5/04/2020 Alicia Morrissey

#FandMInspires: Unconventional Thinking and F&M Foundation Guides Alumna’s Physical Therapy Work

#FandMInspires is our tag for uplifting stories that show Diplomats of all ages improving themselves, encouraging others and affirming ideals that strengthen society.

When she was a student at F&M, Liz Watson '98 had two clear goals:

“I always knew that I wanted to do something in the medical field and something to help people,” she said.

Today, she accomplishes both through her work at Magee Rehabilitation Outpatient Therapy Center. Working primarily with neurological injuries—mainly related to the spinal cord—Watson helps her patients learn how to do daily activities that improve their independence and quality of life.

Alumni Spotlight: Liz Watson '98

Watson has gained more leadership and supervisor responsibilities while continuing to expand wellness program options and working primarily in the locomotor training clinic along with robotic exoskeletons.

“We have expanded use of our robotic exoskeletons both on the therapy side and as an option for clients to use on a wellness basis to get up and walk once or twice a week,” she said.

She also noted that seven to eight times a year, the clinic offers a four-week wellness “boot camp” program called Gaining Ground. The sessions for February and March were both canceled due to COVID-19, but the clinic otherwise remains open to patients. 

“We are deemed essential services because there are some patients who require therapy to improve health and well-being and to prevent medical complications or regression after an injury,” Watson said. They are leaving it up to their patients to determine whether they want to continue therapy during the pandemic. 

To safeguard patients and staff, the clinic is taking several precautions. They are now seeing patients one-on-one rather than two at a time, spreading out patient care across two gyms to maintain physical distance, and wearing masks, among other steps.

  • Liz Watson '98 and physical therapy patient Liz Watson '98 and physical therapy patient
  • Liz Watson '98 and physical therapy patient Liz Watson '98 and physical therapy patient
  • Liz Watson '98 and physical therapy patient Liz Watson '98 and physical therapy patient
  • Liz Watson '98 and her son at F&M Liz Watson '98 and her son at F&M
  • Liz Watson '98 and her family Liz Watson '98 and her family

Watson and her team also are engaging their patients virtually.  

“The first few weeks, we were calling patients to check in to answer any questions about exercise programs and doing some video chats as needed,” she said. 

They also developed a library of videos to help guide patients through different exercises, have set up Zoom meetings for wellness clients to connect remotely, and posted fun videos on social media to continue to try and provide uplifting content during self-isolation.

“A lot of (our patients) come to our wellness clinic not just to exercise, but also for the social support system,” she said.

The Magee staff members are supporting one another, as well.

“Our inpatient facility is very busy, and we are sending some outpatient staff up there to assist each day to maximize resources,” Watson said. They also have a surge plan in place to assist Jefferson Health’s (an organization they merged with two years ago) acute-care hospital if that facility runs out of beds.

Watson was initially drawn to F&M because, at the time, her chosen track was called “pre-healing arts,” something she felt encouraged her to think outside the box of traditional pre-med. That unconventional mentality, combined with the skills and foundation she gained at F&M, prepared Watson to guide her patients and work, not only during the current public health crisis, but every day.

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