“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” – Seneca
Apex Physical Therapist Jarod Strauss didn’t travel a lot as a child. “I think the first time I was on a plane was when I was 12,” he said. But he made up for it later. His mom sent him to Europe after graduation from college, and after that, he began looking for ways to combine his two passions – physical therapy and travel.
Jarod loves being a physical therapist (PT). “For me the best part of my work is knowing it affects people’s lives and knowing they appreciate the job I’m doing, getting them back to where they want to be and helping them meet their goals,” he said. And his travels have made him a better PT.
As an undergrad at Shippensburg University, pursuing his BS degree in Exercise Science and Biology, there didn’t seem to be many study-abroad opportunities. “I saw business and language students traveling a lot, but not really science students,” he said. So when he began pursuing his Doctorate degree in Physical Therapy at Thomas Jefferson University, and international study opportunities became available, he didn’t let them pass by.
“I found that as I experienced travel – seeing new places and learning about other cultures – the more I wanted to do it,” he said.
First Stop: Japan
Jarod had been intrigued at the thought of visiting Japan for a while. His roommate at Jefferson had taught English there for several years, and Jarod was fascinated by his stories about the country. In addition, Jefferson sponsored a Japanese exchange student, and Jarod got to know him in the course of his studies. “What I heard from him was so interesting,” he said. So when it was time for someone in the program to visit Kitasato University in Sagamihara, Japan as part of the exchange, Jarod signed up.
“I jumped on it!” he said.
While in Japan, Jarod not only learned about different approaches to physical therapy and rehabilitation, he also learned quite a bit about Japanese culture.
“They don’t have a lot of out-patient orthopedic clinics there,” he said. He isn’t sure why, but he thinks perhaps Eastern medicine and its holistic approach to healing have an effect. “It just seemed like the Japanese didn’t turn to physical therapy for an injury right away,” he said. For the bulk of the population, it seemed to be “more of an afterthought.”
Jarod visited hospitals there, which he described as “absolutely pristine.” And he visited a senior center, where residents were receiving physical therapy treatments.
“It was interesting to see them using different modalities, not commonly used in rehab and physical therapy here,” he said. One treatment was diathermy – a method of heating tissue for therapeutic purposes electromagnetically through specialized lamps or ultrasound.
“I had heard about it, but not seen it used before,” he said.
Jarod also went on home visits with licensed PTs, and that’s where he learned the importance of non-verbal communication.
“You learned to communicate with very few words using non-verbal cues and eye contact. You don’t always need to speak to build relationships,” he said.
This was especially true with one older couple who collected and displayed baseball memorabilia and seemed to love the sport as much as Jarod.
“I am a huge baseball fan – a huge Phillies Fan – and we didn’t speak five words, but we had a great visit sharing our love of baseball,” he said.
Next Stop – Ireland
Before graduating from Jefferson, Jarod performed his final clinical outside Dublin, Ireland, where he worked at the National Rehab Hospital of Ireland.
In Europe, physical therapists are called physiotherapists, so while there, Jarod worked alongside physiotherapists treating patients that were recovering from traumatic or acquired brain injuries.
One of the biggest differences in the Irish hospital system was length of stays, he said. In fact, one man that Jarod treated was in the rehab center for several years. “That’s something we would never see over here,” he said, but the Irish national system pays most healthcare costs.
Jarod returned home and graduated with his DPT from Thomas Jefferson in 2010. He began work in Apex Physical Therapy in Phoenixville in August 2012, and since then, his work has kept him a bit closer to home. He admits to traveling vicariously through his patients, however. They frequently share stories with him about trips they’ve taken or the countries they’ve emigrated from.
Jarod knows he learned a lot about physical therapy in his travels, but he feels he gained even more than that. “It gave me life and world experience,” he said. “I learned a lot about interacting with people – listening to them and learning from them. I feel like I can talk to or relate to just about anyone – regardless of cultural difference and language barriers.”
The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a person’s determination. – Tommy Lasorda
At work and in life, some days are more challenging and others more rewarding than others. For physical therapist and endurance athlete, Dan Allen, it’s the challenges and the rewards together that make it all worthwhile.
