We were fortunate enough to have two 2012-2013 Hand Therapy Fellows, Wai-Kwong Hui, PT, DPT, MS, CSCS and Rae Mannino, OTR/L. Read their interviews by selecting the links below. Carol Page, PT, DPT, CHT is Senior Director at HSS Rehabilitation and directs the fellowship program. Questions about the program can be directed to Carol at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carol: Tell us about yourself and why you applied for the HSS Hand Therapy Fellowship program.
Wai-Kwong: I’m a physical therapist and have been at Hospital for Special Surgery since 2010. The hand is one of the areas with the least concentration in our education as physical therapists. Early on in my career, observing other therapists treat injuries related to the hand sparked my interest in learning more about this specialty and led me to apply for the fellowship.
Carol: Has what you’ve learned as a hand therapy fellow surprised you in any way?
Wai-Kwong: Treating hand injuries is much more difficult and challenging than I realized. I like the biomechanical orientation I’ve been taught. I’m very interested in the motion of the hand- it’s so challenging and complex.
Carol: What have you liked best about the program?
Wai-Kwong: The mentorship provided by multiple hand therapists has been very valuable. I’ve also had opportunities for open dialogue on plans of care with the referring hand surgeons. I’ve especially enjoyed working alongside the doctors in the weekly hand clinic. I plan to use my new knowledge and resources to prepare for and pass the certified hand therapy exam. I’ll use what I’ve learned as a foundation and plan to obtain more continuing education to keep improving my ability to treat patients with hand injuries.
Carol: What would you like to be doing in 3 to 5 years?
Wai-Kwong: I’d like to be working predominantly with individuals with hand and upper extremity injuries. I also see myself treating the cervical spine since it can play an important role when there is neurological involvement. I hope to be a CHT. I’d like to mentor other HSS staff, students and fellows and participate in patient and professional education. I want to help spark the interest in someone else.
Carol: Tell us a little about yourself and your interest in the specialty of hand therapy.
Rae: I am an occupational therapist from NYC with 5 years of inpatient and outpatient experience. My interest in hand therapy began 2 1/2 yrs ago as a hospital rotator working in the Bronx. As a huge advocate for the profession, I really enjoy incorporating my foundation as an OT (along with my inpatient and psychology work background) into my work as a hand therapist.
Carol: Why did you apply for the HSS Hand Therapy Fellowship program?
Rae: When I began transitioning into hand therapy, I jumped right in and was often terrified because I was so green. I was working in a small hand therapy private practice setting before learning about and applying for the fellowship. I worked alone and wasn’t able to surround myself with mentors or a team of experienced therapists to learn from. So after 1 to 2 years of teaching myself, attending conferences, and reading anything and everything, I decided to apply for the HSS fellowship. I knew that if accepted I’d have an incredible opportunity to work with the best of the best, and grow much more quickly as a hand therapist.
Carol: What have been the most valuable aspects of the program for you?
Rae: The dynamic team approach! Every therapist in the hand department has something different to offer – whether it’s their treatment styles, techniques, or special certifications and skills. It was an incredible environment to grow in as a clinician. The staff therapists are eager to teach and motivated to grow as a department. Other program highlights were O.R. observations, weekly lectures, and splint labs.
Carol: How do you think you’ll apply what you’ve learned once you’ve completed the program?
Rae: There are so many ways. Now having a better knowledge of anatomy allows for better intervention choices and clinical diagnosing. Having a greater comfort level with both basic and dynamic splinting options will allow me more tools when treating a challenging patient. I also have more confidence in some of my treatment choices. I feel more motivated to step outside my comfort zone and be more creative with some of those challenging patients.
Carol: Do you have any advice for therapists who want to specialize in hand therapy and are considering applying for the fellowship program?
Rae: There is no better way to learn an enormous amount in such a short period of time. Take advantage of every opportunity – whether it’s to practice your splints, communicate with the surgeons, request O.R. time, utilize the hospital’s library, or brainstorm different case studies with your colleagues. You are there to learn, and they are there to teach. No textbook or protocol can give you what this team of clinicians can provide! You won’t get these opportunities again.