Soon to be Academy of Pelvic Health Physical Therapy

Archive for the ‘SoWH Blog’ Category


Part 1: Being a Male Physical Therapist in Pelvic Health Physical Therapy

Posted on: June 11th, 2018 by Aika Barzhaxynova No Comments

Male Female PTs

by Patrick Wenning, MPT, CIMT

Why would a male Physical Therapist (PT) write for Section on Women’s Health?

Good question. A  better question is where else could I write about this pelvic floor perspective. We know how important pelvic floor PT is and what amazing benefits it has for women and we are trying to get more people to understand this. So why would a guy want to work in that area? Because we also know that men benefit from pelvic floor PT.

First off, I came to pelvic floor therapy from a different angle. After having some minor pelvic floor trouble myself, I realized that there were not too many males to go to for treatment of pelvic floor dysfunction. My background was orthopedics with a manual therapy focus on spine, pelvis, and foot/ankle. I realized that pelvic floor was the natural next step that I needed and had been missing in my practice. I knew how distressing and personal and embarrassing it could be to address these issues. And, since I knew that it was hard enough to get men to see a medical professional in the first place,  I wanted to give men the option to not have to discuss “guy stuff” with a female.

Does every guy feel more comfortable with that? Of course not, but options are always better and a male to male perspective can really help. I’m lucky that I work in a clinic with excellent female therapists that work with pelvic floor so our patients have a choice. I will chip in with the female patients as well.  There have been times when a female patient didn’t realize I was male, but they always have the choice to say no and change to a female therapist.

Mine is one perspective. Dr Onyekachukwu McDonald Nwosu, PT, DPT, MBA, FAAOMPT, CSCS, has another.

mac nwosu“I chose to pursue PT and found out about women’s health physical therapy. I didn’t know anything about it and no one really told me much about it. I attended a 1-hour women’s health lecture when taking an orthopedics class which made me want to learn more. (Had WCS Instructor).

“I was mostly focused on orthopedics and I was at the point where I was not as satisfied with what I was doing. I was a personal trainer and 90% of my clients were female. I was getting more results with female clients, helping them reach their goals. That passion for helping female athletes grew before and during PT school. I started looking into more education around women’s health physical therapy. The pivotal moment was when I was working with a personal training client and she got pregnant. We were at the point of OK, what are we going to do? How do we keep you active but safe?” says Nwosu.

I started researching to figure out what to do about it. This is how I found about the Section on Women’s Health CAPP-OB courses. I eventually signed up for classes.”

Here is a third. D. James (Jim) Ballard, PT, DPT, GCS, WCS has been practicing PT for 22 years.

DJ Ballard“I wanted to do sports medicine. I had a kind of classic story. Like many others, I had an athletic injury and that was my introduction to physical therapy. Pelvic health was by far remote from whatever I thought that I would be doing.

Training as an undergraduate student, I worked as a surgical technologist and did not enjoy working in OBGYN or urology OR.  I left the room with a concern for the welfare of the female and male patients. I was specifically interested in men because at that time (way before any effective pharmacologic treatment for erectile dysfunction), the gold standard treatment for erectile dysfunction was penile implant surgery.

These implants, especially the multi component implants are mechanical devices would break down. I would see these men returned to have their components removed and sometimes replaced. In the mid to late-80s, as a PT student recognizing the association between form and function and learning a little bit about the superficial perineal muscles, I began to wonder if men could be helped by doing pelvic floor muscle exercises if their erectile function, penile rigidity could be helped by doing pelvic floor exercises. This was my PT school capstone project where we’ve found through randomized control trials that men can improve in penile rigidity, correct penile function and sexual function by doing pelvic floor exercises.”

“I enjoy working with men and women with urinary incontinence and other pelvic health issues because it’s such a quality of life issue. And when you can help individuals with these problems, it’s so rewarding, so gratifying as a therapist.”

Is this dilemma about treating the opposite sex that different in regards to pelvic health? Sure it’s personal area, but most physical therapy deals with personal stuff. I remember being taught in PT school that respect for the patient was utmost in treatment. They were not “the ACL repair” they were Ms. Smith who has an ACL repair. We spent hours learning how to “drape” a patient so they would not feel exposed or embarrassed. The overall idea was that the patient needed to feel comfortable with us and trust us in order to allow us to help them. The same is true for Pelvic Health, but by the very nature of the location in the body we are dealing with, we need to be even more respectful and gain even greater trust whether it is Female to Female, Male to Male, or Female to Male.

About the Author


Patrick Wenning, PT joined Restore Motion in the DC Metro area in 2016 after owing his own private practice in Manhattan for over 10 years.  He has certification as an Integrated Manual Therapist and in Manual Trigger Point Dry Needling and works on training in alternative modalities as diverse as craniosacral, pilates, and visceral mobilization.  Patrick earned his Master of PT from Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas.










