By Hillary Lau

Aloha From An Alum!

Guest Post by Carla Shayman

 

I was a student of the Northeastern University physical therapy program and worked with Fukuji & Lum as a part of their co-op program. I learned so much from the whole team including treatment techniques but also how to manage a busy schedule with calm and patience. I learned how to put the aloha spirit into practice and embrace everyone I worked with from patients to colleagues.

Since graduating Northeastern, I worked for a year in South Carolina in an inpatient/outpatient mixed setting and have been living and practicing for the past four years in Spokane, WA. My clinical focus is outpatient orthopedics. I am a board certified orthopedic clinical specialist with a certification as a strength and conditioning specialist.

I am so passionate about living a physically active lifestyle and sharing that passion with others. This commitment led me to give a Ted Talk encouraging others and showing how to incorporate stretching into their daily lives.

I owe so much of my journey to my Fukuji & Lum family for teaching me and giving me my start!
By Deb Matsuura

NORTHEASTERN STUDENTS REFLECT ON COOP PROGRAM IN HAWAII

How Maddie D. Feels About Hawaii and Working at F&L

Someone asked me the other day how I felt about my choice to come to Fukuji & Lum for co-op. My answers over the past two weeks to all the questions have been along the lines of “I learned so much, it was amazing!” or “I miss it so much!” or even “I’m so cold!!” This time, however, I came out with “it was the best decision I’ve made in my life so far.” After three weeks of being home and readjusting to school, friends, and yes, the cold (it’s in the single digits today!), I think that’s the easiest and most encompassing way to sum it up.

One thing that keeps circling around my brain is just how grateful I am for the last 6 months and working alongside everyone at Fukuji & Lum. During my time here, I stepped outside my comfort zone in every aspect of life and learned so much about the physical therapy profession and myself along the way. The experiences I had stretch so far beyond what I can sum up into a quick conversation.

 

Living in Hawaii and working at Fukuji & Lum, I was exposed to such a variety of people—from the patients to my coworkers and beyond—and they all gave me something to take home in terms of how I want to continue to live my life. Everyone was so willing to teach me about their personal culture and background, and all my coworkers were willing to teach me more about PT and give me a sense of what I’m working towards. I will never forget how many times Myra spent any downtime that popped up teaching me different joint and soft tissue mobilizations, tests, etc. and how much it meant to me. Or that time Brad gave us all printouts and taught us more about Graston.

At the end of the day though, the people who had the most impact on me at Fukuji & Lum were the other three co-ops who took on this crazy experience with me. None of our other classmates had the same experience of walking into the first day of classes and immediately finding each other to hug and reunite after only a week (or two, we missed you Em!) apart. Coming home from work every day to debrief on the cool, interesting, and sometimes really difficult things we saw and dealt with that day really fostered that passion for PT in all of us regardless of whether we were sitting on the couch talking about documentation or hiking a mountain discussing PRI.

Being so far away from home, we really found a family within Fukuji & Lum and most of all we found one in one another, and that is something I will forever be grateful for. I currently live with Jada and on our way to class in the mornings we’ll talk about some of our favorite memories, and it’s really hit me that some of the most “mundane” moments are what impacted me the most. I will forever miss car rides home from North Shore driving slower so that we can make it through our playlist, and on all our hikes when I’d talk to whoever was behind me and Emily would call “WHAT?” because she wanted to feel included. I’ll remember holidays at the Hyland’s or trying to help Mana with her crossword puzzles.

I’ve been thinking a lot about a word to sum up the last 6 months, and finally settled on: Explore. All the highlights of the experience are really centered around that theme. I explore the island: found hikes, places, and formed memories that will stay with me forever. Hiking 3 peaks for sunrise with Casey on her last weekend before going back to school was just such an epic adventure which left me feeling so happy for days. Hiking Pali Notches with Irish or paddling out to Chinaman’s Hat with Reyn were two other highlights, I’ll forever remember how cool it was to go see places that were on my bucket list with some of the awesome people I met here. And of course, skydiving!! Come on, we went skydiving not once but twice (or three times, Jada)! The sense of happiness I felt on all the adventures the island had to offer will always stick with me.

