Featured FiT: Savannah Smith PT, DPT

This week we wanted to bring to you a unique perspective. Savannah is a recent graduate who jumped right into pursuing her Fellowship. Here’s her story.


Savannah Smith graduated from the University of Florida in 2014 with a degree in Exercise Physiology, and continued at the University of Florida with her Doctorate of Physical Therapy in 2017. She has interned with sports teams including the Pittsburgh Pirates and University of Florida Gators. She is currently a first year Fellow in training (FiT) through Institute for Athletic Regeneration. Her interests include manual therapy and athletic rehabilitation especially with the baseball population.

What Inspired you to Pursue Fellowship Training?

I received a job right out of school in a sports medicine and orthopedic clinic, and didn’t really think I needed any additional training. However, it wasn’t until I was around other FAAOMPT clinicians and soon realized I wanted and needed more training to help me not only reach my goals, but to become a better clinician. They all treated with efficiency and purpose, and knew in order to take my career to the next level I needed to purse fellowship training. In addition, when talking with numerous physical therapy professionals and athletic trainers in professional sports, they all mentioned that hands on skills are critical when working with the athletic population.

What fellowship program will you attend and why?

I am currently in the certification of sports and orthopedic manual therapy (CSOMT) program and will be formally pursuing the fellowship after completing the CSOMT portion. I chose to attend this program for numerous reasons. IAR is focused on teaching physical therapists advanced manual therapy techniques and applying them to the athletic population. I have career goals of becoming a physical therapist for a collegiate or professional team, and knew this certification and fellowship would teach me clinical reasoning and manual skills that would carry over into any sport. I had a good foundation of musculoskeletal examination in school, but was missing that extra component of sport specific movement analysis.

Also, I couldn’t talk about IAR without talking about the amazing founders and faculty. Toko Nguyen, the program director, is one of the most excellent teachers, mentors, and clinicians I have ever come across. He really wants you to excel in the program and someone I am honored to have the privilege of working with.

What does the certification and fellowship program entail (as far as specific training, etc.)?

IAR is a part time two year fellowship program that meets about every five weeks and includes both didactic coursework and clinical mentoring.  The didactic portion of the certification focuses on foundational orthopedic knowledge regarding anatomy and physiology, and a lab portion that teaches manual therapy techniques for all regions of the body-with a specific focus on the athletic population. I think one component of this fellowship that sets IAR apart from other programs is the focus on athletes. The second portion of IAR which is included in the fellowship, and one that I find super helpful, is the clinical mentoring. It is such a valuable part of the program because it challenges the clinician to determine the WHY behind their treatment, and helps the clinician learn from an expert in the field. During my clinical experiences in school, I was so used to bouncing ideas off of a CI, and I think it is very valuable to me now as a new graduate to set the stage for my future.

Are you trained in any specific areas of manual therapy (e.g., Maitland, McKenzie, etc.)? If so, why did you choose that area?

I am not trained in any specific areas of manual therapy, and chose IAR to learn specific manual therapy techniques to manage my patients orthopedic complaints. The focus of our fellowship is movement based analysis, and using manual therapy to complement your treatment.

What advice would you give to new grads aspiring to pursue residency/fellowship training?

Two words – Do it. I just graduated in 2017, and honestly felt a little lost within the first month of my job. Exercise prescription is one of my strong suits, but knew IAR would give me the hands on skills I need to make my patients better faster. Whether it be a residency or fellowship, I believe if you want to specialize in sports or whatever specialty you may be interested in, you need post professional training. Even though I had great clinical experiences in school and excellent faculty to guide me in my learning, I believe a residency or fellowship will take you to the next level. I have no doubt I am a better clinician because of it, and have already learned so much in the 4 months I have been a part of the IAR family.

Where can people contact you with additional question they might have?

My contact information is savsmith.UF@gmail.com. I would be happy for anyone to reach out! 

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