How My Personal Reproductive Health Journey Steered Me to a Career in Physical Therapy

Posted on: June 5th, 2018 by Aika Barzhaxynova No Comments

grad photo (1)

Written by Angela Silva, DPT

At the age of 17, I was diagnosed with a congenital uterine anomaly leading to a long and winding path involving various medical practitioners, testing procedures, and surgeries in order to gain control over my own reproductive health. This on-going experience has provided me with a unique understanding of women’s health and pelvic floor issues as well as their effects on the physical and psychological well-being of those who experience them. Moreover, embarking on my own reproductive health journey at such a young age has taught me how any healthcare provider can have a deep and lasting impact on her patients’ perceptions of themselves, their gender roles, and their sexuality – whether that impact be positive or negative.

Since the time that my own experiences initially piqued my interest in pelvic floor physical therapy, I have further immersed myself in the field through engaging with the current body of literature and seeking out a 12-week pelvic floor clinical experience. During this clinical, I saw first-hand the multi-faceted and debilitating nature of the effects of pelvic floor dysfunction as well as the many barriers that prevent men and women from seeking help for these sensitive issues. Nevertheless, I also witnessed the great empowerment that these patients experience when their concerns are finally validated and treated with dignity and they began to overcome their pelvic floor diagnoses.

My personal experiences in the realm of women’s health have nurtured a passion for sensitive health issues and patient education that I will incorporate into my own practice. It is only through teaching our patients about the anatomy and physiology behind their disorders and dysfunction while providing them with the tools to manage them that we can empower patients to take control of their diagnoses and make seemingly large, overwhelming issues conquerable. This is of particular importance in the field of pelvic floor physical therapy where topics that were traditionally brushed aside or spoken of with  embarrassment are dealt with head-on. I am proud of our profession’s developments in the field of women’s health and pelvic floor therapy and I look forward to participating in its continued growth throughout my fast-approaching career as a physical therapist.

Since becoming a member of the Section on Women’s Health in late May, I have taken advantage of a variety of learning opportunities including accessing the Journal of Women’s Health Physical Therapy as well as participating in on-going research opportunities and accessing resources available on the Section on Women’s Health website. I look forward to increasing my level of participation in the future by taking continuing education courses, contributing to the body of research, and attending section events.

Angela Silva, DPT, is the scholarship recipient of the Pelvic Health physical Therapy Level 1 in Novi, Michigan June 8-10, 2018. This scholarship is funded by Section on Women’s Health-APTA and was established to recognize outstanding full-time students enrolled in a physical therapy program. Angela has recently graduated from Brenau University in Gainesville, Georgia, and is going to join 30 other PTs and SPTs in this weekend’s course to further her education and skills in pelvic floor physical therapy.







SoWH Announces Slate Of 2019 Board Directors and Leaders

Posted on: June 5th, 2018 by Aika Barzhaxynova No Comments


For release June 5, 2018

McLean, VA .- The Section on Women’s Health of the APTA (SoWH) held spring elections between May 1, 2018 and May 30, 2018, and the SoWH members has elected a new slate of leaders to serve in the roles of Vice President, Director of Communications, Director of Practice and on the Nominations Committee.

The following officers, directors and leaders will take office immediately following the 2019 APTA Combined Sections Meeting (CSM) in Washington, DC.  CSM takes place January 23-26, 2019 in Washington, DC at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

For all inquiries about the 2019 Slate and about future leadership opportunities, please contact Bernadette Kamin, SOWH Nominating Committee Chair, at [email protected].


Jennifer Hungate
Vitality Women’s Physical Therapy
Elmhurst, IL
Term: 2019-2021

Shannon Fox
University Health Shreveport
Shreveport, LA
Term: 2019-2021

Kim Parker-Guerrero
Community Health Systems
Roswell, NM
Term: 2019-2021

Stephanie Fournier
United States Army, Martin Army Community Hospital
Columbus, GA
Term: 2019-2022

The following individuals are currently serving terms as Officer, Directors, & Leaders:

Carrie Pagliano
Arlington, VA
Term: 2018-2021

Lora Ann Mize “Lori”
Lynchburg, VA
Term: 2018-2019

Amy Pannullo
Raleigh, NC
Term: 2017-2020

Uchenna Cynthia-Awelle Ossai
Austin, TX
Term: 2018-2021

Shannon W. Fox
Shreveport, LA
Term: 2018-2019

Jennifer Davia
Erie, CO
Term: 2018-2021

Alexandra Hill
Houston, TX
Term: 2017-2020

Jennifer Hungate
Elmhurst, IL
Term: 2016-2019

Carina Siracusa
Columbus, OH
Term: 2017-2020

Meryl Alappattu
Gainesville, FL
Term: 2018-2021

Bernadette Kamin – Committee Chair
Columbus, GA
Term: 2016-2019

Karen Snowden
Allentown, PA
Term: 2017-2020

Cheryl Wisinski
Louisville, NE
Term: 2018-2021

About SoWH

The Section on Women’s Health, one of 25 professional and trade organizations managed by the Washington, D.C. and Brussels-based Interel USA, promotes and expands physical therapy’s role in the field of women’s and men’s health and wellness across the lifespan. It allows physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, and students sharing a common interest in the problems and concerns of women, men, and children to meet, confer, and promote these interests. Among other services, the Section develops educational resources, and practice and education standards for addressing health issues. The section also provides training and fosters research:







