Today we’d like to introduce you to Rebecca Brown.
Rebecca, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
This is probably more than what you are looking for, but it was obvious pretty early on that physical therapy was a perfect match for me, but I never expected it to end up the way it did. When I was in high school, I suffered a serious injury to my knee while playing soccer. I was told by my doctor that I probably would not be able to continue playing soccer and certainly not at a high level. But, I had a PT whose words changed my outlook, “who knows what your recovery might be, this injury isn’t common.” I was able to return to soccer the next year and went on to play college soccer. From that point on, I knew I wanted to be a physical therapist and went on to receive my degree in Physical Therapy at Columbia University.
When I went to Columbia, I already had growing student loans. The NYC Board of Education offered a grant to physical therapy students, and if chosen, the Board of Ed would pay for a year of tuition in exchange for a year and a half of service as a children’s PT in the school systems. At that time, I hardly even knew there was PT for children. I had always pictured myself in an injury clinic type of setting. I instantly loved it…but also loved sports injury. This resulted in me spending the majority of my career doing both children’s developmental PT and orthopedic PT. Looking back, this combination really shaped my approach to both types of therapy, because my approach was never to just fix the problem or injury, but to do so while returning them to the activities that made them the happiest.
Six year ago, after years of working at both a clinic and in the school. I decided to open my own office. I was lucky to have a very supportive husband who encouraged me to “jump,” knowing I would be happier seeing patients my way, which didn’t perfectly match a clinic model. I had an eclectic set of specialties to say the least: gait analysis of both typical and atypical children and adults, orthotic fabrication, injuries to runners, and injuries and exercise prescription for women during pregnancy. I could dictate exactly how I wanted to treat a patient: one-on-one, and heavily hands-on. My referrals came from patients who were happy with that kind of treatment and it continued to grow.
In 2002, I moved from NYC to Boston, but before I did, my now husband and I volunteered for Health Volunteers Overseas, which along with the African Medical Mission, allowed me to treat in a hospital in a small, rural village in South Africa. It changed both of us forever. And besides coming home with empty suitcases, we saw the importance of something as simple as a pair of shoes to people in need. It wasn’t until I had my own office that we could put our idea to use. With my patient population, we began collecting gently worn shoes.
Now, six year later, we have collected and redistributed more than 2000 pairs of shoes. First handing them out by hand in Tanzania and since distributing shoes to Peru, Guatemala, Kryzgstan, Puerto Rico, and multiple times and spaces in the Boston area. It makes it feel like things come full circle.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
A smooth road, no. But absolutely one filled with a huge learning curve. My biggest challenge now has been my biggest challenge since the beginning: balancing my time and efforts between my patients, business logistics and my family. In all my years of education, I had fantastic courses, professors and mentors in how to treat the body. But I had absolutely no education in business.
And further, physical therapy is not a common job that leads to becoming an entrepreneur. Things like insurance glitches and technical issues don’t come as naturally to me as treating the patient does. Balancing the time for each of these, while still getting home for dinner to see my family, is not easy. But I don’t think I’m alone in that challenge. I am constantly wishing for 40 hours in a day.
Healthy Soles Physical Therapy and Orthotics – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I am an Orthopedic Certified Specialist, which means I am trained to treat all joints of the body. But what I am known best for is my success in Gait Analysis and Running Injuries. This has particularly set me apart in the Boston running community and the marathon training community. I heavily rely on my ability to determine what exercises muscle and joint improvements, shoes and at times, orthotics are going to improve a patient’s walking or running stride.
When these things are corrected, their foot hitting the ground can become a therapy rather than an injury source. I have had success with runners because I have found a way to specify and fix the injury, while still allowing the patient to run. When someone gets an injury while training for a specific race like a marathon, they often are still increasing their mileage. While the typical response those runners have heard is to “stop running,” that is rarely my answer. As someone who has run a marathon, and run Boston for a charity, the importance of completing what you started is huge to each runner. They feel the pressure of those who have donated to you, as well as committed to 20 weeks of training to cross the finish line. It is a big deal to complete it and I don’t try to minimize that- I do everything I can to get them to the start line.
I also have loved my work with exercise and injuries with pregnancy. As someone who ran until the day I had my children, I think it is important that we are not telling pregnant women that pain should be an expected part of pregnancy. That’s just not true. And the more active we can keep women during pregnancy is beneficial to the mother and the baby. I love helping women be able to still enjoy exercise during pregnancy, and prepare their body for labor.
What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Professional success would mean that I created a sustainable and meaningful physical therapy office that could reach more people year after year. I want Healthy Soles to become a place that creates an environment of excitement and education and motivation. I want that to include more therapists with their own visions and skills, and to have the ability to educate student therapists and working therapist. This will lead to physical therapy being something that can positively impact more and more patients. Personally, success would mean I had found a way to continue my work in the office, while bringing a calm, focused mother to my children. And making the donations of Helping Soles and the donations of my time and knowledge, something that just becomes absolutely second nature. That it happens all the time, because I have created the time and the space and the environment for that to happen over and over again.
- Custom orthotic evaluation and fabrication is $450, and usually an out of pocket medical expense.
- Address: Healthy Soles Physical Therapy and Orthotics
581 Boylston St., suite 702FG
Boston, MA 02116
- Website: www.healthysoles.co
- Phone: 617-869-9986
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Facebook: Healthy Soles Physical Therapy and Orthotics, Helping Soles (shoe donation project)