Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Robbie Horstman Runs

From entering this program, to transitioning to the professional phase, and even now I have heard the same questions from parents, classmates, younger students and prospective students: Can you have life in PT school? Do you have time for hobbies and a social life? Do you have to study all the time?

This story starts in Madrid, Spain in the fall of 2009. I was a junior in the Program in Physical Therapy studying abroad as many of us did that semester.  One day early on in the semester, I ended up at El Corte Ingles – looking for a pair of running shoes. I had decided that I was going to run a marathon; at this point in my life, the furthest I had ever run was 3 miles… maybe a little less. I began running all over Madrid. It’s a phenomenal way to learn the ins and outs of a city.  This lasted about 4 weeks – until I developed what I now believe to have been a tendonopathy involving my fibularis brevis (pain to the outside of my foot).  I didn’t run much for the rest of my study abroad experience – a fact I lament – because Madrid is an amazing city to run in.  Despite my long lay-off, the fire was lit and it would smolder for quite some time.

Fast forward to February in St. Louis. I had finally chased the tendonopathy and had signed up for the Go! St. Louis Marathon when what some therapists refer to as ITB (iliotibial band) syndrome manifested as a sharp pain on the outside of my knee, just below the knee cap. As the ITB would occasionally force me to stop running to days at a time I sought the help of R. Scott Van Nest, one of the best set of eyes for gait analysis who I knew through a job at the Sports Medicine and Training Center. He pointed out a lot of problems in my running gait. While shortly after I ran a half marathon with my whacky gait at 1:58, I began to train for a half marathon in Minneapolis with a new plan and goal of 1:45. At this time I was taking Gross Anatomy and Kinesiology and running 4 times a week. I was able to complete these important classes as well as maintain my running plan. I beat my goal in Minneapolis (July 2010) at 1:40:15. By this point, I had a much better understanding of my own running gait and ways to manage injury – being a PT student has major benefits if one aspires to run distance.

In the spring and summer of 2011 I ran several half marathons and marathons that fine-tuned my abilities and understanding of how to train. I trained 4 times a week in the spring, still managing school well and taking 1:31:25 at the Go! Half Marathon as a result. I fought off injury from April to June, and ran a 26.2 mile trek while tutoring Gross Anatomy and working in the PT clinic. My okay marathon debut at 3:28:15 resulted in an inability to get around for a week, but I got out of my funk in early August and changed my training philosophy. I started researching training philosophy, food, cross training, and anything else I hypothesized might assist my running. I got injured – posterior tibial tendinopathy – running through a half marathon and bombing it, making myself angry. The fire blazed.

At this time, it was fall of 2011, and I was headed to Cleveland Ohio for the start of my first full clinical rotation.  My rotation went well and I upped my training to 5-7 days per week.  With increased biomechanical knowledge, I found that I was able to chase injuries before they became as problematic. I ran 4 half marathons in the spring of this year – 1:31:17, 1:29:50, 1:28:36, 1:25:02 leading up to Grandma’s Marathon. Keep in mind that throughout this period I was still carrying 18 credit hours, which is the precise amount of school work that existed in my life throughout this story (except summers – one summer with class, one with work and tutoring gross anatomy). I ran my second Grandma’s Marathon in 3:13:11 after backing off the pace at 14 because it wasn’t my day. It was disappointing, but I learned a lot from it.

There are a couple of things to be drawn from my (rather lengthy) story.  The first important point is that in the PT program here at SLU, the class work is certainly difficult, but it does not prevent students from chasing dreams that require a substantial time commitment on a daily basis (though not the point of this post, add to that a pretty active social life).  I peaked at 80+ miles per week, won local 5k, ran a bunch of distance races and maintained good grades.  I won’t tell you that balancing everything isn’t difficult – I think it is for everyone, but I’ve been able to work, run and do well in school from the beginning of my running career until this point. The second point is that physical therapy can open a lot of doors; the example here is the fact that I’ve learned a ton about running from physical therapy and a ton about physical therapy from running. I wouldn’t be the runner that I am if I wasn’t first a PT student.