A Brief Report from the 2018 APTA Federal Advocacy Forum

Posted on: June 4th, 2018 by Aika Barzhaxynova No Comments

2018 APTA Federal Advocacy ForumApril 29-May 1 2018 _ Washington, D.C.

Section on Women’s Health members, rising leaders, and current leadership have recently attended the 2018 APTA Federal Advocacy Forum hosted in Washington, D.C. Gail Zitterkopf, SoWH Federal Government Affairs Chair was joined by Section on Women’s Health 2018 FAF scholarship recipients, Cara Morrison, SPT (Student Member)  and Mackenzie Van Loo, PT, DPT (Early-Professional Member) to observe and report back to the Section on the latest developments. The 2018 FAF was also attended by Carrie Pagliano, PT, DPT, OCS, WCS (SoWH President), Tamela Blalock (SoWH Executive Director), and Secili DeStefano, PT DPT OCS.

The 2018 FAF was attended by 270 Physical Therapists (PTs), Physical Therapist Assistants (PTAs), and students (SPTs) from 48 states who converged on Capitol Hill to educate legislators and staff about a range of important issues impacting the profession. Missed out on the 2018 FAF? Check out this blog post on how you can make an impact!


Below are some updates from the forum:

Sports Medicine Licensure Clarity Act  (S 808):  

This bill has already passed out of the House (H.R. 302), and has been referred to Senate HELP committee.

What We Are Asking For:

  • Cosponsor the Sports Medicine Licensure Clarity Act to extend liability insurance coverage of a state-licensed medical professional to another state when the professional provides medical services to an athlete, athletic team, or team staff member crosses state lines

This Is Your Message:

  • Currently, liability insurance coverage of a state-licensed physical therapist (and other medical professionals) is not required to carry-over when the professional is required to travel across state lines with an athlete, athletic team, or team staff member.
  • This leaves the physical therapist unprotected and without malpractice insurance when required to travel to states that are not their primary practice location.


The Role of PT in Public Health:

This Is Your Message:

  • Improve access to physical therapy services as part of the solution to America’s Opioid epidemic
  • Importance of educating providers and consumers of the role PTs play in reducing barriers through regulatory reform.


The role of PT in Technology and Digital Health:

What We Are Asking For:

  • Cosponsor the CONNECT for Health Act “Telehealth” (HR 2556/S 1016) and Medicare Telehealth Parity Act (HR 2550)

This Is Your Message:

  • Allow PTs to furnish Telehealth services under the Medicare program
  • Provide information on the PT Outcomes Registry and its role as a qualified clinical data registry in value-based health care


PT Workforce and Patient Access Act  (HR 1639/S 619):

What We Are Asking For:

  • Cosponsor the Physical Therapist Workforce and Patient Access Act to include physical therapists in the National Health Service Corp’s Loan Repayment Program

This Is Your Message:

  • This legislation matches the goals and mission of the NHSC
  • Can alleviate demand on other primary care providers to increase those serves
  • Provides for greater patient access to rehabilitation (which also could help with Opioid epidemic)
  • No rehab component currently represented in program
  • NHSC is successful pipeline for providers
  • 82% retention rate (PT’s who go to work in these areas, remain in these areas)
  • Helps meet the workforce needs of underserved areas.
  • Demand for PT continues to grow greater than other primary care disciplines
  • This legislation is budget neutral!!


Other Education & Workforce:  Opposed to PROSPER Act (HR 4508) (Reauthorization bill)

This Is Your Message:

  • Discuss the importance of ensuring funding for low-cost student loans, the impact of student debt, and why we are opposed to the PROSPER Act
  • Get rid of the capped aggregate loan amount a student can take out on a federal loan ($28,500/year)

Opposed to the Americans with Disabilities Education and Reform Act (HR 620) as we feel it guts a large portion of the current ADA program.


Lymphedema Treatment Act   (S. 497) (H.R. 930)

Currently, Medicare, and consequently many other policies, do not cover one of the critical components of lymphedema treatment, the medically necessary doctor-prescribed compression supplies used daily in lymphedema treatment. As a result, many patients suffer from recurrent infections, progressive degradation in their condition and eventual disability because they cannot afford the compression supplies required to maintain their condition.