And in the clinic, that exploration continued. I really expanded my knowledge of the profession and of what it means to be a physical therapist. Watching the PTs interact with their patients and form those relationships really showed me what kind of therapist I want to become one day. And meeting the patients, listening to their stories, and being there with them on some of their best days and their worst days taught me a lot about compassion and the trust that exists between patient and provider. I learned so much about myself as a person in and out of the clinic, and I hope that I can continue to take these experiences forward with me as I progress towards my future career. Aloha a hui hou and mahalo nui loa, F&L!! Thank you for learning and growing as a family with me over the past half-year.

By Deb Matsuura

Northeastern Students Reflect on Coop Program in Hawaii

Jada M. Reflects on Hawaii Stay

January, 2020

What was the one experience that you think was the highlight of the experience? One in the clinic and one outside the clinic.

It’s so hard to boil down 6 months of time in and out of the clinic into 1 experience. I think the highlight of my experience in the clinic is hearing a patient tell me that I “changed the course of her recovery” by modifying her exercise program when she was having a bad day physically. She expressed that she was surprised that a student could modify her program to fit her needs and was impressed that I was able to do more than “go through the motions”. This is all due to the PTs who gave me the tools & knowledge to be able to do so. Positive feedback like that from patients is my favorite kind of feedback.

Outside of the clinic, the highlight of the experience was definitely skydiving! (all 3 times!). It had been on my bucket list since I can remember and I didn’t even think about it before going for the first time. Definitely one of the coolest, most exhilarating things I’ve ever done!

Who had the most impact on you during your time here?

So many people impacted me during my time at F&L. Patients, PTs, PTAs, techs and of course my fellow co-ops. My experience wouldn’t have been the same without the other co-ops who I now call some of my best friends. I am grateful to have been able to work and live with them, there is truly no group of people I would rather spend 6 months in Hawaii with. I would say the person who had the biggest impact on me at work was Connor. Working with her all day in the clinic was so much fun, and I learned so much not only about how to treat patients clinically, but how to make patients feel comfortable and at ease during their treatment. Working with her showed me that a lot of being a PT is listening to your patients and making them feel validated and heard. I hope I am able to interact with patients the way she does when I get my degree, and I will definitely use the things I learned from her for the rest of my career!

 

What was the most surprising thing that you did not expect?

The most surprising part of co-op for me was how incredibly welcoming the patients were and how willing to work with students they were. Of course I expected them to be friendly, but every patient went out of their way to make us feel at home in Hawaii. They were so willing to work with us and treat us the same way they treat the PTs. I was blown away by their kindness and by the relationships I was able to build with so many of them.

What experience or person change your belief about what physical therapy is?

I worked with a patient who was having a really tough day, and just talked with them while doing exercises in the pool. I spent most of the time just listening to what they were upset about, and making sure they felt validated. At the end of the session, the patient hugged me and said “Thank you for listening to me”. It’s simple, but it made me realize that as a PT, you can do more than just take away someone's physical pain. You can make them feel better just by showing them that you care about them as a person, not just about their injury.

From this experience, what intentions will you have going forward with your career?

Before this experience, I was absolutely set on going into sports medicine and nothing else, but after working with Jocelyn at the pool, I’ve decided that later in my career I would love to work in women’s health and maternity! Going forward, I could also see myself back at Fukuji & Lum in the future.

 

Describe your overall experience in Hawaii. (i made this question up)

There is no way I could sum up this experience into one word, because it is so much more than just one thing. During the past 6 months, I’ve come to learn that Hawaii is a special place. Not only because of its beauty, but because of the quality of the people who live there. Living on Oahu has shown me why it’s so hard for people to leave, and why many who end up there never do. It didn’t take long to feel like I was home on Oahu, and Fukuji & Lum certainly helped with that. F&L truly embodies the “Aloha lifestyle” as they treat everyone with such kindness, respect, and open mindedness. All these things are what make both Oahu and F&L unique. I felt so loved and cared for during my entire time on co-op and truly felt like I had a family ready to accept me with open arms.

