PT Profile: Melissa Dreger

Before we get into today’s PT Profile we’d just like to highlight how exciting and encouraging it is to see the way so many students of physical therapy across the country are embracing leadership roles. We’re seeing so much passion, not only to become master clinicians, but to unite with other professionals to bring awareness to and achieve some pretty important goals. Melissa Dreger is one of those student leaders.

Melissa Dreger, DPT Student
Melissa Dreger

Welcome Melissa! Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Melissa Dreger and I am a current third year DPT student at the University of Pittsburgh. I grew up in Mentor, OH and have a younger sister, Katie, who I am extremely close with. I received my B.S. in Exercise Science at the University of Mount Union in 2012. I am also the President of the AAOMPT Student SIG and am a member of the social media team at the University of Pittsburgh.

Why did you choose PT as a career?

During my first year on the University of Mount Union swim team, I obtained a back injury in the middle of the season and of course waited five months to get it checked out. I eventually went to a physical therapist who created a treatment program for me that included stretching, strengthening, core stabilization, and manual therapy. I was first intrigued by the manual therapy aspect of my treatment program, but what really amazed me was how normal I felt after going to physical therapy for 6 weeks after being in pain for such a long time.

Is there a particular area within PT that interests you most?

Yes, I am most interested in the area of orthopedic and manual physical therapy. I am currently applying to orthopedic residency programs to start my journey within the area. I am also interested in sports medicine, women’s rehabilitation and men’s health, as I believe these areas are a major part of orthopedic physical therapy and are vastly overlooked within the area.

What has surprised you about PT so far?

What has surprised me most about PT so far is how passionate physical therapists are about this profession. There are many physical therapists out in the world that want to help bring this profession to the front line of healthcare, and to see this in so many different areas of physical therapy (including private practice, acute care, outpatient orthopedics, etc) really motivates me to be more than just a physical therapist. It encourages me to become involved and to be a part of this incredible movement toward becoming first contact musculoskeletal providers.

Tell us about a particular PT-related challenge you’ve faced so far and how you worked through it.

Recently, I crossed paths with a physical therapist who was very stuck in their ways and who was not on board with making physical therapists first contact musculoskeletal providers. As a student, this can be a particularly difficult situation because sometimes you can be viewed more as a student rather than a colleague, resulting in some to believe your thoughts are inaccurate and un-scientific. I worked through this situation by discussing my ideas on how I would treat the patients and backed up my ideas with research. I also discussed my passion for moving physical therapists forward, hoping to instill some passion in the person.

What value do you place on connecting with PTs across the country (and world) in person and via social media?

I highly value connecting with PTs across the country and world via personal interactions and social media. In fact, I think most of the people who I follow on twitter have been made through interactions on social media (ex. #dptstudent and #solvePT). Additionally, meeting PTs at conferences, such as the annual AAOMPT conference, has greatly increased the amount of connections I have made with people who are interested in the same areas as me. I can honestly say I would not have had as many opportunities without these interactions. Besides, there are some pretty great people out there that I think a lot of physical therapists and physical therapist students are missing out on making a connection with.

Do you plan on participating in continuing education and learning new manual therapy techniques? Why?

Yes absolutely! My passion is learning new manual therapy skills, but I think the main reason why I believe continuing education and manual therapy is so important is because they can truly help bring your career to the next level as a clinician. Besides, who wants to keep doing the same things over and over when you know there is so much more you could be learning!

Do you have any influential mentors? 

I have had the incredible opportunity of having many different mentors within the field of physical therapy. One of my mentors is actually my most recent clinical instructor, Trevor Delaney, as he has helped improve my clinical practice even after completing my clinical affiliation with him. Another clinician that has most recently become a mentor to me is Susan Clinton. She has contributed so many great ideas for the AAOMPT Student SIG, and has been so incredibly helpful with trying to move the SIG and manual therapy forward. The third and final mentor I would like to mention is Tim Flynn. The AAOMPT Student SIG recently interviewed Dr. Flynn on the evolution of manual therapy and I believe his ideas and thoughts are something I hope to teach others in the future.

What is it that makes you a PT worth seeing?

Although I am not quite a PT yet (three more months!), I believe I am a PT worth seeing because I am able to create and implement a physical therapy treatment program that is both comprehensive and evidence based. I am not the physical therapist who believes that only one thought process is the right one (example: McKenzie based, Sahrman based, etc) because I believe each area could potentially be the right treatment approach for a particular patient. I am also not afraid to trial a treatment of manual therapy if the patient’s presentation calls for it. Lastly, a large part of my approach when treating a patient is based on the patient’s thoughts and goals; I believe being patient-oriented is one of the most important aspects when treating a patient, so I am always cognoscente about what they want out of their physical therapy experience.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I just want to take the time to thank NAIOMPT again for this incredible opportunity! I look forward to working with the organization more in the future!


Thank you Melissa! Such a pleasure connecting and having you as an integral voice in the many ongoing PT conversations! Follow Melissa on Twitter and hear more from her on the AAOMT Sig blog.

Side note: anyone looking to learn about the true role of the SI Join in lower quarter dysfunction, join us in June for NAIOMT’s Sacroiliac Symposium!

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