Medicare’s failure to cover compression treatment supplies stems from the fact that these items cannot be classified under any existing benefit category in Medicare statute (law). The Center for Medicare Services (CMS) does not have the authority to add or redefine benefit categories, only Congress does, hence the need for this legislation.

Learn more about Lymphedema Treatment Act.






Is a Women’s Health Residency Program Right for You?

Posted on: April 17th, 2018 by Aika Barzhaxynova No Comments

Written by Susannah Haarmann

Lately I have noticed more people, new-grad and seasoned clinicians, asking me if I would recommend doing a residency program in women’s health physical therapy…the short answer; I’m glad I did it, it was an intense year and it is not for everyone (but, what is?). I’ve attempted to summarize my experience as a resident, address the pros and cons and offer some alternatives for everyone here. 


First, I would like to acknowledge that I would not be where I am today writing coursework, teaching continuing education globally and publishing books if it were not for my residency experience. It is even a possibility that I would be doing something completely different! The year before I began my residency at Duke University in 2011, I was a 29 year old travelling PT. I was extremely happy working on the west coast taking short-term home health and acute care contracts, being highly paid and discovering myself and new places. I saw the face of health care changing though, and I wasn’t sure it would hold up to me being able to deliver the kind of care that made my work fulfilling. I wanted to expand on my skills as a women’s health physio and start my own niche practice one day; my vision for this required me being at the top of my game and thought I could achieve this through an intensive women’s health residency program.


I had two interviews; one with a private practice owner who set up her own program and one with a prestigious teaching hospital and university system. It was clear by the interviews that both programs would be demanding and rewarding. Both residents at Duke at the time reported that they worked on average 80-120 hours per week; in my head I said ‘no thanks’ and resolved to find another way. It wasn’t that I was opposed to hard work, it was that I loved my life and balance was important to me. I turned down both positions. But, when the head of Duke University’s rehab department called and asked why and what he could do, I gave it a second thought. I was forthright; “I need work/life balance,” I said. He made modifications to the one weekend a month in acute care (this would have required working 12 10-hour days straight) and I agreed.


IMG_0083 (1)Prior to seeing my first patient, Duke scheduled for me to attend a 10-day certification training program in lymphedema; I was happy to add a few more letters after my name and get this expensive course paid for. The first day in the clinic I was on my own with an almost full case-load of lymphedema patients I hit the ground running (used to this as a traveler). Over the course of 12 months I attended 3 of Herman & Wallace’s intro to pelvic health series courses. Monday, Wednesday and Friday I worked from 8-6 seeing 9 patients a day. Tuesday and Thursday I worked my mentor’s schedule (I had 3 mentors while in the program spending 4 months with each person). My residency experience was a pelvic floor playground of learning opportunities. 


Highlights included:

  • teacher’s assisting for the PT program’s women’s health elective
  • assisting the first-year students with cadaver dissections
  • watching prolapse surgeries and prostatecomies prior to my work day
  • rounding with a colorectral surgeon, radiologist and OB/GYN
  • attending grand rounds
  • assisting a mid-wife during delivery
  • teaching post-natal exercise classes and attending birth classes
  • developing community education seminars
  • collaborating with residents in other specialties
  • interviewing holistic practitioners at the Cancer Center
  • completing a residency project and pelvic health modules along the way.


The pros are obvious. I can now forever say that I completed a residency program at Duke; a prestigious, universally known health care system. I had the ability to learn behind closed doors with other physical therapists on the women’s health team and was able to gain medical insights on examination, tests and procedures that are unique and difficult to gain otherwise. I was able to attend 4 continuing education courses over the span of my 1-year commitment and I was able to surpass the number of hours I needed to sit for the APTA Women’s Clinical Specialization board exam (which are fewer if you go the residency route).


I was relieved when I completed the program and ready to get back to a more balanced life. But, the over-achieving bug had bit me and after I graduated I began writing my own course “Rehabilitation for the Breast Cancer Patient.” It took two years of writing and research to be satisfactory in my eyes and requires continual tweaking to be great as new insights emerge, but it was the first of its kind. I then started teaching pelvic health courses for the Pelvic Rehabilitation Institute adding one pelvic course to my faculty repertoire per year. Now I am writing books and have started my own private practice. I feel I am fulfilling a purpose in life and I can also see how if I had stayed with my original decision I could have fallen in love on a beach in Spain and started teaching scuba diving classes somewhere. I am truly grateful to be on my present trajectory.


As you can imagine, this required a lot of time and multi-tasking on evenings and weekends. Residency is for the hungry individual who is ready to make short-term sacrifices for long-term gain. However, I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone. I could see if I had a family that the long hours, significant decrease in pay and residency expectations could add stress not only to my life, but my family life as well. I am not saying parents shouldn’t consider a residency and I don’t think it is just for single new grads either.

