Did I want to be a physical therapist?

Frankly, physical therapy was not very high on my list when I had to decide what to study. Growing up in the Netherlands, I had to make a choice toward the end of high school. My first choice was to study medicine, but I was also very interested in studying music, or even Dutch Language and Culture. Going to med school in those days involved a lottery system and even though my high school grades were in line with getting accepted into med school, I did not get in. As an alternative, I could study physical therapy. If accepted, I would have to catch up on 2-3 courses over the summer and continue with the second year in med school. 

I was also very interested in the Dutch language and literature. I was an avid reader of Dutch literature and had started writing short stories and even some poetry. I even self-published a collection of stories and poems “Searching for Contact Lenses.”  I could see myself being an author of fiction novels and short stories. But instead, I started PT school, applied again for med school a year later, and again, I did not get in.  Same for the third year! Having finished three years of PT school, it made sense to complete and a year later, I graduated. I could not have known at that time what an exciting journey I had started!

One of my first highlights…..

During high school, I was a very active musician. I played clarinet and percussion in several ensembles and at age 14, I started my formal education to become a conductor of wind bands. I was the youngest student ever and traveled to Amsterdam once per month for classes.  At age 16, I conducted two Christmas concerts, which was definitely a highlight at that time! 

My PT school education was interrupted as I had to complete compulsory military training. I spent my military time playing in a military band; I played saxophone and occasional clarinet. I had about one week before my audition to learn how to play the saxophone!  At the end of my military time, I came to the US for the summer, before returning to PT school in the Fall. Now, many years later, those initial hiccups have not really made all that much of a difference. I am happy with my final choice of becoming a PT. Although I am not writing Dutch fiction, I ended up writing quite a lot anyway with several professional books and many book chapters and articles.

What do I like most about being a physical therapist?

It is kind of intriguing that what I like most is also what makes me kind of sad. Considering that over 90% of our patients do not have an accurate medical diagnosis, I enjoy going to work as a “diagnosis detective” and help patients figure out what in fact may be going on. It seems that most of the healthcare workers our patients have seen previously just did not invest enough time and energy in figuring out what may be the problem. It is great being able to come up with a plan and see the sometimes absolutely amazing results giving people their life back! At the same time, it is sad that patients have to rely on kind of randomly running into a physical therapist who is willing to go the extra mile.

Of course, I enjoy the privilege of being able to teach other physical therapists all over the world the approach and techniques that made Bethesda Physiocare stand out. I really enjoy meeting colleagues in Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Australia, India, Iran, Kuwait, Qatar, Canada, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Spain, among many other countries.