Featured Fellow: Haideh Plock PT, DPT, OCS, ATC, FAAOMPT

Haideh received her transitional Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Temple University in 2009, her Master’s of Science in Physical Therapy from Boston University in 1993 and her bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology and Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1991. Her prior experience includes working for more than 10 years at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic (KJOC) in Los Angeles. While with KJOC, Haideh specialized in orthopedic and sports-related injuries. She completed the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapy Fellowship in 2002 and currently is a faculty member for the program. Haideh has been a Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists (AAOMPT) since 2002 and has held various positions on the Executive Committee for AAOMPT. She was director of Emerald Bay Physical Therapy in Lake Tahoe for over two years prior to joining the Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF) as manager of the Department of Physical Therapy in 2006. Currently Haideh resides in Reno, NV, and is the owner of In Balance Physical Therapy. In addition to patient care, Haideh has written on-line courses, published book chapters, does consulting for medical start-ups and teaches yoga. 

What inspired you to pursue fellowship training?

I had been working in the profession for about 8 years at an elite sports medicine facility in Los Angeles. It was a busy clinic and I was starting to feel unable to effectively treat all my patients, especially those with more complex presentations or with chronic pain complaints. I reached out to an old mentor from my student athletic training days at UCLA. He used to be one of the physical therapists for UCLA athletics and he left to go do this “manual therapy program” up in the San Francisco bay area. When he left UCLA it was a big deal, and back then very few PT’s were doing this type of advanced education, so it left an impression on me. He told me how much completing the program changed his practice and opened new doors professionally for him. After researching it further and discussing it with a few other colleagues who had completed the program, I decided to go for it. It also helped that I had full support from my employer to take a leave of absence, knowing that I still had a job to come back to if I wanted. 

What fellowship program did you attend and why?

I attended what is now called the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Manual Physical Therapy Fellowship Program, part of their Graduate Physical Therapy Education in the San Francisco Bay area. It was an easy decision for me.  Developing a systematic clinical reasoning process was emphasized throughout the program and was one of the main reasons I chose this program. When I completed the Kaiser program, it was split into two parts: a 3 month Mentorship and a 9 month Fellowship. You had to complete both parts to be considered a Fellow. There were only a few other programs across the country ‘back in the day’. I had to consider cost as well; there was no such thing as on-line education. Power point had just barely come into existence, and on-line programs were still a few years off! I would be able to live at my parents if I attended the Kaiser program, which was a huge cost saver. I also felt comfortable with the curriculum and had positive feedback about the program from four respected colleagues who had completed it.  

What did your fellowship program entail (as far as specific training, etc.)?

The program had extensive advanced clinical course work in manual therapy and didactic course work in the applied sciences — biomechanics, anatomy, cell biology, exercise physiology and scientific inquiry with extensive readings prior to and during the program. Systematic clinical reasoning was constantly emphasized throughout the program. We had numerous assignments (community project, research paper, case studies emphasizing differential diagnosis, etc.) There were weekly one-on-one mentoring sessions and weekend labs to reinforce the didactic material. Often we would have guest lecturers on other manual therapy approaches. We also staffed the pro-bono community clinic, which was an education in and of itself. Out of all the different learning experiences, I have to say the mentoring by PT’s who are legends in the field of manual therapy was one of the highlights of this particular program. All my mentors had many years of experience; some even trained in Australia. All were what I would consider “masters” of manual therapy. The most important opportunity was that I was able to work with my mentors consistently throughout the program and could also work with several mentors, which gave me different viewpoints.   

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

The Kaiser program has a MaitlandAustralian influence, although we were exposed to many other manual therapy approaches including McKenzie, osteopathic, Grimsby, etc.   Although I attended a manual therapy fellowship, I learned far more than manual therapy.  I learned how to systematically evaluate and manage patients… with OMPT, exercise, ergonomics, soft tissue, and other interventions. I learned how to THINK about my patients in ways that have changed my career. Over the years the program has continued to evolve and has added more instruction based on current evidence and other management approaches.  Including pain sciences is a recent example. 

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

Well, now there are so many more to choose from. Make an informed decision. Know who the faculty are, does the program follow a specific theoretical model (i.e., Maitland, Grimsby, Paris, McKenzie, etc.) or is it more eclectic and varied.  The main thing is that the program, no matter what approaches are taught, needs to have a common framework and terminology for the Fellows to learn. Clinicians frequently perceive that they want an eclectic approach, but if a program tries to teach too many approaches and the faculty does not have a common framework, the Fellow may have a difficult learning process.

Go visit! Even if it is primarily an on-line program- sit in on some webinars, look over the curriculum. If it is in-person, attend some labs, talk to the other Fellows or Residents in Training. Talk to graduates of the program and at least one faculty member- to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the program. Know what is expected before you get there. A program’s willingness to answer your questions gives you a signal as to how invested they will be in your learning if you are accepted. If you cannot visit the program, then ask to talk with fellows in training, faculty, and graduates by phone.

Ask how the mentoring is done as that is the core of fellowship education. Who are the mentors? How much experience do they have?  How often do you get mentoring and over what time period? 

The bottom line is you should feel comfortable in the setting, the instruction style, the mentoring style and what they are teaching. If you don’t feel comfortable, it doesn’t matter how good the reputation of the program, you will struggle to succeed. Your investing a significant amount of time and resources, so make sure the program is a fit for you! And of course you should take into consideration the practical aspects like cost, geographical location, full-time vs. part-time, on-line vs. in-person, etc. It’s just like choosing what college to go to!

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