I will toe the line at the Twin Cities Marathon this October to chase the 3:00 marathon. I’ve backed off my rigid training program as a trial, still running 5-7 days per week but with a less obsessive attitude. Time will tell if this works.  Racing times are measured in black and white, minutes and seconds. The joy that I’ve experienced from running cannot be measured or quantified. Never stop chasing your dreams.

Questions? Comments?

Robbie Horstman

Monday, September 24, 2012

SLU Food Truck Rally

From Lulu’s Local Eatery’s website at
If you find yourself by Chaifetz this Thursday, September 27th, make sure to check out the SLU Food Truck Rally!

Trucks participating include (click on the hyperlink to view their website and find a menu!) :
For more information: SLU Food Truck Rally

Thursday, September 20, 2012

News from Australia!

Read Lindsay Matherne’s update from Australia below!  Lindsay is a PT student in the class of 2016 and is currently studying in Gold Coast, Australia.

SLU PT students Leah Mengis, Lindsay Matherne, Megan McGovern, and Colette Roth

I am having the most amazing time here in Australia; I couldn't have hoped for anything better.  The weather is perfect, the beaches are gorgeous, and the people are so friendly.  I am just about done with my second week of school and the classes are going smoothly.  I am trying to stay on top of my work so when my trips come along I will not have to worry about homework or papers.  I and some other girls from SLU have signed up and paid for two trips already--one which is during Halloween weekend, we're going to Sydney, and the second one we are doing in November.  That one we are going to the Whitsunday Islands and sailing around them on a boat and snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef. We also will be signing up for a trip to New Zealand--but we're waiting for the initial credit card bill to come through first!
I've learned so much in three weeks that I've been here. I've learned a lot about Australians' way of life--how laid back everybody is, including the teachers.  Classes don't start right on the dot like they do in America.  I am learning a lot about Australia as a country as well.  About the geography and the history.  Some of the oldest specimens of life are found in this country (in the Outback).  I didn't realize that Britain had such a huge influence on Australia's culture.  Everything from the way they speak, to the way they dress, to the sports they play; which eventually led to an anti-British movement.  We are learning this in our Popular Culture class.

I attached a picture of the four of us from SLU at our first rugby game. It was lots of fun!

Lindsay Matherne

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bike MS 2012 - "SLU Phycycle Therapy"

Some bike MS 2012 statistics from Matt Johns, PT student of the Class of 2013 and the team leader of "SLU Phycycle Therapy":
       Our team raised approximately $4,100.
The options for each day were to either ride 40, 75, or 100 miles.
Our team as a whole rode roughly 1,000 miles on the Saturday of the event and roughly 600 miles on Sunday, a grand total of around 1,600 miles.
Our section/area (Gateway Getaway Ride) raised $1,642,022.06 as a whole with 21,672 different donors.
On Saturday those of us that rode the 100 miles spent roughly 8 hours out on the road.
On Sunday no one did the 100 but a few of us did the 75 mile route and spent about 5.5 hours on the road.
We drank (at least) 100 bottles of Gatorade as a team.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Kara O'Malley's Adventura en Bolivia!

PT SLU alumni Kara O’Malley is currently working in Bolivia! You can follow her blog, “Aventuras en Bolivia,” at We interviewed Kara to see how she got involved in the Centro Medico Humberto Parra (the clinic she is working at), what she has been most challenged by, and how her SLU PT education has come in handy where she’s at – you might be surprised by what she says!  

When did you begin your stay in Bolivia? How long will you be there?

I came to Bolivia in July and the plan is to stay here until late May.

What do you plan on doing?

I came to work at Centro Medico Humberto Parra, a clinic located in Palacios, a very small pueblo (around 50 families) located 2 hours outside of Santa Cruz. The clinic serves about 15 neighboring pueblos. The clinic was started 10 years ago by a couple in Chicago, two doctors, and is staffed by Bolivians. Every year, 2-4 volunteers come down for 6-12 months to work as coordinators (doing such things as organizing other volunteers as they come down throughout the year, making sure things are running smoothly at the clinic, doing  programs in the communities, providing education to patients, doing health education with a group of women from neighboring communities, etc. For the past three years two medical students from Loyola Chicago have come down to work as the coordinators for the year. My boyfriend is currently at Loyola and when I heard about the program I spoke with previous coordinators who stated they saw a definite need for physical therapy. From there I spoke with the doctors in Chicago (and my boyfriend) and we worked it out for me to come for the year!