Each experience I had felt like it was once in a lifetime, and looking back on each one feels like reliving a dream. I went skydiving, snorkeling with sharks, swimming with dolphins, zip lining in the rainforest, surfing, hiking, jumping off waterfalls, boating along the Na Pali coast, island hopping to Kauai, and so much more. The fact that those are all “bonuses” to all the things I learned in the clinic and at the pool is incredible. I have gained more clinical skills & knowledge about physical therapy than I ever have in the classroom and have improved my patient interactions skills tremendously. My life has been forever changed by this experience and I could not be more grateful for my F&L 'Ohana for taking me in and making this experience everything that it was. I will forever have a special place in my heart for Oahu and for Fukuji & Lum.

 

By Deb Matsuura

Introducing Co-op Jada!

We welcome Jada to the F&L O'hana. She works over at Kokokahi, at our Kaneohe clinic and Aquatic Therapy pool. Here's a little bit about Jada and her journey to becoming a PT student at NEU.

I attended Saranac Lake High School and currently attend Northeastern University. 

When I was a kid, I wanted to go to the Olympics for track & field. I had my heart set on being an olympian for a long time, so when I realized that it seemed like a long shot, I decided that if I couldn’t run in the olympics, I wanted to surround myself with people who did. I found out that physical therapy is such an incredible way to stay involved in athletics and be able to be a part of the athlete’s journey to success. 

 

I decided early on that I wanted to do a co-op outside of Boston because I love to travel and experience new places, and this was an opportunity to not only go somewhere beautiful, but to experience a completely new culture, climate, setting, and way of life. Doing a co-op in a place like Hawaii is really more than just a co-op. In addition to getting all of the amazing professional experience, we also get to explore a totally different part of the world in such a unique way. We only have a few opportunities to immerse ourselves in a totally new place so I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity and make it count. 

My experience in Hawaii so far has been incredible. The patients at Fukuji & Lum have been amazing and are always ready to welcome us with food, plenty of suggestions and local tips & tricks to navigate the island. The staff has also been incredible, making us feel so welcome and like we really are a part of the family. One of the greatest things I’ve noticed about Hawaii so far is that the people here are so accepting of everyone. Regardless of your identity or what you look like, the locals treat everyone with respect and love and that is so inspiring. I can definitely understand why people don’t leave this place, it feels like home in the blink of an eye. 

The strangest thing I’ve eaten since arriving has probably been poke, just because I had never had it before and don’t even eat sushi at home! 

My to-do list is insanely long, but some of the big things are skydiving, ziplining, learning how to surf, and hopefully finding a way to hike stairway to heaven. 

One day, I hope to be a therapist working with world class athletes. Sports medicine is what lead me to physical therapy in the first place, so I can’t wait to see where that can take me. Whether I’m on the side of the track doing PT for olympic track athletes or on the ice being a team PT for a professional hockey team, I want to be right in the action. I hope to be the kind of therapist that these athletes trust to keep them strong and help them get back on their feet to continue doing what they love!

There are so many people that have influenced me and helped me become the person I am today. My biggest influences overall would have to be my family. My parents, grandparents and whole extended family have always been so supportive of me and have encouraged me to follow my interests. One of my biggest influences also has to be Allyson Felix, the Olympic track and field athlete. She is such an inspiration to me because of her work ethic, attitude and resilience. Following her journey has shown me how important it is to not let disappointments and failures keep you down!

Jada

By Deb Matsuura

Aloha Emily!

Emily, our second Co-op this semester, travels back and forth over the mountain from the Kailua to the Honolulu Clinic every week. She shares a little about herself and her experience so far being on the island.