But for those of you who do not feel that residency is a good option for you and want to get on the fast track, you can! I want to encourage you to make a career plan. Here are some tips in designing your own quasi-residency experience:

  • I have observed trends in women’s health changing. More and more employers are seeing the benefit of investing more money in continuing education for women’s health clinicians. Some want their staff to feel confident fielding a variety of diagnosis while others are designing intensive trainings for an employee to start a program. I have even met physical therapy students completing the entire women’s health series prior to graduation! Could you negotiate continuing education with a prospective or current employer? You might consider paying for these courses out of pocket yourself; the cost of doing so would likely not equate to the pay-cut one takes to attend most residency programs.
  • Go to CSM (the APTA Combined Sections Meeting hosted every year) and lap up the women’s health content and network with other providers.
  • If there is a seasoned pelvic health clinician in your area, ask them if they would consider providing mentorship. Hopefully their hospital system or clinic allows for outside observation and they have a collaborative spirit; if not, some of your favorite continuing education instructors are willing to provide paid mentorship programs.
  • Start a wine night with local women’s health providers in your area where you choose a topic to discuss and discuss the recent literature (you could also host this on-line!)
  • Network with local physicians, mid-wives and nurse practitioners in your area and ask them if they would consider you shadowing them for a morning.
  • Become an active member of the Section on Women’s Health
  • Take a big leap and apply for the PRPC (Pelvic Rehab Practitioner Certification) or WCS (Women’s Clinical Specialization) exams then study, study, study!
  • Provide community education on a women’s health topic of interest to you that you like to treat and bring it to your local gyms, mom’s groups or a work team (also a great marketing tool!)


  • Interview the program as much as they are interviewing you. Consider what are the important selling-points that you want to glean from this experience and see which program offers it the best!
  • Consider your long-term goals after the program and how you might use your residency ‘play-ground’ to beef up your resume in achieving these goals.
  • Practice good self-care, communication among residency team leaders and mold your learning experiences as an adult learner.

Susannah Haarmann, PT, WCS, CLT is a board-certified Women’s Clinical Specialist by the American Physical Therapy Association. She is a private practice owner in Asheville, North Carolina, teaches continuing education in pelvic health nationally and teaches her 2-day course ‘Rehabilitation for the Breast Cancer Patient’ internationally. Susannah is the Author of the Your Core PT book series; patient education handouts for pelvic health and breast oncology clients.






Pelvic Physical Therapy: The Reality Behind the Curtain

Posted on: April 10th, 2018 by Aika Barzhaxynova No Comments

Pelvic Pain

By Carrie Pagliano, PT, DPT, OCS, WCS


There can be a sense of mystery behind pelvic physical therapy, not only from the point of view of the patient, but from professional colleagues in the medical community.  Perhaps this has to do with the fact that pelvic Physical Therapists (PT) are often tucked away in physical therapy clinics behind a closed door. But let’s be honest; most of the mystery comes down to the internal (vaginal or rectal) muscle examination as a potential component of examination and treatment. That said, simplifying pelvic physical therapy down to an internal assessment or a vagina therapist is akin to saying the late Stephen Hawkings studied donut holes.  There is so much more to pelvic PT and the conditions we treat.

The beauty of practicing in pelvic physical therapy lies in the culmination of so many areas of expertise.  It requires an integrative understanding of the human body, finding the right clinical hypothesis and treatment direction in an area of practice where research is still evolving.  Pelvic physical therapy has the unique privilege of being truly wholistic.  Our patients have issues ranging from pelvic organ prolapse, chronic pelvic pain, pain from oncologic or dermatologic issues, urinary and fecal incontinence, issues related to pregnancy or surgery, pain or difficulty with orgasm or intercourse, and the list goes on.  Our patients are female, male, intersex, and transgender.  Our patients are adults and children.  Our patients are referred to physical therapy from ObGyn, Urology, Colorectal, Neurology, Orthopaedics, Pediatrics, Psychology and Dermatology.  Our patient’s problems range from simple to complex.  Our examination includes the entire person, from a comprehensive subjective examination, where the patient can share their story, to a thorough objective assessment which includes the spine, pelvis, hips, etc.  The smallest part of the exam focuses on the internal assessment; either vaginal, rectal, both, or not at all.  For many patients, this portion of the examination is the first time which a medical provider identifies their pain or problem after seeking advice from multiple practitioners.  Pelvic PT’s are often the first provider who has listened to their story for more than a few moments and acknowledged that as a patient, they are not broken, and there is hope.

In the time of the Nassars of the world and #MeToo, clarification of what pelvic physical therapists do behind closed doors is more important now than ever.  When a person seeks treatment that involves the genital region, they deserve the same level of understanding and respect afforded to those receiving treatment to other part of the body.  Pelvic physical therapy and those who benefit from it should not be the fodder for tabloid tips on getting your best orgasm nor should it to be misconstrued as a sexual act.  Patients deserve evidence based expert care, appropriate support and resources to navigate their road to recovery.  Anything to the contrary is unacceptable.