Dan completed his DPT from Arcadia University in 2005 and began work in at Apex Physical Therapy in Lionville in January 2012. When he isn’t working, he’s either spending time with his wife and young son, or training – HARD! ! He competes in triathlons, runs with the West Chester Running Club, and leads CrossFit training.
Determined to Excel
“My love of endurance sports came when I was in high school,” he said. “I found that I always had to push myself harder than others to achieve what they made look easy, and I became determined to excel at what they thought was hard.”
Before becoming a physical therapist, Dan spent 19 years in the fitness industry at the YMCA, working as a pool lifeguard in his teens and eventually as a fitness supervisor during college and graduate school. He has always pushed his own fitness boundaries, but through his work at the YMCA, Dan learned he has a great capacity to motivate others, as well.
“I know I am a motivator and teacher and want to instill confidence and independence in others,” he said.
Like the time this past fall, when he treated a young 10-year-old patient, who had bilateral surgeries to lengthen his Achilles tendons. He was casted and on a walker.
“He afraid he would fall when I met him,” Dan said. “He could not even walk from the front door into the PT gym without stopping to sit because he was so out of breath. My most rewarding on-the-job experience was when (after treatment), he was able to run into my clinic and jump on the low mat table for the first time. That last day of therapy was special, it made me cry.”
Dan originally considered becoming a physician, but he eventually realized that doctors don’t always have the time needed to get know their patients very well. They also don’t have the training in the treatments and methods that can make a person’s movements functional. Since becoming a PT, Dan hasn’t looked back.
Leading the Way
He takes joy in helping people meet their goals outside of work,, as well. At 5:15 every morning, he leads daily CrossFit-style training sessions with a West Chester group called the “Tough Dubbers.” The focus is on core strength, conditioning and camaraderie through activities like running, swimming, gymnastics and biking. “I want to help as many people as I can,” he said. “Tell them to come and visit me in Lionville!”
Frank Rabadam, Director; Jean Wombough, PSR; Meredith Mayes, PT
After a busy weekend and some fancy footwork, Excel physical therapists and staff welcomed patients to the new Excel Jenkintown clinic. The move was completed in two quick days to insure as little interruption as possible to patients’ treatment, and the new, more accessible facility will make it easier for all of our patients to get the treatment they need.
Monday was an exciting day at the clinic. Staff settled quickly into their new work areas, new equipment gleamed, and bright sunshine flowed through the windows.
Our patients give the facility rave reviews:
“The place is beautiful, spacious, so bright!”
“It’s much easier to park and get to!”
“And the staff is as great as ever…even though they make you work hard to get better!”
Congratulations to Clinic Director, Frank Rabadam, Physical Therapist Meredith Mayes, and Patient Service Representatives, Jean Wombough, and Donna Tonkin on your new “home.” We know how pleased you are to have a great new facility to better serve your patients. Thanks for doing all the hard work required to make it happen.
Find us at: One Abington Plaza, 101 Old York Road, Suite 204, Jenkintown; 215-886-5520.
The team at our Villanova did such a wonderful job helping a couple to get moving again that they inspired this love poem. That’s our E&A Team, downright inspiring!
“Excuses are tools for the cowardly, upon which monuments of nothingness are built.” Author Unknown
Photo Credit: Ildar Sagdejev
It takes a lot of perseverance and a lot of grit to work in construction or landscaping, day in and day out. And when on-the-job injuries occur, it can be difficult for laborers to find medical professionals who understand the effort it takes to get back to work.
Before obtaining Doctor of Physical Therapy degree (DPT), Greg Jeblonski worked for about 7 years in landscaping, and he thinks his blue collar background goes a long way in enabling him to help patients with work-related injuries.
“They often feel no one understands them,” Jeblonski said, “because they feel doctors or other clinicians in the medical world haven’t experienced working ten-plus hours a day, five days a week, busting your hump from start to finish. My exposure to that kind of work setting helps give me ‘street-cred.’”
Education and Good Form
Greg works at Excel’s Walnut Street clinic, where he applies his background to real life situations that lots of his patients face. “I teach patients not to fear movement or the scenario where they were injured,” he said. “Further, I try to be up-to-date with research, and educate my patients.”
