By David Elliff, DPT, Clinic Manager
ApexNetwork Physical Therapy
I’ve always loved helping people, and the effect physical therapy can have on patients hit hits close to home early in my life. I was a junior in high school when my grandmother had a series of strokes, each more debilitating than the last. For a time, she couldn’t walk. So to see her walk again after all her treatment in physical therapy was inspiring. While that was a turning point for my interest in physical therapy, it wasn’t the only encouragement I got from life as I started my journey.
I grew up in the Granite City area, which is a moderately-sized industrial town. During school, I found a passion for sports and spent most of my free time training in cross-country, baseball, and track. During my time playing high school sports, I suffered several ankle sprains which cemented my interest in physical therapy. I wanted to learn more about physical therapy, yet I didn’t even know how to get into the industry. So I sought to shadow a therapist at our local hospital.
At the Gateway Regional Medical Center, I had the opportunity to shadow one of their leading physical therapists, Pat. He would later become a mentor to me throughout my physical therapy career, and, funny enough, my parents moved next door to him! Pat showed me the ropes, and I gained a clear direction for my career. Shortly after shadowing Pat, I found a school that was the perfect fit for my physical therapy education: Saint Louis University.
I made the most of my time there with various internships and clinical rotations. I was initially a tech at Saint Mary’s Health Center in Richmond Heights, where I was able to learn the fundamentals of physical therapy. My peers and I would typically assist patients with exercises and bringing them to the gym. My clinical rotations took me all over the country, including to Virginia, Louisiana, and New Mexico.
Before I graduated in 2006, I minored in psychology, which helps when working with patients in severe pain — when it’s best to meet them on their level. At ApexNetwork, we don’t just focus on what hurts but on the patient’s well-being as a whole. We connect with them through the entire process, which is something I love about the work we do.
We also try to make the experience something they can look forward to. ApexNetwork gives us the freedom to host different events, like on Halloween when all the therapists dress up! Last year, I was Drew Carey from “The Price Is Right.” When baseball season comes up, we dress in baseball gear and bring snacks like nachos. We try to provide the best experience possible for our patients, but that goes further than planning fun events. We also seek out educational opportunities.
ApexNetwork provides these educational opportunities so we can better serve our clients. Recently I was able to learn about dry needling, which has made a world of difference for our patients. The training is expensive, but without it, I would’ve never had the ability to help my patients using such a successful technique. However, it’s not practicing my new skill that makes me look forward to work every morning. The community formed between our patients and the staff develop is terrific and welcoming, and the patients build off of one another and rally in their success.
When I’m not at work, my kids and volunteer work keep me busy! My two oldest boys are very athletic, as they’re already playing baseball, soccer, basketball, and cross-country.
So next time you’re in the clinic, let me know if your kids play any sports or if you’ve been to any of the places where I did clinical rotations! I always love finding new activities for my kids or swapping stories from my college days.