Matthew Walker earned a Master of Physical Therapy from Northern Illinois University in 2007. After graduation, he worked in Illinois and began his fellowship training with the Manual Therapy Institute (MTI). After earning his fellowship, he moved to Louisiana and opened his own clinical practice in 2012. He later became an MTI clinical faculty member/mentor and trains physical therapists enrolled in the orthopaedic manual physical therapy fellowship program. In 2016, he joined forces with two of his colleagues to form a larger physical therapy company, Elite Therapy Solutions. Matt’s current role as Director of Clinical Education allows him to guide and mentor the educational career development for physical therapists in their network of clinics across multiple states. He also works to foster strong relationships with physical therapy programs throughout the country to assist in the training of future PTs through clinical internships. He had the pleasure of presenting a breakout session at the 2017 AAOMPT conference.
What inspired you to pursue fellowship training?
I had been practicing for a couple years and had a patient that I was getting nowhere with. I called up my close friend from PT school to see what he thought. I explained to him what was going on with the patient and he started asking questions that I had no answer to. During the conversation, I could tell his knowledge of physical therapy had far surpassed my own. After physical therapy school I had taken quite a few haphazardly chosen CEU courses, but clearly, he had chosen more wisely. I asked him what he was studying, and he told me he had enrolled in a fellowship program. Within the week I had signed up for one myself.
What fellowship program did you attend and why?
I went through the Manual Therapy Institute. After doing a lot of research, I found it was one of the most hands-on programs in the country. I was also able to attend a free introductory class and was able to meet the heads of the program, Tim Kruchowsky and Pieter Kroon. I really enjoyed their teaching style and the passion they had for what they did. I also liked that I could do my mentorship hours with therapists around the country.
What did your fellowship program entail (as far as specific training, etc.)?
The Manual Therapy Institute’s mission is to educate movement experts. Their part-time program model focuses on the cause of the problem rather than the symptoms. The curriculum is designed in a stacked format, which means that each subsequent course builds on the previous courses. It utilizes an evidence informed, comprehensive approach, which facilitates an effective treatment plan for your patients.
Are you trained in any specific areas of manual therapy (e.g., Maitland, McKenzie, etc.)? If so, why did you choose that area?
I would say my training is eclectic in nature. I think it is great to understand the many different approaches and understand when one approach might be better than another. We all have our favorite techniques, but you don’t want to get in a rut. I try to continually grow and learn.
As I have grown in my career, I find that there are two things that truly set a great therapist apart from an average therapist – problem solving & communication. Without the two of these together, it doesn’t matter how good your manual skills are. You might know thousands of techniques, but if you don’t know when to use them they will be useless to you.
Communication is imperative. I first experienced physical therapy when I was 14. I ended up seeing many different clinicians, one of which was a renowned manual therapist. Unfortunately, I found that they were not able to communicate with me in a manner to help me “buy in” to their treatment plan. For this reason in particular, communication and educating patients has been a huge focus of my career.
What advice would you give to new grads aspiring to pursue residency/fellowship training?
My advice to any new graduate is to choose a path. I find that a lot of new grads (like myself at the time) wander around aimlessly, taking random continuing education courses. Find a residency or fellowship that works best for you and start building a strong foundation for your career. Also, try to find the therapists that are most skilled at what you want to do and get a job with them. If you like research, go work with someone who is doing that. If you like hands on manual therapy, find someone who is good at that. Working with skilled people will just make you better.