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The first few years as a physical therapist

Meet Mark Denesha, ex-military turned Physical Therapist and owner of Forever Forward - a mobile clinic for orthopedic injuries, post-ops recovery and sport-specific training. We sat with Mark to hear about his first few years as a physical therapist.


How did the transition to being a full time physical therapist happen?

After my last 16 weeks clinical rotation as a student, the place I was at offered me a job. I was working there on a temporary license at first, going in a couple days a week in the afternoons and studying in between. Once I passed, I worked there full-time. It was a busy outpatient clinic in the financial district. A very fast-paced setting with lots of type A patients working in finance.

Did you enjoy your time there?

I was there for 6 months, then did a clinical rotation for the summer and then worked an additional six months after I passed the board. At minimum I would see 12 patients per day, which wasn't too bad. A full schedule would be 16. If I saw 60 patients in a week, I'd get a bonus, and if I saw 70, I'd get a different bonus, and so on. Generally, you'd want to be seeing at least 60 patients a week. Some clinics in the city had PTs seeing 20 patients in a day. That's a 100 per week. Truth is I enjoyed it a lot but eventually I got a bit burned out. When I was offered another job as clinical director, I took it.

Is that when you decided to travel around the world?

Yes. Right before I became a clinical director. I used to commute into Manhattan and listen to Tim Ferriss' podcasts as part of my routine. He was interviewing an author named Rolf Potts about his book, 'Vagabonding', which is about a different way of traveling that focuses on learning about the culture rather than just being superficial. Tim mentioned he had done a 'mini retirement', taking time off in his 30s, which really inspired me. When I got home from work that evening, I excitedly suggested to my wife that we travel the world and she didn't hesitate - she was in!

Did traveling around the world make you a better physical therapist?

I took a lot away from this opportunity. I met with a few different practitioners, one of whom was Bronnie Lennox Thompson, a very popular figure in the pain world based out of New Zealand. I had asked a therapist I respected in New York for recommendations and he suggested this woman, so I emailed her out of the blue and she was kind enough to meet me for lunch in Wellington. We had a great conversation and I walked away feeling like I had gained a lot from it. Beyond the educational knowledge, I was able to experience different cultures and see how people live in different places. This has helped me to build rapport with my patients, as I spend 2 hours with them each week, more than any other healthcare professional. Traveling has allowed me to connect with a lot of people and learn about different things, which has made me a better physical therapist.

After returning from your travels you eventually start Forever Forward. How did you get the idea?

I was inspired to start Forever Forward while traveling with my wife in Australia and New Zealand. We spent months living in a van and I was fascinated by what you could do with it and its capacity for being functional. During this time, I had a conversation with my barber who told me about a friend of his who was going to the Hamptons in his van to offer 'mobile haircuts'. I thought it was a great idea and I wanted to apply it to physical therapy. During the pandemic, people didn't want to be out and about and I thought if I could bring the clinic to them, it would be a good idea. I wanted to create a setting where people could step away from their home and come to the mobile clinic, without having to worry about their house being a mess or any other distractions. That's how the concept of Forever Forward was born.

Will you specialize in a given area with Forever Forward?

As a physical therapist, I address all sorts of orthopedic pain and injuries. Most other physical therapists specialize. Personally I equally enjoy working on shoulders, knees, backs, or ankles. Today, I worked with a patient with a torn rotator cuff, a runner with posterior tibial tendonitis, a young lady with a quad strain, and an elderly woman with a total knee replacement. My oldest patient was 92 and my youngest was 23. Ultimately, the main reason people come to physical therapy is because they are experiencing pain and in a way pain is what Forever Forward specializes in.

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