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I had the honor of attending the National Student Conclave as the recipient of the NSC student scholarship sponsored by the Section on Women’s Health. I am a proud member of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) and Section on Women's Health (SoWH) as there are many benefits to being involved with professional associations such as access to networking and educational opportunities which are very valuable when starting out in your physical therapy (PT) career.
As I was reflecting on my drive home from this past weekend at National Student Conclave, I was grinning ear to ear. This experience was so incredible, and it “fired me up” for my career and future in physical therapy. National Student Conclave is so different than Combined Section Meetings or NEXT (other APTA conferences), and I think it is because it is designed by students for students.
Many pelvic health PTs have more education and training to treat female patients, but what about male patients? What's our responsibility to help this patient population?
Two SoWH members are travelling to Argentina this weekend as presenters at the World Professional Association of Transgender Healthcare (WPATH) International symposium (Nov 3-6, 2018). Sandra Gallagher PT, WCS and Caitlin Smigelski DPT from Portland, Oregon will be presenting with an Oregon Health and Sciences University (OHSU) team. The topic is Physical Therapy for People Undergoing Gender Affirming Vaginoplasty. The Transgender Health Program at OHSU has embraced physical therapy (PT) as an important aspect of transgender care. At the outset of the program, the surgeon preforming vaginoplasties wanted PT involved preoperatively to improve knowledge about dilation. Intentionally including PT in the treatment plan has expanded to teaching pre-operative stretching, proper pelvic floor exercises, general conditioning and screening for and resolving bowel and bladder disorders and post-op follow-up. An important part of the program has been teaching people positioning for dilation. Most people undergoing surgery learned from those before them about dilation, word of mouth or YouTube videos. Some positioning commonly used for dilation can actually make dilation more difficult and affect tissue healing. Applying biomechanical and anatomical advice to correct positioning can make dilation easier and more successful for patient. The involvement of PT has been well received by the trans community and both Sandra and Caitlin are excited to be sharing this information on an international stage with the goal of improving care for transgender people everywhere by involving PT with vaginoplasty. Physical therapy also has a role with other gender affirming surgeries and non-surgical conditions that affect people who are transgender or gender nonbinary. We look forward in a future blog post from Sandi and Caitlin about their experiences networking, presenting and connecting at the WPATH Symposium 2018. About WPATH The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), formerly known as the (Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association (HBIGDA), is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, interdisciplinary professional and educational organization devoted to transgender health. Our professional, supporting, and student members engage in clinical and academic research to develop evidence-based medicine and strive to promote a high quality of care for transsexual, transgender, and gender-nonconforming individuals internationally. We are funded primarily through the support of our membership, and through donations and grants sponsored by non-commercial sources. https://www.wpath.org/
I have just completed my 6 week clinical experience in the Women's Rehab and Men's Health with UPMC Center for Rehab Services. Unfortunately, according to company policy, I was not permitted to perform internal examinations and based on my school policy for clinical sites, I was not eligible to complete a longer clinical that includes internal pelvic floor examination. I began to seek education and training on my own.
I’m a wife, a mom of three little boys, and the owner of a private practice caring specifically for Women’s Health. I began my career out of Physical Therapy school in the acute care setting and following the birth of my first child I learned just how important and necessary pelvic health physical therapy (also referred to as pelvic floor physical therapy) is following delivery. At that time, there were no providers within 50 miles of my home, so I sought to change this. I developed and implemented a hospital-based, outpatient pelvic floor program after taking both OB courses through the Section on Women's Health (SoWH) as well as Pelvic Health Physical Therapy Level 1 and Level 2. Unfortunately, the hospital closed with a 30-day notice in January of 2018, prompting me to launch my own practice to continue caring for this patient population. The practice has been open since March of 2018 and has cared for over 150 patients to date.
My interest in women’s health physical therapy first began when I was working as a rehab technician in a clinic with two pelvic floor therapists. My personal interest was piqued after my own experiences before, during, and after childbirth. Interested to learn more once I began physical therapy school, I spent time during my winter break in 2017 to shadow a women’s health specialist. I was delighted to observe how large of an impact patient education could make for the pelvic health patient population.
My name is Anietie Ukpe-Wallace and I am currently in my final year of the University of St. Augustine’s FLEX DPT program. Before I even considered physical therapy (PT) school, I taught yoga for several years and have always had an interest in the pelvic floor and how those set of muscles could impact a person’s ability to move through a pose or limit the amount of movement in their hips or back. The muscles that cannot be visibly seen externally held a lot of mystery to me. Having gone through my own trials with my own pelvic floor from miscarriages to surgery and pregnancy to birth, this region of the body continued to be a mystery even then despite all of that “stuff” that I had happening down there. Sad to say, PT school did not discuss much on the pelvic floor other than a short lecture on pregnancy and when I discovered that I could become a physical therapist with a specialty in the pelvic floor, my interest was piqued, and I began to investigate how to go about that path. During my time in PT school, I have been lucky enough to have two professors with whom I was able to discuss my interest and desires about pursuing this specialty. In addition to offering me resources to learn more about it and advising me to start seeking out courses, they also offered me encouragement to pursue this field since it was still growing and there is a high demand for this specialty.
My name is Loni Cooper and I am a physical therapist in Northwest Arkansas. I recently graduated from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in May 2018. Shortly after, I accepted my first job in an outpatient setting where I am working towards building a pelvic therapy caseload and advocating for this specific area of physical therapy. When I first started Physical Therapy (PT) school, I really did not know the exact field or area that I wanted to specialize in. Honestly, I had never even heard the terms “pelvic therapy” or “women’s health physical therapy” before. When I was on my very first clinical rotation in my first year of school, I was exposed to a clinic that was very heavily centered on this patient population. I was instantly intrigued and wanted to learn more about this area. Being a personal survivor of sexual abuse, I began researching and learning about how some of the symptoms that I experienced and that others had once told me were “normal” were actually treatable. I completed my elective coursework in this area to be able to learn more and prepare me for my elective clinical rotation in pelvic therapy.
I first learned about physical therapy when I was dancing with a ballet company as a teenager in San Diego. I gained more exposure to the field when I went to college and minored in dance at Duke University. I worked closely with a Physical Therapist to create a pre-physical therapy association for Duke undergraduates. Many of my dance colleagues, however, sustained chronic foot and ankle injuries, and were subsequently sidelined for months at a time. Similar to the Section on Women's Health’s tight-knit community of hard working professionals, the ballet community in general is also a group of close and accomplished women (and men!), and unfortunately, injuries are part of the landscape due to the intense nature of training. I met two Physical Therapists during my dance training who educated me about conditioning and rehabilitating my body. I admired these women who understood the rehabilitative needs within the dance community, and went above and beyond their clinician duties to encourage me, teach me how to condition properly, and inspire holistic wellness in an otherwise intense climate. Despite my commitment to dance, I also loved the sciences—physiology and anatomy were my favorite courses—and I also loved talking to people about their lifestyle needs. Physical therapy has been the perfect way to marry my interests in anatomy and physiology, interacting with people, solving problems and keeping both myself and my patients active!