32 patients seen in 7 hours. Arbitrary hot packs provided and manual therapy performed for every single person. It was on this day, that I so vividly remember, that I made a promise to myself that I would work tirelessly, not stopping, until this type of care was ceased to exist. As a clinical student, I was starting to see the “real world” of healthcare and I couldn’t help feel like maybe I had picked the wrong profession...a feeling that is unfortunately shared by many students and professionals. That’s not to say that I saw the people within these facilities as “bad people” but the system and a productivity-centric model had set them up to fail.
What started as a personal initiative to change the productivity centered side of healthcare, soon grew to encompass much more…As I got through graduate school, I was obsessed with the extremely biomedical material. I truly could not get enough. We had one pain science lecture, yet I had no clue the implications it would have on my practice at the time. It was not until I had been practicing for a few months, that a mentor of mine challenged me to reflect on the antiquated systems and language I had been using with my patients. It was at this time, that I took a long hard look in the mirror, and vowed to start making changes for the better. I was part of the problem in healthcare...not the solution. I was upset, pissed, and frustrated, and I felt like my schooling was a waste. But I soon realized that wasn’t the case... far from it, actually. It just had to be re-framed under an all-encompassing biopsychosocial model of care.
Once I started to realize how critical our language is and how important it is to shift towards using a biopsychosocial model of treatment, I came into my own, and felt more motivated than ever to simply do better. There was (and still is) a healthcare epidemic that is chronic pain and healthcare spending...and I finally felt like I was part of the solution. I was determined to help prevent students from making the same well intentioned mistakes that I had, as well as to inspire them to become "part of the solution." I created a social media account targeted for students and new grads, @simplestrengthphysio, advocating for critical thinking, the importance of sprinkling in pain science, and how strength and conditioning tied into all of that. All of this was in hopes to drive our profession towards a shift that favors education and movement, over passive modalities and sexy manual techniques. Through the utilization of networking, authentic content, and fun, this account began to take off, and the Level Up community we are looking at now was beginning to take shape.
While creating content as a new grad was terrifying, it represents the importance of getting outside of your comfort zone and challenging yourself. It led to incredible opportunities, including presenting a workshop on pain science and strength conditioning with my co worker Matt in various US states as well as in Italy (shout out to Matthew Ibrahim; he is easily one of the largest influences forcing me outside of my comfort zone in order to level up.) Beyond that, I started guest lecturing at DPT programs in the New England area, ultimately getting an opportunity to teach a one credit elective on strength and conditioning applications in the outpatient orthopedic setting at a local Boston DPT program.
With all of these teaching opportunities, as well as being an integral part of a growing clinic in Boston (shout out Boston PT and Wellness), I was still left searching for what really lit my soul on fire. Upon reflecting with my mentor, great friend, and now girlfriend (shoutout Steph Allen), I was ambivalent about pursuing academia. I was skeptical, and felt I couldn’t teach the way I wanted to teach, or say the things I wanted to say….It’s very taboo to challenge a deeply rooted culture, even when it’s coming from a good place. I loved mentoring and teaching students, educating healthcare professionals, and treating/educating patients. Yet, as I dug a bit deeper (and stumbled upon a podcast episode that changed my life), I realized that what drove these successes was my innate ability to create a positive emotional experience for the individuals I work with. I was able to truly make people feel something. I wanted to inspire people to make positive changes whether simply studying for an exam, trying to become a badass clinician, or rehabbing patients through pain or injury. I wanted to leverage this skill set and share this passion for the greater good of raising the bar in the profession. This was the birth of an idea that lit my soul on fire.
This was the birth of The Level Up Initiative.
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