I am a 3rd year physical therapy major at Northeastern University in Boston. I grew up just outside Philadelphia where I attended Methacton High School.

My greatest influence in life has always been my mom. She is such a kind-hearted person who always puts the needs of others before herself. She is a pediatric physical therapist and her endless passion and love for the job is what first inspired me to pursue physical therapy. My family also runs a therapeutic horseback riding program, which I have volunteered for ever since I was a kid. This experience teaching kid’s exercises and seeing the impact that physical therapy can have on a person’s life reaffirmed my desire to enter this profession. I hope that my exposure to using various therapeutic methods with different types of patients while on co-op will give me a better idea of what type of physical therapy I want to specialize in. I also love teaching, so someday I would like to become an instructor for courses and train other therapists skills that they can use to help their patients.

I knew that I wanted to do my co-op at Fukuji and Lum after having coffee with some of the previous co-ops. They emphasized how the clinic values forming relationships with patients, using a holistic approach to patient care, and creating a positive atmosphere to make physical therapy fun. This resonated with the type of therapist that I aspire to be and was something that I felt I would not find in any of the clinics in Boston. In addition to everything that Fukuji and Lum had to offer, the previous co-ops also talked a lot about the aloha spirit and relaxed nature of people living in Hawaii. I want to grow as a person while on co-op and I hope that living in this atmosphere for 6 months will help me learn to slow down, live in the moment, and take time to appreciate the people and events going on around me.

My experience here thus far has been incredible. Everyone at the clinic has been so welcoming and helpful as I get settled in. The way that people all treat each other like family here has made it very easy to feel at home. The views everywhere are unlike anything I’ve ever seen before and I love how every weekend there is always something new and exciting to do. It has also been amazing to try some of the local foods the island has to offer. The strangest thing I’ve eaten so far was poi. It’s color and texture made it so different from anything I’ve eaten before, but I ended up really liking it! While I’m here, I can’t wait to go on as many hikes and explore as many beaches as possible. I would also love to go skydiving, ziplining, camping, kayak to the Mokes, snorkel, do yoga on the beach, and learn to surf.

By Deb Matsuura

Here’s Maddi!

What school did you attend in high school and what's your current college?

I grew up in central Massachusetts and attended Tantasqua Regional High School, which combines my town, Sturbridge, and four other small neighboring towns. For college I attend Northeastern University as part of the 6 year DPT program. 

What drew you to physical therapy?

When I was in high school I went to PT for an injury from running track. I had a great relationship with my physical therapist and loved how figuring out the best exercises for me was sort of like a puzzle, or putting the pieces all together. When I went off to college I started as a Biochemistry major, because I thought I wanted to go to medical school or do research. After first semester and getting to be exposed to what each of those routes would be like, I felt out of place. My mind just kept circling back to how interesting I’d always found physical therapy (I even did a project on it in high school!) and how it just felt like such a better fit. 

Why did you want to do your co-op in Hawaii?

I really wanted to get out of Massachusetts for a while, and I wanted to go somewhere completely different. All of the previous co-ops I talked to spoke about how much they felt this experience helped them to grow both in their career aspirations and also as an individual. I felt like I was at a time in my life where I really needed that change and to immerse myself in a new culture and setting. Doing my co-op at F&L seemed like the perfect opportunity for what I was craving. 

What has been your experience like so far?

I can’t even begin to describe how positive it’s been! It’s been one month since I arrived and since then, I’ve been blown away by everything I’ve seen and everyone I’ve met. Everyone who has worked with me so far can confirm that I’m loving all the hiking the island has to offer and am eager to get out and explore so much more. I’ve been trying to learn to surf and while the wipe outs aren’t fun, I’m still enjoying it. One of my favorite experiences I’ve had so far was waking up to go see the sunrise from Lanikai pillboxes on my day off. Overall I’m really enjoying the lifestyle Hawaii has to offer and it’s causing me to adapt and adjust to the differences between here and New England (like the speed limit?!? Everyone drives so slow)  

What's the strangest thing that you've eaten since arriving?

