Professional guidance and mentorship
The morning of my first day of class, I rummaged through my ties and bowties. Ultimately, I decided to wear a bowtie to honor many of my professors before me who I always thought were goofy for wearing bowties, but respected for having the courage to do so. It was my turn to don the bowtie.
I stood staring into the blank faces of 50 DPT students at Chapman University. I heard one student whispering to another classmate: “He is so young!”. Was I really that young? I guess I was . . . the fact of the matter is that they were all eager to listen to what I had to say and what was to come next.
I realized I didn’t just arrive and get my professional dream at age 33 by sheer luck. Was there a higher power that led me along this path, there some clandestine strategy in getting me here today, to this very moment?
It started in 2008-2009, I was broke after the stock market crashed, and all the savings that I hoarded from 3 jobs, 7 days/week, and 12 hour/days for the first 4 years of my career were gone.
Desperate and destitute – I realized this wasn’t going to be the life I imagined for myself, I needed a better plan.
Work smarter and harder
Sometimes it takes someone who can see past our own limited beliefs, and who is willing to push us past our imagined capabilities, for us to experience true growth.
I always believed somehow I could work smarter and not harder as the saying goes. I figured the best way to achieve this was to get mentorship and seek those with the most knowledge and respect.
In Northern Virginia I met Dr. Gary Kaplan, a Doctor of Osteopathy, who established himself as one of the top chronic pain specialists in the area. He hired me on the spot, and I was excited to learn about integrative medicine at his practice, the Kaplan Clinic. While there, I saw things that most PTs never get to see. I was there when Platelet rich plasma (PRP) and prolotherapy were still lightly known in the U.S. I learned about inflammation and diet. I learned that staying ahead of cutting edge solutions and embracing a multidisciplinary approach was essential.
Contributing as just one member of an effective team that battled chronic pain, I finally began to lessen the grip on an ego that was harmful to my progress. I started thinking of ways to help my patients. This road led me to ask the hard questions about my care. Ultimately it led me to register for classes at the Institute of Physical Art (IPA).
It wasn’t until I met Mr. Gregory Johnson in late 2010, the co-founder and co-developer of the IPA, while he was teaching a course titled 'Functional Mobilization of the Lower Quadrant', that I became hooked to the approach of Functional Manual Therapy (FMT). He performed a one hour live demonstration on a patient who walked in with a cane, after many surgeries and no relief from prior PT. As she dumped her life story of falls, car accidents, and miscarriages that had affected her life as a woman and a contributing member in society, I couldn't help but to be cynical with a smug look. The cynicism came from my non belief that anything would happen within the time frame of one hour. This was another exposure to my limited view of what excellent care looked liked.
In one hour, with a coccyx mobilization here, an ovary mobilization there, FMT everywhere, and PNF to boot, I saw the transformation of this woman’s scrunched face to a more relaxed face. Her body language was one of hope, and of a new belief in her functional capabilities. She walked out with about 70% less pain and 100% more of who she thought she could be. She didn’t even use the cane she walked in with.
My mouth dropped as I gazed at all this. I thought to myself, “I want to do that! I want to do what he just did!” I calculated where I was as a clinician, and I concluded that it would take me about 15 visits for me to do what Gregg did in just one hour. That is 15 of me to one Gregg Johnson.
The potential was there for me too! Right?!
This began a fury to be the best I could be and to aim for closer to a 4:1 ratio. I picked Gregg to be my professional mentor. One could only be so blessed. He was always available to answer my questions, provide life advice, listen to gripes, and to share his humor.
Working smarter was learning from someone who could save me from the broken record that keeps going round and round with no target nor end. What I didn’t realize was that working smarter still also meant working harder, harder because it was necessary to hurdle the fears and limitations I have strapped myself down with for so many years. The smarter reward had yet to come.
There is no place like home!
Over the next 5 years, I took more classes from the IPA. Gregg challenged, lectured, but above all encouraged me. It was simply inspirational to be around him.
Unfortunately, my time at the Kaplan Clinic had neared its end, as I felt I had learned all that I could from that experience. I was grateful for Dr. Kaplan’s guidance. I moved back home to California, became my own boss, and went from a relative unknown to number 1 in the county via a crowdsource website called Yelp. I expanded my business; I steadily became known as being some sort of expert and was invited to be on National Public Radio; I wrote articles for PTHaven.com and a local newspapers; I passed the formidable IPA Certified Functional Manual Therapy exam; I wrote and self-published a book for healing; and I became a motivational speaker for undergraduates and high school students.
Full circle and keys to a life more promising
Alas, maybe luck wasn’t the right notion to what landed me here in front of the 50 blank faces. After all, I was a blank face to them, too, and a blank face in general once long before. It was the precise execution of a dreamer’s plan. I just didn’t appreciate it until the very moment.
Being a mentor is more added stress and not fun and games. I endeavor to note that because I was not an easy professional to deal with.
You first have to find someone you respect and hope they give you the time of day to spend the energy and time to mentor you. You must find someone who will educate, encourage, empower, and enable you. Exploitation is the danger of some mentors to their mentees. A true, honest, and mutual exchange is necessary for proper balance of the relationship.
Finally, it was two men’s visions and seeing past my understanding of my own potential that inspired me to get off my butt and move from dream to reality. Rarely in life do we have the blessing to even have one mentor, I have had the honor of having two pioneers in each of their own right guide me. Thanks to my mentors Dr. Gary Kaplan and Gregg Johnson.
Assuming, if in one PT’s career, that PT could average roughly 75,000 visits over a 30-35 year span, then the 50 students in front of me could potentially have the capability to influence 3,750,000 visits alone. That puts my beloved mentors in the 100 Millions or more! Now, that’s the reward! If mentoring is half as fun as being mentored, I believe it will be rewarded in so many different ways. Maybe one day someone will look at me in this light. One can only hope.
As I stared at the 50 blank faces, what came next? The payout of course! A life less fantasized and one lived . . . and I did it while I was young!