A little background about how the clinic works on a daily basis and what I runs from 9-? Wednesday thru Saturday. Sometimes clinic ends by 1, other times it goes until 4:30. Different communities are scheduled to come on different days. Right now there is one full time physician and two medical students seeing patients. I have been seeing several therapy patients most days (after they see the doctor they are sent to me....we’re currently working on a better referral system that will broaden the number of patients I am able to see as the physicians understand more of the types of patients they can refer), often times they are patients with shoulder or back problems but then there are Aldo's everlasting patients who have had strokes and one patient with a broken hip. When I am not seeing patients at times I will help with educating patients on diabetes management and on properly taking their medicines according to the prescriptions. There is also down time where I am able to do some studying. This week, the coordinator and I are going to try to have short class during clinic hours to discuss exercise and diabetes management and to actually have everyone perform some light exercises while waiting for the physician. If it goes well we will try to continue it every week. I am also going to expand my abilities and try to do some grant searching/writing in the coming months.

Why did you decide to live in Bolivia?

When I decided to come to Bolivia I actually knew no Spanish. However I had had several Spanish speaking patients in the past and I always wished that I would be more able to work with them; it is great to have translators available but I find it is more difficult to build a relationship with your patients and to accurately explain things. So, one of the reasons I decided to do this was because I knew at this point the only way I would be able to learn Spanish was through immersion and I really wanted to know Spanish in order to expand my ability to work as a therapist.

Another reason I chose to come was that my whole life I have wanted to do some sort of trip such as this. I wanted to travel, but I wanted to have a purpose while traveling. For some reason, throughout high school and college there just never seemed to be the right opportunity. When I heard about this opportunity it just felt like it was the right thing at the right time; I would be able to come as a physical therapist and work with patients who otherwise would not receive therapy while I was also experiencing a new culture in a new place. And it sounded fun!

Kara and Fanny doing strength training – to see more pictures, go to Kara’s blog at

What has your experience been like so far? What have some of your challenges been? How have you been working through them?

So far I have been here about two months; I'm returning to the states for Christmas and will then be back in Bolivia until at least late May. Two challenges I knew I would face here are the fact that I knew no Spanish and that many of my patients would have musculoskeletal problems (for the past year I had been working in a sub-acute rehab setting and therefore knew I would need to brush up on my special tests, etc.). Also, in the past there had never been a therapist at the clinic; although there are therapists in the country there are very few of them and many people don't realize all of the different types of work we can do. Therefore it has been a challenge finding the right patients and educating the physician, staff, and patients on what physical therapy is/does (in my broken Spanish).

Another, and possibly the most challenging thing thus far, has been the location of the clinic in relation to the communities it serves. Some of the communities are more than an hour away and most people must take public transportation because they don't have cars. If I were in the US I would want to see many of my patients at least twice a week, however because the distance, at best I am able to see patients every other week and at times once a month (I am seeing one patient 3-4 times a week because she lives in Palacios). This makes it very challenging to give patients HEPs and to decide on what is most important to work on during the short time I have with them.

Kara and Dave – to see more pictures, go to their blog at

Speaking of HEP's another challenge is the lack of a program on the computer to print exercises from. Personally I find this story amusing.....because there is no program I have been drawing out all of the HEP's by hand. The first week we were at the clinic the two bosses from the US were in town visiting. One of them saw me drawing exercises and said, "I guess none of your classes prepared you for that." I had to laugh because I have such vivid memories of several assignments we had in school in which we HAD to draw exercises out. We all complained and said we'd never have to do this when we were working. Our teacher just said, "You never know." So, my SLU education definitely prepared me in more ways than I realized!

