Residency Program: Utah Orthopaedic Physical Therapy Residency Program

The Utah Ortho PT residency is a 1-year program that offers residents access to all of the varied and high quality resources available in two large, well-respected health systems and a highly ranked academic home. The program is a collaboration between the University of Utah Department of Physical Therapy and Athletic Training, the University Orthopaedic Center (UOC), and the Salt Lake City VA Medical Center (VA). Residents spend time in both clinical locations. Our entire team works to help residents learn to think like expert clinicians.

2017 Residency Cohort

Learn more on our website (, follow us on Facebook (@UtahOrthoPTResidency), and read here what our current residents and graduates have to say about our program:

What makes your residency program unique compared to other programs?

“The collaboration of the University of Utah and VA hospital is unique to this residency. It creates an opportunity to work in two diverse orthopedic settings and gain experience from multiple OCS certified mentors. One can be confident that in both locations, priority is placed on high quality of care and evidence-guided practice.”

– Dr. David Beltramo

“All the specialty clinic opportunities! Not only have I enhanced my clinical reasoning through these experiences but, most importantly, I have learned how to be a more effective member of a medical team. I also really love the teaching opportunities offered through our residency program. I have so greatly enjoyed working with DPT students both in the classroom and as an attending PT in the student run pro-bono clinic.”

– Dr. Jenna Walton

“The [Utah] residency program has given me endless support in my community project — developing a standardized concussion protocol in the [Salt Lake] Valley. This project has allowed me to integrate concrete evaluation skills with evidence-based practice and referral networks.

Working with concussion pathways is just one example of how the residency has exposed me to the bigger picture of physical therapy.

– Dr. Katey Blumenthal

What would you consider the strengths of your program?

“The entire residency program was great, however, there are two pieces that help set the residency apart. First, interaction with the orthopaedic physicians is outstanding. You build relationships and are considered a valuable [member] of the healthcare team. These interactions take place in many different ways, from joining PM&R doctors in the clinic, presenting rehabilitation best practice to physician residents at sports medicine meetings, to walking over to their office simply to discuss a challenging/concerning case. Secondly, the time spent with all the residency mentors. Having the scheduled time to learn from and be challenged by 4-6 expert clinicians over the course of the year to help you grow both professionally and personally is unbeatable. Each mentor will challenge you in different ways, causing you to grow and develop a wide range of skills.”

– Dr. Paul Hartman

“The research that is ongoing in the University PT department is incredibly high quality and is transforming how our profession practices, and to have the opportunity to be involved with that is unbelievable.”

– Dr. Andrew Bernstetter

“The opportunity to spend time with clinicians [in other disciplines] has elevated my learning and clinical decision making skills as well as helped me to be a better and more knowledgeable provider. The fact that this is built into the residency and your weekly schedule is tremendously helpful.”

– Dr. Preston Ward

What financial implications should students expect when entering your program?

Residents earn a salary and benefits commensurate with their qualifications for their 30 hours of clinical work. The residency fee ($4,000 for 2017 applicants) is paid either up front or in installments over the first 6 months of the program.

Would I like to have made more [money]? Absolutely. But, I knew what I was getting into, and I was more than willing to make that sacrifice to get the professional development.

– Dr. Brett Petersen

What makes focused learning within a residency worth pursuing?

“On day one of the residency, [a faculty member] said:

Our goal for you during this residency training is not to make you expert clinicians, [but to make you] expert thinkers.

This sentiment has meant more to me in my development than anything else. Yes, I learned a great deal of clinical skills while there, but what has carried me further is the way I think about and approach my patients, especially the challenging ones. It is this pursuit in excellence of thought that separates a good clinician from a great clinician.”

– Dr. Brett Petersen

“The focused learning allowed me to reason through the cases that I was currently working on while being able to back up my decisions with relevant and timely evidence and manual skills practice instead of just picking up a full caseload and ‘figuring it out’ as I went.”

– Dr. Laura Wenger

What personal attributes / habits contribute to your success in residency work?

“First, and absolutely crucial, is a continued desire to learn, progress, and improve. Second, a thick skin and teachable attitude that is able to take [feedback] then apply it. Third, self-motivation to accomplish all the tasks that are asked of you while maintaining a full clinical load and being present in your personal life. Fourth, a plan/vision of your future as a professional. You may not have all the details worked out, but having an understanding of who you want to be helps keep driving you forward.”

