for myself.
After working with Zak, I feel as though I found my purpose. I am confident to share my current knowledge with others, comfortable with challenging my current beliefs, and curious to learn from others. I am eager to continue to not only grow as a practicing PT, but to help grow the field of physical therapy with other passionate professionals.
How I found my stride through running…⠀
If you would have asked me 5 years ago when I graduated PT school where I thought I would be today, I sure as hell wouldn’t have thought I would be gearing up to start my own business to work with endurance athletes. Fun fact, I used to hate running.⠀
I left PT school feeling like there was so much I didn’t know. I moved to a brand new city and was hired at an outpatient clinic but had no idea what specialty I wanted to pursue. I felt the pressure to have all the answers from day 1 and it certainly didn’t come overnight. But through failures, growth, and consistency, I started to find my groove.⠀
Becoming a runner presented very similar challenges as becoming a PT did. Running never came naturally to me and I didn’t really feel I “belonged” until I finished my first half-marathon. Reaching my first finish line propelled me into the sport. Training was no longer a chore but the glue that held everything in place. I was officially a runner. And a confident one.⠀
I grew as a PT through my running. Personal injuries fueled my desire to help other runners. My own PRs taught me how to empower individuals to reach their own. Ultimately, educating the endurance community and providing them with the tools to succeed became my passion. Before I knew it, I was THE runfitdoc. The previously insecure new PT had a following!⠀
And that’s when the shift in mindset happened. I was making a difference. I was changing the mindset of runners and how they trained. Insecurities that once existed fell by the wayside. I still have so much to learn but I’m OK with that. This next chapter in my career is an intimidating one but I know that there is nothing that will stop me! Like I tell my athletes, in order to get to the finish line you have to first get to the starting line. I’m ready to level up and bring the endurance athlete community in Portland, ME nothing but the best care, one stride at a time. -Danielle Adler (@runfitdoc)
Prior to beginning the course and meeting Zak, staying focused and motivated was always an issue of mine in classes like biology, chemistry, organic chem, etc. due to their lack of relevancy in my future profession.
During my first week in gross anatomy, my group was paired with Zak. From that point forward, my mindset and motivation toward learning and bettering myself shifted. Zak's enthusiasm immediately rubbed off on me and I instantly became re-focused in excelling in my education moving forward. He always stressed not memorizing but instead understanding. Because of that, I was able to retain the information which has carried over into the working world.
His enthusiasm for learning and the PT profession was instilled in me since our initial encounter and has stuck with me still today.
I was always the guy at the top of the class. I knew every detail. Anatomy, biomechanics, orthopedic were my life. I was a bone, muscle, and joint head. I could visualize every biomechanical fault, pick apart posture, and I knew the exact tissue every special test was testing.⠀
Then it happened. I graduated PT school and the very next weekend took a small class with Adriaan Louw. Of all topics, the course focused on whiplash associated disorders. I was confronted with the IASP’s definition for pain and shown countless studies exploring the relationship between tissue damage and pain. I was introduced to Explain Pain, and I was buried with the works of many of the great pain researchers. I learned the powerful influence of psychosocial factors on pain, and I sat at lunch across from Dr. Louw for two days having my mind blown.⠀
It was at this point that I was overwhelmed with how little I knew, and how much of what I thought I knew was misguided and incomplete. My world crashed and burned. I became defensive and bitter. I felt like I wasted 3 years of my life. I truly wanted to quit and go back to school for a different career. I was in an uncomfortable place and no longer knew what I did or didn’t know. With my back against the wall, I decided to do what I knew best- Work my ass off. Work my ass off to learn everything I could about this new world of pain. I read everything I could get my hands on; books, articles, blogs, and Facebook discussions miles over my head. I spent every drive to and from work for years listening to podcasts, every night reading, and every weekend either in a course or writing.⠀
“Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did” – Newt Gingrich.⠀Today, I’ve finally become accustomed to the persistent grey area in everything we do. I realize that pain and humans are unfathomably complex. I have “crossed the chasm” and understand I can use everything I learned in school hand in hand with what we continue to learn about pain. Lastly, I have made it my mission to do everything I can to help those coming after me avoid falling in the deep hole of doubt and confusion I fell into.
Before working with Zak I was a student in the mindset of memorizing information to pass a test. Zak instilled a different mindset in me, wanting to learn to understand.
I continued to carry that mindset with with me throughout the rest of Physical Therapy school and working with students of my own. Today as a practitioner I want to instill that same mindset in my peers as well as my patients.
I’ve always used humor to mask my insecurities. People are less inclined to question you if you’re always laughing and making jokes. For me, it was how I always hid the fact that I had no self-worth. The situations I allowed myself to get into, however, proved to everyone how little I valued myself. When I was 19, I came out of the closet. Deciding that I couldn’t be myself at home, I made a hasty and ill-thought out decision to move 3,000 miles from home to be with my at-the-time girlfriend. Naive and ignorant, I found myself in an abusive relationship that I financially could not escape. I thought I deserved it. For 4 years, I endured mental, emotional, and verbal abuse. I finally reached out for help, and after graduating from college, moved back home even more broken than I had left.
It wasn’t until my first term of PT school, 2 years later, that I realized that I could not fix myself alone. With the help of a therapist, I decided to take control of my life, and after 28 years, finally loved who I was.
Making that decision was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. We can’t get through this life alone. As awful as the things I’ve been through were, I refuse to consider myself a victim. I’ve chosen to see it for all the positives that have come into my life because of it. I started school out there, discovered my passion for physical therapy, fell in love with the state and my alma mater, and was the first to graduate from college in my family. And I like to think I came out stronger for it. We can choose to let the things that happen to us define us. Or we can choose to take what we’re given and make something great of it.
I like to believe it’s made me more of an empathetic person, which will help me build phenomenal therapeutic alliances with my patients. I am choosing to Level Up because I want to help people realize that they are so much stronger than they think, and that their injuries or conditions DON’T define them. Throughout my career as a physical therapist, and my life in general, I will challenge myself every day to build patients and people up to help them become the best versions of themselves. - Kait Dunn (@kaitdunn_ )
Zak’s passion for the human interaction and patient experience opened my eyes to an key piece that is often missing in healthcare. Patients are people first, and we should treat them as such.
I was fortunate to meet and work with Zak early in my education to become a Physical Therapist. Zak’s insight and suggestions for improving communication skills have been invaluable to my learning.
Not only will these skills improve my abilities as a soon-to-be physical therapist, they’ve made me a better human as well.
Get ready to turn the real-o-meter all the way up. The Level Up Podcast is dedicated to having real, authentic, and transparent conversations around important, yet taboo, topics in healthcare.
It is our goal to interview guests from Physical Therapy and beyond to who help pave the way and offer insights and guidance on how to grow both personally and professionally, helping us all have a more positive impact on healthcare.
In addition to this, we will be bringing in interviews from patients who can offer valuable insight into the pro’s and con’s of their medical experience, and insight into why we so desperately need change.
Are you passionate about driving positive change in healthcare? Join the movement below!