 I am thoroughly enjoying my time here and learning a lot. It's really nice because I spend several days each week in Santa Cruz (a rather large city very similar to the US in many ways) and several days in Palacios (as a said a very small community). I am now able to see patients on my own for much of the time (although there are still times I need to call someone in to help me out when I do not understand). People have been very understanding with my poor Spanish (at times too understanding, meaning they pretend they understand when I know they don't!) and very willing to help me learn. Another thing I have begun to do is ask every patient if they prefer pictures or words for HEPs because many of them cannot read, this is something I will take back with me to the US. It has been interesting working so closely with doctors and other members of the health field because I am able to see what a large role we have as therapists in providing the education to our patients; so many times doctors have so many patients to see they are not able to spend the time they would like with their patients and often it is the education that must be cut short (although I was already aware of this I am even more so now).

Photos from Pediatric Seminar

Check out these photos from last week’s pediatric seminar!

(with a debut from PT professor Jill FitzGerald's baby, Kate!)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Vote for Casa de Salud!

Taken from today's Newslink:
Health Literacy Missouri gives the award each year to a person or organization that works to improve health literacy in the state of Missouri. The SLU community is invited to vote for Casa de Salud, one of five finalists for the award, online at the Health Literacy Missouri website.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Finally a Billiken

In the PT office we get so many questions about what it is like to be a PT Billiken, ranging from topics like studying habits to hobbies to studying abroad. We thought it would help to give you a PT Billiken’s point of view from the ground up, so we asked several of this year’s freshman (Class of 2018) to write about their experiences from time to time. Lillian Chen is from the Chicago area and offered to share about her experience moving into SLU:  

After five vigorous hours of packing my room in Naperville into three oversized suitcases and only getting two hours of sleep that night, I had finally arrived; St. Louis was now going to be my home for the next six years. It would be extremely cliché to say that mixed emotions ran through my mind before coming to SLU, but quite frankly there really isn’t any other way to put it. I was more than excited to be able to go out and experience life on my own, while at the same time that exact thought made me extremely nervous. I have never been away from home before, at least not for an extended period of time, and I am an only child, so being away from my parents would feel completely different from a daughter’s standpoint of view. Not only that, but I am the only person within my large group of friends who is attending SLU, which made me even more nervous knowing I won’t have someone close to meet new people with. I was a lost, lonesome, Chicagoan girl who essentially had no idea where she was. But to my surprise, all of these feelings disappeared just moments after I moved in to my room in Reinert Hall. I almost immediately began meeting people who lived on my floor and even more people during Trivia Night and the square dance on the garage rooftop. The following days were not much different as I continued to introduce myself to people and learned new faces and names. All throughout the first few days, the nervousness and concerns I had while unloading my car on move-in day had completely vanished. While calling my friends and parents to tell them about my experience so far at SLU, the one thing that repeatedly comes up is how ‘at-home’ I feel by having such wonderful personalities and nicest people I have ever met.

It’s funny to look back to just a week ago and realize how silly I was, thinking that I was going to be a lost lonesome. Well, maybe still a little lost in the St. Louis area, but it is certainly nearly impossible to be lonesome when you’re surrounded by the nicest people around – the Billikens.

-Lillian Chen (Class of 2018)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Why did you choose SLU PT? Zach Johnson

Throughout high school I became injured on several occasions. This caused more than just a few journeys to my local PT clinic. Spending so many hours within its confines sparked my interest in choosing PT as a career. During my search for the right university I noticed a postcard from SLU in a large pile with others. The fact that it advertised PT as one of their top programs was enough to convince me to make a visit. Apart from the main campus walk through, I was granted a tour of the PT program. This included a full examination of all of the labs, classrooms, etc., but also a one-on-one interview with a member of the PT faculty. The treatment I received made it a no-brainer which college I would attend.

Since becoming a Billiken, each year has been better than the one before. I have become much closer with my fellow PT classmates, befriended many members of the PT faculty through my work study job, and, yes, even conquered Gross Anatomy Summer. Whenever I have come across a problem with my studies I have always felt comfortable approaching a professor or even older classmates. While it seems frightening at times that soon enough I will begin practicing, I believe that my experience at SLU will go above and beyond in preparing me for that period of my life.

Zach Johnson, Class of 2015