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Share Your Gifts

Lynn Steffes

By Lynn Steffes, PT, DPT | 2018 Robert G. Dicus Award Winner

I would like to thank President Sandy Norby, the PPS Board, the Awards Committee, my dear friend and colleague Drew Bossen—as well as my undercover supporters who wrote thoughtful, touching letters for this honor—an honor I never believed would be given to me.

It is such a precious and humbling gift to have your peers recognize you and your work—especially because there are so many incredible people in this profession and in this Section who give so generously of their talents and their time!

I think we should all be grateful to be a part of such a passionate group! In fact, when you have a chance, take the time to thank those who have lifted you up—both here and at home! Don’t just shake their hand; instead, hug them long and hard, or better yet write them a sincere note or letter expressing your gratitude, gratitude for all of the gifts they have shared with you!

Gifts are the theme of my message. Gifts in shiny paper wrapping with fancy bows much like the one I am receiving from PPS but also gifts that we sometimes receive in brown paper bags.

When I received Sandy’s call in late July, I was sure that there was a task force or a committee looking for a “worker bee” to join, something I have always considered myself to be!

When I somewhat reluctantly returned her call just three weeks before my daughter’s wedding, the news was so much bigger than that—it was the incredible honor of the Dicus Award!

The award that so many folks that I have looked up to for years have received before me! I looked at the list and wondered how my name could ever be added to it. The prior recipients are an incredible list of servant leaders, past presidents, visionaries in our field, and now a mere “worker bee” like me!

I must admit: It took me a while to process the news. I reflected upon the past 30-plus years and realized it was all about the gifts that I had been blessed with! It is those gifts that I want to talk about today as I invite you too to think about your own journey, your own gifts, along the way!

First and foremost, I need to thank the dear Lord and perhaps my parents for bestowing the gifts of passion and energy and a deep sense of commitment and love for life; along with the desire to share those gifts with others through speaking, teaching, writing, coaching, and consulting. My dear husband Phil might just describe it as “God! She just loves to talk!” and while that is true, I do! I love to talk not just at you but with you! And that has been my greatest personal gift!

Somehow, early on, I was blessed to find the gift of physical therapy. Joining our profession has felt more like joining a species to me than finding a career; it was something I truly believe was in my DNA!

At 16, I began as a physical therapy aide at a local hospital and realized how much I loved seeing people overcome obstacles by partnering with a special kind of health care provider, a physical therapist. It was a perfect fit for me and off I went to Northwestern University in Chicago, where I further fell in love with the amazing business of healing people with our hands, our heads, and our hearts!

Upon graduation I practiced for 16 years in a pediatric and adult neuro private practice. I loved what we could make possible in our patients’ lives! I am still convinced that physical therapists are the “rock stars” of health care—one of the few professions that engages and empowers people to care for themselves and pursue their best life, an active one. I truly believe that our opportunities in that area have just begun! But I digress…

It was at this same time, during my college years, that I also fell hard for my husband Phil, my lifelong supporter, my ultimate best friend, my “silver fox”—a pretty fancy gift, with shiny wrapping paper and a bow! As many of you in the audience know, finding your “person” is the most important gift you will ever receive. Make sure that person gets more than one long, sincere hug—maybe a kiss and certainly a love letter from you, thanking them! I could never have been the physical therapist I was and the PPS “worker bee” I became without Phil’s undying love, support, patience, and willingness to single-parent our kids for many long weekends over the years. I am pretty sure he was responsible for our kids turning out to be such nice, normal human beings.

Out of our love for each other grew other amazing gifts: my son Ben and my daughter Bailey, who have been my incredible cheerleaders and often my “why” for working so hard. They are both such amazing people dedicated to their own careers. And much to our utter joy they too have found their special persons in Mary, Ben’s fiancée, and Dan, Bailey’s husband.
Family is certainly our most treasured gift! As many of you know, sometimes gifts come in “brown paper bags”—bags that you open with trepidation—and part of my life passage has been such a gift: that of joining both of my parents on the long difficult journey of Alzheimer’s disease, 14 years to be exact. It was that gift, reluctantly accepted, that has led to my more recent passion and commitment to physical therapist’s involvement in lifestyle medicine and the development of a signature program, BrainyEX.

BrainyEx was built upon the foundation that activity, exercise, and a healthy lifestyle may be our fountain of youth, and who better to be involved in their delivery than PTs? If you are faced with loved ones who are slipping away under a cloud of dementia, consider what exercise and lifestyle changes might do to slow or inhibit that process. Consider lifestyle medicine for yourself and everyone in your lives to ensure a better cognitive future and a better quality of life.

