PT Profile: Fred Gilbert

Fred Gilbert, PT
Fred Gilbert, PT

Today we’re excited to welcome Fred Gilbert to our PT Profile series–someone who demonstrates a genuine dedication to the physical therapy profession, and one with a stellar career ahead of him helping colleagues and patients alike. Fred is a 3rd year DPT student at University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and will be graduating in December 2015! Fred has served as the APTA Student Assembly President for the past year and is looking forward to continuing his active role within the APTA as a new professional in 2016. He is a graduate of Clemson University with a BA in Biological Sciences.

Where do you study? University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in Birmingham, AL

Why did you choose PT as a career? I was initially drawn to the field of physical therapy for a very simple, less exciting reason – my high school counselor told me I would make a good PT. Eighteen-year-old Fred thought “Sure! Why not?” and moved forward with that plan. I decided to seriously pursue physical therapy as a junior at Clemson after exploring several healthcare fields. The unique opportunity to truly make a difference in clients’ lives while spending quality time getting to know each individual was very appealing. Seeing how much movement matters no matter your demographic drew me in and never let go!

Is there a specific area of PT you’re particularly drawn to? I have consistently been drawn to outpatient orthopedics as well as pediatrics. I was fortunate to work at Lakeshore Foundation for several years before/during physical therapy school and as a result have a big interest in working with and advocating for individuals with disabilities. As a coworker at Lakeshore once told me, a disability is the same as hair color–something that sets you apart but doesn’t define you. Working with the disability population is truly inspiring and would make going to work every day a dream come true.

Why did you get involved in APTASA? Why should others? Once I (finally) transition into the workforce I want to be able to practice at the top of my license. In order to do this, I knew that I would need to surround myself with people that are more smart, more active, and generally better clinicians/practitioners than I could ever hope to be. The APTASA tends to attract the best and the brightest and in my one short year within this community I have been completely transformed. I have learned that physical therapy is more than just what you see in the classroom and in lab. Physical therapy is more than your patient/client interactions. To practice at the top of your license you need to learn to brand, market, and advocate. You need to find your identity and be able to vocalize it to those that may try and take away your right to practice at the top of your license.  The value of membership within the APTA and active participation within the APTASA will go well beyond my years as a #DPTstudent.

What role do you hope APTASA can play in shaping the PT field? I hope that the APTASA can continue to provide opportunities for students to become involved in the APTA and physical therapy community at large, which will translate to life-long involvement throughout their careers. It is so important that we are able to provide opportunities for students to experience life beyond the classroom and help them carve their niche within the profession. We are the future and we can’t afford to wait 5, 10, 15 years down the road to get involved and advocate for ourselves and our clients. Active involvement within the APTASA will provide you with the tools and resources to transform your practice, transform your client experience, and ultimately transform society.

What are some of the changes you’d like to see made in PT in the next decade? The biggest change I would like to see, personally, is that physical therapists and physical therapist assistants will start to own and vocalize our value. It seems that sometimes we are afraid to tell the world why they should #GetPT1st. We provide unique and effective services but the general public doesn’t seem to know what we do or what we offer. One personal goal is to continue to develop and refine my “elevator speech” for the value of physical therapy. In order for physical therapy to transform society, society needs to come to the clinic first! If PT/PTAs start to “own it” we can truly have the global effect that we all know is possible.

Do you plan on participating in PT continuing education and learning new manual therapy techniques throughout your career? Why? Absolutely. All PT/PTAs are (or should be) lifelong learners. The field is continuously evolving and taking us to amazing new heights. If I want to provide the highest quality care for my clients I need to seek new knowledge/techniques with the thirst of a 1st year DPT learning their first muscle attachment.

How important do you think the role of mentorship plays for physical therapists? Absolutely crucial. You don’t know what you don’t know. The past year as APTASA President has opened so many amazing doors and most valuable to me is the wealth of mentors at my (and all students) fingertips. The APTA community WANTS to take students under their wings. The chance to learn and interact with leaders within the profession that have had a huge impact not only on their community but on the field of physical therapy is priceless.

What do you think will make you a PT worth seeing? I am a passionate and driven individual that never settles for status quo. I care more about the individual behind the diagnosis and focus completely on YOU during the time in the clinic. I am a lifelong learner and know that in order to truly have the impact that I want I need to surround myself with individuals that are better than me. I will advocate for my patients and truly believe that physical therapy can transform society.

What advice would you give to new students, from what you’ve learned so far? Dive in headfirst as early as possible. I regret keeping my head in the sand for the first two years of my DPT career. There is so much more to physical therapy than what we learn in the classroom. Get involved and find your niche. Join the community of physical therapists and physical therapist assistants that are taking the field to the next level. Let APTASA help you get started and then leave your mark on the Student Assembly. Listen to a podcast (shout out to @TherapyInsiders!) during a workout. Oh, and donate to the PAC.

Anything else you’d like to add?

If you haven’t already, become a member of APTA. The APTA is the only organization that fights every day for your right to practice. We may not get everything right the first time, but with your input and your involvement we can maximize the effect of the APTA and ultimately the effect of physical therapy. Membership matters. Students – follow @APTASA on Twitter or check out our Facebook page and ask how we can help jumpstart your career. 

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