Physical Therapy Month is in October each year and raises awareness about the benefits and importance of physical therapy for physical and mental wellness. To celebrate the work of PTs and those who assist them, we hear from Lisa Steinkamp, PT, PhD, MBA, the director of the school’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Program and assistant professor of family medicine and community health. She has directed the program for almost 25 years.
Q: What does being a physical therapist mean to you?
Steinkamp: Being a PT means being a movement expert who is able to help improve and restore function in people of all ages and abilities.
Q: Why are PTs so vital in healthcare and communities?
Steinkamp: Movement is key to overall health. PTs are positioned to help with some of society’s biggest health challenges. For example, PTs can help manage pain as an alternative to opioids. They can teach exercise to prevent and manage chronic disease and conditions, such as obesity. We can also help prevent work- or sport-related injuries and the need for surgery, or we can work with patients who are deconditioned after surgery, have developmental disorders or neurological conditions, wounds or burns. Falls are the leading cause of death in people 65 and older and Wisconsin has the highest rate of deadly falls in the country. PTs can help reduce the risk of falls by improving strength, balance, coordination and flexibility. Our focus is on health and wellness, which are crucial to public health. We also value teamwork.
Q: Why is being a PT a rewarding profession?
Steinkamp: PTs have the privilege of spending a lot of hands-on time with their patients, really getting to know them, and becoming informed advocates. It is very rewarding to improve someone’s overall quality of life; we also try to make treatments fun.
Q: What would you tell someone interested in pursuing physical therapy?
Steinkamp: One of the best parts of this profession is that we graduate as generalists who can work with all age groups, in a variety of settings. For example, we can work in private practices, hospitals, outpatient clinics, work places, schools, sports and fitness facilities, nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities, to name a few. It is also a physical profession that is great for those who don’t want to sit at a desk. Most people think of us working with musculoskeletal issues but we are also educated in neuromuscular, cardiorespiratory, and integumentary domains. We work with patients across the lifespan and have board-certified specialties in cardiovascular and pulmonary, clinical electrophysiology, geriatrics, neurology, oncology, orthopedics, pediatrics, sports, women’s health, and wound management.