As I travel around the country, I am always impressed with our colleagues in private practice and how so many have begun to embrace lifestyle medicine and offer it to their patients and their communities! I encourage you all to explore the gift that lifestyle medicine might be to your own practice. A great place to start might be the APTA’s Council on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Wellness and the MedBridge Introductory Certification Series on Lifestyle Medicine that I have been involved with developing.

And that brings me to the next most important gift: the gift of so many amazing colleagues and friends both in my home state of Wisconsin and in private practice. The Wisconsin PT Association opened the door for my commitment to working on behalf of our profession. It was there that I first experienced legislative advocacy, payment/policy, and professional business development. PPS has since offered me an even greater opportunity to share, through the Private Practice Board of Directors where I was honored to serve with a great Board under the presidency of Tom DiAngelis, one of my greatest role models in physical therapy leadership, as well as through the Nominating, Marketing, and Education committees, and of course through Annual Conferences and CSM!

Not only has this Section been a perfect group to be a part of, but also many of the members of the Private Practice Section have evolved into becoming my consulting clients and friends who have shared their successes and revealed their challenges—their own brown paper bags—to me as we have worked with their practices, their “babies,” together to help them grow or evolve into even better places to share the gift of their hands, heads, and hearts. I am amazed by the incredible services you all offer, traditional PT services, niche services, prevention and performance enhancement programs.

It may sound strange, but through you, I have been gifted with wonderful lunches, dinners, and “sleepovers” in many clients’ hometowns or even homes. I have hiked in beautiful hills, walked around lovely lakes, made meals with your families in Salt Lake City, Twin Falls, and Seattle and Pittsburgh. I’ve watched the sunrise from a family room window in Los Angeles and had lunch on the coasts of Florida, Virginia, California, and Rhode Island! I have even been blessed to attend a practice owner’s child’s dance recital and had coffee at many of your kitchen tables. I have had the unbelievable opportunity to travel to 42 states working with physical therapists and private practices. It has been a wonderful journey! And I am not done yet!

I would like to thank each and every one of you—too numerous and too special to list individually—who welcomed me into your practices or connected with me virtually or through conference presentations, the PPS video marketing series, Impact magazine, the Evidence in Motion program, or the MedBridge Lifestyle Medicine series.

I have learned so much and frequently walk away more inspired and more energized than I arrived. I often say that I am like a “kid in the candy store”—sharing in both the sweet treats and the sourballs of your businesses! Through it all I am in awe of all of you, as practice owners who have taken on risk and long hours with short paychecks to build beautiful businesses that are gifts in shiny paper with bows to your patients, your communities, your team members, and our profession! Never stop!!

I am also so impressed by practice administrators who often serve side by side at the helm of your practices. It has been my privilege to be a part of the Administrators Certification Program since its inception. Great practice administrators lead to even greater practices. These folks certainly deserve your deepest appreciation.

I am consistently excited to see the number of clinicians who have chosen private practice as the place to share the gifts of their trade. You are a gift to them and them to you. I love the variety of places we can all serve—practices large and small, general practices, contract practices, and niche practices.

If I might indulge in offering one small word of cautionary advice: I only hope as our industry evolves and consolidates that you each carefully align your gifts with those that care preciously for them. Be wary and consider keeping those who would not be so careful with your gift “at arms’ length.”

Our industry has likewise sprouted other entrepreneurial endeavors that I have had the opportunity to be a small part of: PT networks with incredibly dedicated executive directors that enable practices large and small to survive and compete. Once a network executive, I loved being a part of that group of collective geniuses and hold these people close to my heart, especially my dear friend Amy!

I have engaged with some of my favorite colleagues in physical therapy niche businesses like PT1—now a part of the VGM Group—who introduced the idea of physical therapists collectively joining together to develop targeted insurance and business products. More recently I have been involved with Alinea Engage, a patient engagement technology platform that optimizes patient intake and engagement experience. Each opportunity has connected me to amazing people who are a valuable part of our private practice business family.
All in all, I am intensely grateful for all of my gifts both personal and professional, those in shiny wrapping paper with fancy bows and even those in brown paper bags. It is my hope that in reflecting with you on these that you have created your own list of gifts. And hopefully a list of those individuals who deserve your lingering hugs, or sincere notes or letters.

The real message here is that the only way to truly realize your gifts is to share them: with your family; with your friends; your patients, your communities; with your colleagues and with our profession!

Thank you all both collectively and individually for the opportunity to share my gifts and thank you for this incredibly shiny gift of the Dicus Award!


Lynn Steffes

Lynn Steffes, PT, DPT, is a private practice PT marketing consultant and developer of “On-Boarding Your Marketing Rock Star.” You can find her at every PPS Annual Meeting, APTA-CSM, and online at www.steffesandassociates.com.