Reflections – Part 6

By Dana Mandel, PT, PCS



I took a couple of months off from my series of posts about reflections on 30 years of physical therapy practice and my pathway to becoming a physical therapist to wish everyone a happy and successful New Year and share the news about Lifespan becoming a Medicaid Service Bureau.  I was very happy to hear from a number of individuals that wanted to know when I was going to post the next chapter in my reflections series.


In my last related Post in November, 2016, I described my first clinical experience as a student at SUNY Stony Brook at Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson, NY.  Although I found the Hospital an excellent training experience, I felt confined by the institutional setting.  I was hoping for a clinical experience that would be a better fit with my mission to provide inclusive services in natural environments.


My hopes were answered when I was offered the opportunity and the privilege to learn from a very skilled and talented physical therapist, Rick Johnson.  Rick was my clinical supervisor as well as the instructor for our advanced Neuroscience course.  In addition to his responsibilities as an instructor and mentor, he managed a school based therapy practice, treated pediatric patients in various school districts and at home, raised a young family, presented lectures to other physical therapists, conducted research, and worked towards achieving his doctorate degree.  He was a great influence on my professional career, and provided me with the model for my future practice.


I have many memories of Rick treating children at school and in their homes.  He epitomized the art and the science of physical therapy.  His treatment approach was evidence based and steeped in motor control theory.  His desire for his students to develop a conceptual framework that linked motor control to patient care left a lasting impression.  His handling techniques with his patients can be described as artful.  As a student, I would see a young child with very limited movement potential on the floor in front of me.  Rick would put his hands very gently on the child and facilitate movements I didn’t think could be accomplished.  I can compare his treatments to a dance, with him leading and the child following with new movement experiences that would not have been possible without his skill and guidance.


I recently learned of Rick’s retirement from the Directorship of the Physical Therapy Program at Stony Brook.  I understand that in his “retirement,” Rick has accepted a position to create a new physical therapy program for Gannon University in Ruskin, Florida.  I would like to congratulate Rick on his many accomplishments, and thank him for his contributions to my professional career.