– Dr. Brett Petersen

“Be willing to have an open mind to new ideas, feedback, and constructive criticism.

Individual learning and growth will expand exponentially if you arrive ready to admit what you do not know or are not as comfortable performing, but are there to become better.

Working together with other residents, good teamwork, helping each other along the way, will also help you improve, and make life fun and enjoyable for the year you are all working together. I would also recommend that being organized and consistently making time each day to work on assignments outside of typical “work” or clinic hours will make life much easier in the long run. There is work to be done outside the clinic, and putting in a little time every day is far better than having to give up entire days or weekends later on in order to catch up.”

– Dr. Lance Barton

What advice would you give to students that are seriously interested in pursuing residency training?

“If you are looking for something that will provide an incredible springboard for your professional development; training for your mind and clinical reasoning; and, developing a strong bond with like-minded clinicians then, yes, I can think of no greater venue than a residency.”

– Dr. Brett Petersen

Reflect on what type of learner you are. If you are the kind of person that likes to have structured opportunities for reflection, manual skills practice, mentorship, and evidence-integration, then a residency is the right type of place for you to grow in a clinical setting.

– Dr. Laura Wenger

“DO IT!!! The experience is unparalleled. You get loads of clinical care experience while being mentored by evidence-based therapists, you get more detailed joint/tissue specific didactic training, more manual therapy training, many teaching opportunities and research participation! The residency really helped me hone in on my values when finding an outpatient clinic post-residency. Bonus: completing the residency makes you very marketable for those sought-after ortho jobs!”

– Dr. Samantha Marikis

How has residency training influenced your professional opportunities and/or development? What additional opportunities have you pursued after completing residency training?

Among our 15 graduates are residency faculty, entry-level DPT instructors, fellows in spine rehab and manual therapy, future fellows, and one private practice founder. We are especially proud that all are providers of exceptional patient care and all are APTA credentialed clinical instructors. Nine of our graduates have taken and passed the OCS exam and others are awaiting 2017 results.

“The emphasis on improving clinical reasoning and the residents’ ability to expertly think continues to positively impact me daily. I am currently completing a Spine Rehabilitation Fellowship through USC in Beijing, China. The Utah residency program’s combination of advancing clinical skills through clinical mentorship, collaboration with orthopaedic physicians, and teaching opportunities is top of the line.”

– Dr. Paul Hartman

The training that I received at the University of Utah orthopedic residency definitely accelerated my growth as a clinician both in regards to clinical reasoning and physical skills.

And, being residency trained certainly improved my ability to attain a job within a practice that valued the same qualities that I do. Having completed a residency at a highly regarded university/clinic provided me with great networking opportunities as well, regardless of where in the country you may head to afterwards. The mentorship and training I received during the residency has motivated me to pursue continued [fellowship] training and mentorship in order to continue to grow as a clinician.”

– Dr. Andrew Bernstetter

“Only 1½ years removed from residency, I have opened my own practice. The opening of my clinic was definitely accelerated by at least a couple years due to the confidence I developed through residency.”

– Dr. Brett Petersen

Residency training set me off on the right foot for continuing to develop my career personally and integrating educational experiences as part of my career.

For example, I have become the CCCE for my clinic and have been a CI for multiple students where I have had the opportunity to pull from the reasoning and mentorship work that I did during my residency as a way to facilitate teaching and learning with these students. I have also begun fellowship training in order to further develop my career as a manual therapist and educator, which was largely influenced by my good experience with a focused learning environment during the residency training.”

– Dr. Laura Wenger

“Residency training really taught me how to be a skeptic, and I mean that in the best possible way. Since finishing my training, I enjoy challenging myself and colleagues regarding our clinical reasoning. I’ve learned to embrace (and pursue) all my questions to avoid becoming stagnant.”

– Dr. Samantha Marikis

“This multidisciplinary exposure has been valuable for me working in a hospital outpatient setting. It has helped me to be able to establish good working relationships with other members of the healthcare team, in turn helping me be a better advocate for my patients. Residency training also made me more marketable as a newer grad as I had 3 job offers before the conclusion of the residency. In addition to serving as a mentor myself in a residency program, I am working towards pursuing fellowship training.”

– Dr. Scott Hickenlooper

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