Misinformation about injuries and people’s perceptions of pain is everywhere, he said. For example, common knowledge promotes “lifting with the legs,” but research shows that we are safe to lift with what was previously thought of as ‘bad form,’ Greg says. For people who work arduous jobs, this kind of information can prevent recurring injuries and keep them working.
Strengthening exercises can make a big difference, too. “We want to strengthen people’s bodies for all situations,” Greg said, because on-the-job conditions are not always ideal for allowing “best form.”
A Physical Therapist Role
Greg says he enjoys many aspects of being a PT, but trying to help others recover from injuries and achieve their full potential is the best part of the job. “I like being the impetus, the drive, for helping people overcome their obstacles,” he said. “As PTs, we are perfectly positioned to do these things, whereas doctors, psychologists, and life coaches do not seem to have the same intimate relationship with their clients. That’s why I chose PT over something else.”
Greg grew up right here in Philadelphia, but after graduating, he and his wife moved to Boston for a couple years and then quit their jobs and backpacked across Europe for three months. Upon their return to the states, they worked as traveling PTs in Seattle for four months.
“Traveling definitely has been a positive influence on my life,” he said. “Choose your cliché: it broadens your horizons, makes you appreciate home, etc. But it really helps one become a more rounded individual, having experienced other cultures,” he said. “As you can imagine, that translates into being able to relate to patients of various backgrounds, as well.”
Greg, who has always been an avid athlete, now stays active in recreational soccer leagues, rock climbing, and general fitness activities at the gym. Plus, he and his wife, who is a PT, as well, have two daughters under age 3. It’s not quite as rigorous as landscaping, but “they always keep us busy and moving!” he said.
Read more about Greg and his experiences with the Pennsylvania Army National Guard in Iraq in this article from ADVANCE for Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine®.
Knowing is not enough; we must apply.
Willing is not enough; we must do.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Rachel Shimko knows what it’s like to drag yourself to physical therapy. She’s been there.
In fact, she credits a knee injury, sustained while skiing in 1992 and the rehabilitation that followed as the spark that lit the way to her career as a physical therapist.
“I remember thinking, this is really cool. I could do this,” she said.
A Passion for Physical Therapy
Rachel started her career as a personal trainer in a physical therapy office, but she soon found that she wasn’t challenged enough in that role and she returned to school, graduating from Widener in 2003 with a doctorate of Physical Therapy.
For a while, she worked by day as the manager of a skilled nursing facility and at night as a physical therapist. Ultimately, however, it was her love of helping people recover from orthopedic injuries that won out.
“I love working with a variety of patents, but I realized where my passion was,” she said. She says she loves working at Apex in Pottstown-Coventry because she gets to help patients with all sorts of mobility and pain issues. “I love knowing I have an impact,” she said.
Leading by Example
Rachel isn’t working two jobs anymore, but her schedule is still busy. It’s not always easy to fit exercise into her work week, but she knows it’s necessary to stay in shape for her job, which requires long hours on her feet. Her regular exercise program includes running, in addition to strength training at the gym at least twice a week.
“If I don’t do it, my knee will definitely act up,” she said, and that’s a lesson she tries to drive home to her patients.
“I tell them I know what you are going through. I know it’s hard,” she said, but she also tells them that her experience has taught her that doing the work in physical therapy can yield big results.
“If someone comes in with a herniated disc and low back strain, I also encourage them to make changes to their diet and activity level a little bit at a time,” she said. And when physical therapy is complete, she stresses the importance of maintaining those changes by committing to a home exercise program of basic stretches or by going to the gym.
A Taste of Success
Her approach is holistic. She encourages patients to make small changes toward a healthier lifestyle, and that too is a lesson she’s learned from experience.
While growing up on a farm in Unionville, Pennsylvania, she had lots of opportunities to be active, but she admits her farm girl diet wasn’t always healthy. “The more butter the better,” she said. After moving closer to Philadelphia, she started to explore new kinds of food and healthier ways of cooking. “I love to try out new recipes with more flavor” and less butter, she said.