Patients who seek treatment from pelvic Physical Therapists don’t see their issue as a joke.  Patients seeking pelvic physical therapy are patients after childbirth now dealing with changes in their bodies they did not anticipate, told to stop doing activities they enjoy.  These are patients unable to enjoy sexual activity due to pain, preventing normal intimacy or preventing opportunities to start a family.  These are patients struggling to combat the crippling pain of endometriosis.  These are patients who just completed cancer surgery, happy to be alive but wanting to live without the side effects of treatment including incontinence, pain and sexual dysfunction.  These are patients who are unable to comfortably sit for their commute after a fall on their tailbone.  These are children, fearful of social repercussions because they can’t control their urine or have nighttime bed-wetting.  These are patients looking for medical support after gender reassignment surgery.  Our patients deserve respect for their diagnoses, appropriate education and resources to make decisions regarding their care, and empathy for their medical journey.

Pelvic physical therapy is more than an internal muscle assessment or a gloved examination finger.  As pelvic physical therapists, we provide hope based upon legitimate physiological and medical examination findings.  Pelvic physical therapy treatment is fueled by evidence driven critical thinking and supported by a doctoral level professional education.  Pelvic physical therapy provides education and resources to our patients, so choices they make are influenced by evidence and not fear.  As pelvic physical therapists, we are honored and privileged to support the medical community, the patients we serve and those who will continue to benefit from our expertise in the future.


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Section on Women’s Health Announces the 2018 APTA Federal Advocacy Forum Scholarship Recipients

Posted on: April 5th, 2018 by Aika Barzhaxynova No Comments

2018 Federal Advocacy Forum (7)We want to send a big thank you to everyone who submitted an entry to help SoWH find two fantastic representatives to attend the April 29-May 1 2018 APTA Federal Advocacy Forum in the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C.

This venture was a success because we were able to find and identify several active students and early-professionals in our membership!

A special congratulations to Student Physical Therapist member, Cara Morrison of Creighton University (Omaha, NE) and Early-Professional Physical Therapist member, Mackenzie Van Loo (Newberg, OR) for being selected to receive the 2018 SoWH FAF scholarships.

2018 Federal Advocacy Forum (5)


Both Cara and Mackenzie will be attending the forum this month and will be mentored in by Gail Zitterkopf, SoWH Federal Government Affairs Chair. As part of the scholarship benefits, Cara and Mackenzie have free admission to the forum, two hotel nights and travel coverage sponsored by Section on Women’s Health.

Make sure to follow SoWH on Twitter and Facebook to get the latest updates on their experience and the movement!

Cara Morrison, SPT

It didn’t take long in Cara’s DPT education to realize physical therapists require a much larger presence in legislative issues. As a student at Creighton University, there was a lobbyist for the Nebraska Physical Therapy Association (NPTA) who came to speak with students each year about state legislation affecting PT practice and how we can get involved as students and clinicians. The first time he visited, Cara immediately realized her passion to get involved and make her voice heard to further our profession to benefit future patients. Since then, Cara has become the APTA Nebraska Student Core Ambassador, a position they recently added as part of the Nebraska Student Special Interest Group (NSSIG) board. As a part of NSSIG, Cara and other student members host an annual educational event to raise money for PT-PAC. Additionally, Cara has been the recipient of a scholarship sponsored by the NPTA to attend the APTA State Policy & Payment Forum this past September.

Cara has attended CSM the past two years to learn more about emerging research within the specialty. She has completed the first level pelvic floor course and will soon be engaging in ultrasound imaging research for pelvic floor biofeedback at Creighton. She looks forward to attending the International Continence Society conference. As a student intending to apply for women’s health residencies post-DPT, Cara strongly believe there is a great need for advocates to educate our governing bodies and communities about the benefits of pelvic health physical therapy on not only women, but also men and children. Cara strives to continue to advocate for the profession and specialty on both the state and federal levels.

Mackenzie Van Loo, PT, DPT

Mackenzie graduated from Pacific University in May 2017. She has been an active APTA member since 2014 and became a SoWH member in her third year of PT school. Since graduation she has attended continuing education physical therapy courses, gained 6 weeks of mentorship, and grown a pelvic health program for the clinic where she works in rural McMinnville, OR.  She has realized her personal and professional values statement which is: Providing competent, high quality service that is rooted in wisdom, empathy and evidence for righting the physical injustice of this world. In addition to pelvic floor rehab she  is also continuing her education through NAIOMT to further her expertise in orthopedics to complement her service to all her patients on all parts of the age and gender spectrums. When Mackenzie is not treating patients, you can find her at this time of year preparing her organic garden, making kombucha, preserving fruits and veggies or riding her bike.

