Our new therapist, Gabrielle, earned her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from Hunter College in New York City after successful careers in musical theater and as a conceirge. Besides the usual clinical experience we wanted to know more. What makes her tick and why does she want to fix our bodies?
This is the kind of practice I dreamed about when studying for my doctorate. Here we spend time with the patient. We have real conversations about what’s going on and how the patients live their lives. We don’t just spend five minutes with a checklist. That’s important because I want my patients to reach their goals whether it’s running for a subway or a marathon. By understanding my whole patient —the way someone moves and why — and not just the point of the pain, I can heal them faster.
Best part of your work?
I love using my skills to ease and improve my patients’ days. Often that means giving relief with manual therapy, hands-on deep work. That’s an art because every body is different so you need to find the right approach with each person.
What’s your approach to work?
I want to create a supportive constructive environment, so no matter what I have a positive attitude with patients. A positive approach infuses all interactions with an upbeat energy.
Manual treatment (finding tissue tension and improper texture and changing it) makes such a difference in how people feel. Watching patients’ faces relax with relief and comfort makes my day. I look forward to it. That’s why I became a physical therapist- to make a difference. And I just got certified in Active Release Technique® (ART) last month. It enhanced and fine-tuned my manual skills. I learned techniques I could start immediately using on patients’ shoulders, necks and hands.
What was your favorite part of ART® training?
For three days, almost 8 hours a day, I was hands-on with a variety of body types from a 90-pound woman to 300-pound man and everything in between. I had to locate the proper tissue structure on each person and then modify my touch according to what was right for each individual.
How has being a physical therapy patient influenced your practice?
I had back and sciatic pain for five years when I danced professionally. At one point I was dancing five hours a day, six days a week. It was brutal. I went to a physical therapy practice well known among professional dancers, but it wasn’t a good fit. They didn’t listen to me. It was awful, completely frustrating. I found a smaller practice that spent the time with me and heard me. It made a difference. That firsthand experience informs my practice everyday as a physical therapist. It’s about listening and making sure your patient is heard.
How does your concierge experience help you today?
I helped people from around the world. Being a good concierge is all about active listening – hearing what people are trying to communicate. Culturally, people communicate in so many different ways. That’s true in physical therapy as well. One person’s definition of discomfort could be outright pain for another. You have to really listen to what a person is saying.
Do you have a “can’t live without” snack?
I always carry an apple and almonds. I needed good food-on-the-go when I was a student and during my musical theater days.
What’s your favorite musical of all time?
West Side Story — the music is beautiful and the characters are distinct.
What was your first show ever?
I was the flower in Alice and Wonderland. There wasn’t much to do. But I was only seven years old.
What’s your most surprising talent?
I can break out into spontaneous song – and remain on key.
What are the top three places on your vacation list to see?
Spain, France and Australia.
What’s an embarrassing secret? We won’t tell.
I grew up in Surf City (Huntington Beach, California), but I never have. Instead of surfing, I took dance lessons.