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The SoWH Blog

Stay up to date on the latest Section HQ news, patient and practitioner education and member stories!

Early-Career Advice from Pelvic Health Physical Therapist, Nicole Cozean, PT, DPT, WCS, CSCS

How did you decide to pursue pelvic health physical therapy? What is your background? I hadn’t actually planned to specialize in pelvic health in physical therapy (PT) school or the first years after graduation.  My first interest in the area came in PT school when I was assigned the pelvis and pelvic floor for an anatomy project.  I was fascinated by the complexity of the region (and still believe a strong understanding of the underlying anatomy is crucial for a pelvic physical therapist).  About 15 years ago, Hoag Hospital asked me to create a pelvic health program. They allowed me to pursue a fellowship program with an experienced local therapist, and I was able to take amazing continuing education courses from some of the leaders in the field at that time.  

Key Factors That Limit Access to Physical Therapy Care

Hi, I'm Michelle Little. My parents were born in Colombia, South America and moved to the United States with dreams of a better life. They immigrated from an impoverished area, lacked a college education and with a very basic English vocabulary. Due to this sacrifice, they have always had very manual,  labor-intensive jobs. From a very young age, I knew what pain was because I witnessed my mother icing her hands and feet after a ten-hour shift. I now understand that my mother’s pain was in part caused by the physical requirements for her job and poor occupational accommodations. During all those years, my mother was never told about or referred to physical therapy, so she lived in fear that her body was weak and damaged. In my sophomore year of college, I had a knee injury that led to surgery and post-operative physical therapy. Going through physical therapy made me feel empowered, and I knew I had found my life’s passion. I wanted to educate and empower patients that had orthopedic pain like my mother, and improve the quality of life of my patients and their families.

A Large Need for Women's Health Physical Therapists in Rural America

Meet Alexis Smith PT, DPT My entire childhood, I dreamed of becoming a Veterinarian. I was a very good student in high school, and graduated Valedictorian of my small class. I then attended a prestigious liberal arts college for undergraduate, and had a difficult time making high science grades. I worked part-time as a student athletic trainer, played basketball for the college team, and studied constantly. Unfortunately, my rural high school had not prepared me for the science classes I would need to qualify for the Veterinary school program I applied to. After graduating, I started to re-evaluate my career options, and realizing how much I enjoyed my college job in the athletic training room, I started working as a technician in an outpatient PT clinic. I took the science courses again, made a 4.0 the second time, and eventually was accepted to my dream Veterinary program as well as a DPT program. I decided to become a physical therapist and have not regretted that decision. Through PT school, I enjoyed my classes and clinical rotations, but did not feel as though I had found my niche. I finally took the women's health class in my third year and a fire was sparked. I was able to shadow a specialist in pelvic health soon after and realized I had found my calling. I am very passionate about women's health and so enjoy my work as a Pelvic Health PT.

Meet Loni Cooper, PT, DPT

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.

On Point : My Path to Pelvic Health

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!

Dissolving the Mystery of What's "Down There"

A North Carolina native and Tar Heel through and through, I attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for my undergraduate career. After a year of working as a rehab office coordinator in a skilled nursing facility, I made the transition to Virginia to attend Lynchburg College's Doctor of Physical Therapy program and graduated this past May. Like many others, my drive to pursue a career in physical therapy is rooted in the call to help others. I explored many career options in the healthcare field but was continuously drawn towards physical therapy. I was entranced by the power of being able to give someone back their normal function and return them to what they loved to do. And now, I have the amazing opportunity to do just that.

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