Mackenzie want to attend the Federal Advocacy Forum because she wants to experience the fullness and ferocity that our profession has all while representing the Section on Women’s Health and advocating for improved service and access to health and wellness for all. She looks forward to the on-on-one mentoring opportunity with Gail Zitterkopf which she thinks will be invaluable to her patients care and for her personal growth.








Qualifying for Disability Benefits With Breast, Ovarian, or Endometrial Cancer

Posted on: April 2nd, 2018 by Aika Barzhaxynova No Comments
Written by Deanna Power



work-3262150_640If you or a woman you love had been diagnosed with cancer, there may be resources available. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers monthly financial aid for people of all ages who are unable to work due to a serious illness. Cancer will not automatically qualify, but thousands of people are able to receive help every year if their cancer is advanced enough.

Medical Criteria Via the Blue Book

The SSA uses its own medical guide, known colloquially as the Blue Book, to review all Social Security disability applicants. The Blue Book contains hundreds of conditions that potentially qualify for Social Security benefits, plus the symptoms or test results you’ll need to be approved.

This means that when applying for disability benefits, you should compare your medical records to the required criteria listed in the Blue Book. If your cancer diagnosis is as advanced as what’s needed via the Blue Book, you should qualify for aid.

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is listed in Section 14.10 of the Blue Book. Under this listing, you’ll have five ways to qualify for benefits:

  1. Your cancer is locally advanced, meaning it has spread to the chest wall or skin
  1. Your cancer has spread to 10 or more axillary nodes
  1. Your cancer returned despite treatment (3+ months’ chemotherapy almost always qualifies)
  1. You have small-cell breast cancer
  1. You have secondary lymphedema caused by chemotherapy requiring surgery to restore use of an arm

A good rule of thumb is if your cancer isn’t recurrent, anyone with breast cancer Stage IIIC (but sometimes IIIB) or beyond will qualify. IBC and metastatic breast cancer always, without fail, medically qualifies for disability benefits.

Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is found in Section 13.23 of the Blue Book. Under this listing, there are three ways to qualify:

  1. You have anything other than germ-cell cancer, with ONE of the following:

Extension beyond the pelvis (such as to the bowels)

Spread beyond the regional lymph nodes

Returned despite treatment

  1. You have germ-cell cancer that has returned or grew despite anticancer therapies
  1. You have small-cell ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer can sometimes qualify at Stage IIB, but will most often qualify at Stage IIIA1 or beyond.

Endometrial Cancer

Endometrial cancer would also be evaluated in Section 13.23 of the Blue Book. Under this listing, there are two ways to qualify:

  1. Your cancer has spread to the pelvic wall, lower portion of the vagina, or distant lymph nodes
  1. Your cancer returned despite anticancer therapies

Endometrial cancer usually qualifies around Stage IIIC1.

The entire Blue Book is available online, so you can review the listings with your oncologist to get a better idea as to whether or not your cancer will qualify.

Starting Your Application

The easiest way to apply for disability benefits is online on the SSA’s website. If you’d prefer, you can always apply at your closest Social Security office. To schedule an appointment, call the SSA toll free at 1-800-772-1213.

It’ll take 3-5 months to hear back from the SSA, unless you have metastatic cancer. Those claims are usually approved within two weeks due to an applicant’s dire need for aid. Once approved, you can spend your benefits on medical bills, childcare, monthly utilities or rent, or any other daily living needs.

Helpful Resources:

Blue Book for Cancer

Qualify With Breast Cancer

SSA Offices

If you have any questions, please contact Deanna Power at [email protected].


Apply Now







Delving Deeper into Women’s Health Physical Therapy at CSM 2018

Posted on: March 19th, 2018 by Aika Barzhaxynova No Comments


In October 2017, Section on Women’s Health for the first time ever announced a scholarship opportunity that was specifically offered to early-professional members. As part of the scholarship, the selected candidate would receive one early-bird Combined Sections Meeting conference registration and three hotel nights in New Orleans, Louisiana in February 2018. After reviewing many applications, Section on Women’s Health selected Natalie Kiefer, PT, DPT as the recipient of the early-professional scholarship.

Natalie KieferNatalie Kiefer, PT, DPT

Natalie has been practicing as a PT for just over one year. While in graduate school at Pacific University in Hillsboro, Oregon, Natalie participated as one of a handful of PT students in the country receiving a scholarship from the Indian Health Service scholarship program. Through her commitment to this program, Natalie began working after graduation for the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, a Native American community in Central Oregon. Natalie had a passion for women’s health for a while, stemming from her previous experience working as a Fertility Care Practitioner, educating women on their health and fertility. Natalie recently won the 2018 CSM Student Scholarship sponsored by Section on Women’s Health.

