Reflections Part 7

By Dana Mandel, PT, PCS



In my last related post in February, 2017, I described my most influential clinical experience as a student at SUNY Stony Brook with Rick Johnson, PhD, PT, in Port Jefferson, NY.  The training I received with Rick made a lasting impression on me, and led to the present design and service delivery model of Lifespan.


I finished my final clinical affiliation in a pediatric preschool setting and finally walked across the stage to receive my sheepskin. With a pregnant wife and sizeable student loans, there was no time to waste to begin practicing as a pediatric physical therapist.  Having spent more than enough years fighting traffic and crowds on Long Island, my small but growing family chose Ithaca, NY, as our next home.  Where else could a downstate wise guy witness waterfalls; wasabi; wineries; whiteouts; wind-chill; wings; windsurfing; wealth; and warm-hearted, winsome and widespread well-informed hippies in a small Upstate city?


After interviewing at a number of practice settings, I was hired at the Special Children’s Center, now known as The Franziska Racker Center.  The Racker Center offered a stimulating learning environment for a new therapist with many experienced therapists on staff, a generous continuing education budget for its employees, ongoing research projects, and many opportunities to learn my profession through orthopedic clinics, adaptive equipment clinics, wheelchair clinics, orthotic clinics, and frequent mentoring.


To my knowledge, I was the first male therapist to be employed at the Racker Center.  I spent my first summer at the preschool on Wilkins Road in Ithaca, NY under the watchful eye of a very skilled and experienced physical therapist, Lynne Logan.  After convincing my fairer colleagues that I could be trusted around children in an unsupervised setting, I was reassigned to the preschool in Cortland, NY.  My wife was simultaneously employed by the Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES as a special education teacher at Seward Elementary School in Auburn, NY.  We purchased a very run down farmhouse in King Ferry constructed in 1869, and began setting down roots.


While practicing at the Racker Center for nearly two years, I was able to build a small caseload of private patients that I treated after my regular work hours and on the weekends.  As I gained experience in treatment, clinical documentation, and billing, I felt that I was adequately prepared to enter the world of private practice on a full time basis. It was a huge and intimidating step with an infant, a mortgage, old and unreliable vehicles, and two student loans to consider.


More to come in next month’s newsletter about the birth of the Mandel Therapy Group.