As I sit here on this snowy day in early January, thinking about what to say in our 30th year newsletter, I feel very thankful and a little surprised. I never anticipated how blessed I would be and how much my life would be touched by everyone I have come to know. At times, I am overcome by a sense of deep gratitude to all the patients, physicians, caseworkers, staff, friends, and families that I have worked with over these thirty years.
As I think back, our clinic began with the help of a special old friend, a new friend, and some long-term co-workers who believed in the dream of establishing an independent private practice physical therapy clinic devoted to overwhelming patients with exceptional service. Our patients became our promoters because of the unique service we provided. What started out as a dream has become a reality beyond my imagination with the help of so many.
Thirty years ago, my wife Maura and I moved to South Bend from Illinois where I was working 6 days a week from early morning to late at night, trying to run a physical therapy practice with three satellite clinics, located about an hour apart. The challenges of running an expanding business and trying to balance a family at the same time were overwhelming. Maura and I struggled with the lack of time I was spending with our family. Our daughter, Mara, was 3 years old, and our son Michael had just been born. Having been brought up with a strong belief in the importance
of family and balance, I realized I was failing to live up to the philosophy I had learned and had always preached to family and friends.
The suggestion to start over and move to South Bend (where Maura & I had met) was made by several of our college friends. One of my closest friends, Jim Shea, whom I respected and admired a great deal, was more influential in our decision to begin a new life in South Bend than he could have ever imagined. He has continued to play a major role in our success and for all of his help, guidance, and friendship, I am extremely grateful.
"If you have performed surgery on any patients who have also been to physical therapy, and are still no better, send those patients to me!" This was the initial request given to local physicians in an effort to encourage them to send patients to our new physical therapy clinic. The physician who had the greatest impact on the early success of our practice was an orthopedist named Stephen Mitros, MD. He has since become a special friend and recently retired and will be missed by our community a great deal! Roger Klauer, MD and Bob Clemency, MD also were major supporters of our kind of specialized care when I first began.
How did I find physicians open to physical therapy in 1989? It may have been a coincidence at the time, but I had hired a physical therapist from South Bend a few years earlier. While I was researching which physicians to speak to regarding physical therapy, I asked him whom he would recommend. His first recommendation was Steve Mitros. I also asked a friend and former professor at Notre Dame, and he, too, recommended Steve Mitros!
I called Steve, and Maura and I set up a lunch to meet with he and his wife, Janet. During that lunch, Steve said he would send me a few tough cases. As the patients improved, the word of our success with challenging injuries, started spreading to other physicians. Gradually, our reputation began to grow with the help of physicians like Steve and initial patients like Nancy, Frances, Maritza, as well as many others who were leaving our clinic excited about their newfound freedom from pain and limitations.
Our little practice, which had operated without a front office person for the first 5 months, was now able to hire Sandy Leslie, who became the front office superstar. Then we hired Barb Knutson, Karen Lemmon, Pam Walkowski (now Powell), Ken Mack and Pam Redfearn, and we were off and running. Sandy, Barb, Karen, Pam P., Ken, and Pam R contributed immensely to our long-term success. I will never be able to thank them enough for their hard work and belief in our care model, which relies heavily on taking care of and directing our patients to the necessary specialists, in helping our patients get stronger and healthier every day.
I would have never guessed, while working in the basement of a small building on Monroe Street that our practice would grow from a small, 815 square foot space to one of 14,000 square feet in 30 years. My original plan was to have a team of three co-workers and I, to give patients great personal care, resolve with them their frustrating, painful conditions as quickly and thoroughly as possible, and live happily ever after in that small basement space. Who would have guessed?
A good business is like a person's life; it requires a great deal of hard work, sweat, tears, laughter and strong commitment of all involved. We have a wonderfully, dedicated staff who truly strives to put our patient needs first. Five of our 12 physical therapy team leaders have been with us for over 20 years! Each of these people, have contributed a great deal to our success and culture focused on helping others regain their life back after pain and injury.
I am very grateful to all the physicians, caseworkers, and companies who have supported our efforts and given us tips along the way. I am grateful to Jim Moriarty, MD of the University of Notre Dame for including me in the weekly sports medicine program meetings for the last 18 years. These weekly gatherings are where local physicians, specializing in orthopedic and musculoskeletal care, meet to share their expertise on extremely challenging Notre Dame athletes as well as, local patient cases. Much gratitude also goes to the University of Notre Dame administration for inviting us to have a satellite clinic on the Notre Dame campus 12 ago. Being on-site at Notre Dame, serving students and staff and the Notre Dame Community, treating mostly 18-22-year-old students as they challenge their bodies in many areas of athletics, has been a rewarding part of our journey, too.
That's our story in a nutshell. It has truly been
an honor and blessing to be able to get up and know there is a great chance to make a difference in someone's life each day! Thanks again to everyone who has been to our clinic and felt strongly enough to continually choose McDonald Physical Therapy as their family physical therapy of choice. I hope we will be celebrating a big 50th in 20 years, when I will be a young 85!