My CSM Experience

I was very honored to be selected as the CSM 2018 Early-Professional Scholarship Winner by the Section on Women’s Health (SoWH). Because of this scholarship, I was able to attend CSM for the first time! New Orleans was such a fun and exciting site for this year’s event. As a resident Oregonian, I loved exploring a new city with so much wonderful food and culture. (My Lyft driver told me he has never been to the West Coast, because we eat too many vegetables over here!)

It was a wonderful experience full of meeting new people, connecting with old friends, and networking with some of the leaders of the field that I have admired since delving deeper into women’s health. It also struck me that there were a lot of SPTs attending to get an early start on their journey to specializing in such rewarding and meaningful work. Kudos to you all!

As a new member of the SoWH, it was so formative to be able to attend the wonderful programs sponsored by the section and many other specialty sections. In my early-professional career, I often come across cases that do not fit neatly into my “box” or paradigm of diagnoses and treatments that we learn in continuing education for the foundational pieces of pelvic health. The real world is a bit messier than that! So the programming at CSM was a fantastic tool to open my mind to the actual clinical experiences of other professionals.

Maybe my patient is a female runner with incontinence? There was a talk on that! A yogi with pelvic floor dysfunction and poor breath control? There was a talk on that! A female patient with a spinal cord injury interested in having a child in the next few years? There was a talk on that as well! And if none of those presentations can guide me through treatment of the perplexing patient sitting in front of me, I can always look back on my notes from the “Complex Cases” presentation for inspiration. Within all of these aforementioned presentations and the other wonderful programming I attended, I had a great sense of pride in witnessing the excellent clinical judgement and problem-solving by my peers.

I also discovered that this is a group that likes to have a good time! I attended the lively “Board in a Bar” meeting on Bourbon Street sponsored by the SoWH. What a wonderful opportunity to socialize and learn more about other professionals from all over the world that share similar interests. I look forward to attending other events like this in the future!

“I had a great sense of pride in witnessing the excellent clinical judgement and problem-solving by my peers.”

On a more personal note…

This trip was my first time being away from my infant. I would be lying to say that I wasn’t nervous! But I was pleasantly surprised to find that each of the sites that hosted programming at CSM had a “Mother’s Room” where I could pump between sessions. (It was also a place where I connected with other mothers traveling without their children — many pictures from home were shared among us!)  I want to extend my gratitude to all of those involved in the planning of this event that made this accomodation and many others possible so that the attendees could enjoy their experience.

Overall, I cannot speak highly enough of my time at CSM. I whole-heartedly recommend attending to any other early-professionals seeking mentorship, to seasoned clinicians interested in networking, and to students looking to learn more about a specialty. I look forward to Washington D.C. next year for CSM 2019 and hope to see you there!

Stay tuned for announcements about future early-professional CSM scholarships sponsored by Section on Women’s Health!






SOWH Announces $40K Research Grant with Foundation for PT

Posted on: March 6th, 2018 by Aika Barzhaxynova No Comments




On behalf of the SOWH Board of Directors, I’m ecstatic to announce that the SOWH will be partnering with the Foundation for Physical Therapy to offer a $40,000 Research Grant beginning in 2019! The research grant will be offered every other year and will be administered by the Foundation.

As many of you know, in 2011 SOWH leadership established the SOWH Endowment for Excellence in Research through the Foundation. The intent of these funds was to support post-professional students pursuing advanced doctoral training (ie PhD, DSc) consistent with the mission and vision of SOWH, and these scholarships were to be offered every other year beginning in 2015. Unfortunately, the Foundation did not receive any doctoral applications meeting these criteria and the funds have gone unused.

Recognizing that the intent of establishing the endowment was to support research, your SOWH Board worked closely with Foundation staff to investigate other funding mechanisms. We decided that a $40K grant offered every other year aligned with the SOWH strategic plan of developing and implementing a rigorous research strategy. We believe that partnering with the Foundation, the only non-profit organization in the United States devoted to funding and publicizing physical therapy research, will bring enhanced visibilty to the SOWH endowment and expand the pool of grant applicants conducting research in this area. Having the Foundation administer the grant will also eliminate SOWH staff and volunteer burden for the peer review process, disbursement of funds, and tracking grant progress. All of these tasks will be performed by Foundation staff.

All eligible grant proposals will be reviewed by the Foundation’s standing Scientific Review Committee (SRC), in addition to one SOWH member who meets the SRC eligibility criteria; this individual will be appointed by the SOWH Board and will serve as a content expert reviewer on the SRC for this particular grant.

A Final Note

Don’t worry, our SOWH $10K grant is not going anywhere! We will continue to offer this grant annually and investigative teams consisting of at least one SOWH member are eligible to apply. This year’s deadline is April 1, 2018 at 11:59P.

Find out more

When Will Applications Be Accepted for the $40 K Grant?

February 2019 | Stay tuned for the application link announcement!


Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us!

Meryl Alappattu, PT, DPT, PhD
Director of Research
Section on Women’s Health-APTA
[email protected]





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