I haven’t eaten anything “strange” yet, so I think you guys need to work harder… I’ve tried poke which was awesome, kalua pork, taro chips, purple yam ice cream, and some various Hawaiian candies. I guess the strangest thing I’ve eaten then would have to be haupia because I ate it before I had any idea what it was. 

What is on your to do list while here?

To get through the giant lists everyone has given me of recommendations. A couple of my big “to-do’s” include getting to the Mokes, Chinaman’s hat, Crouching Lion, Olomana, and (the legal way to) Stairway to Heaven. Overall, I want to get in as much hiking as possible! I also want to explore the North Shore more and go to Waimea Bay. I’d love to get over to Kauai and see the Na Pali coast. Juliet and I also signed up to do the Xterra half marathon at Kualoa Ranch in November, so whether I like it or not that’s on my to do list too. 

What kind of therapist do you hope to be?

A good one. But actually… I want to be the kind of PT that develops a good relationship with their patients. I want my patient to be able to trust me enough to develop a program that works for them, and I want to be the type of PT that they feel is invested in their progress. I think being a physical therapist requires a lot of problem solving, and then also requires you to be able to explain the solution. I want to be a therapist who is able to work with different patients so that they feel their plan is personalized and targets them as a person and not just a diagnosis. As far as specifics go, I haven’t quite figured out yet what type of population or setting I want to work with/in. 

Who is your greatest influence in your life?

Is it a cop out to say my family? My parents have each influenced me immensely in their own separate ways. My mom inspires me to have a thirst for adventure and to be unapologetically myself and has really been there as a strong female role model throughout my life. She reminds me to always pursue new experiences and has taught me that change and forced independence are great teachers. My dad has shaped how I think about and view the world so much. He forces me to challenge myself and to look at problems with a different perspective to find a better solution. He is one of the smartest people I know and has always described to me the importance of pursuing your passion. My sister teaches me how to love people with your whole heart and is one of the strongest people I know, she influences me with her perseverance and passion for what she cares about. 

By Deb Matsuura

F&L Fall Semester Co-ops Are Here!

F&L is very proud and excited to have four new Northeastern Co-ops this fall. They all wrote their own blogs and will be featured individually in our Happy at Work Blog throughout the month.

Let's meet Juliet! She will be working with our Work Comp/No Fault patients at WORC and learning all about Aquatic Therapy at our Kaneohe pool.

 

What school did you attend in high school and what's your current college?

I went to Kennedy Catholic High School in Westchester, New York, and I just finished my second year as an undergraduate in Northeastern’s 6-year DPT program.

What drew you to physical therapy?

As a lifelong dancer, I have always been fascinated by how the parts of the body work together to produce movement – whether it is as simple as reaching to the top cabinet to put a glass away or as complex as completing 16 consecutive pirouettes en pointe without losing balance. When I was an Achilles tendonitis patient in high school, I was intrigued by the multiple PT clinics I visited and therapists I worked with. Despite having positive experiences, I wished I had encountered a therapist with a dance background, and with that thought, I saw my future self as a potential solution to my situation. Since high school, I have spent time exploring by taking classes in anything that sparked my interest, from stem cells to food justice, and journalism to biopsychology, yet human anatomy remained front and center. I even had the opportunity to work in a biology research lab as a freshman in college, and while I loved the end goal of the lab’s work, pipetting and test tubes seemed far removed from the people I wanted to help. This quickly helped me to understand my desire to take my passion for biology, the body, and problem solving, and apply it in a way that would directly help people to return to an improved physical state. Every day, I return home from working in the clinic and the pool with a growing certainty that physical therapy is a profession that will not only give me a purpose, but more importantly, grant me the opportunity to help others return to their purposes.

Why did you want to do your co-op in Hawaii?

I love to explore, and one of my passions is traveling the world to experience how people of different cultures live their daily lives. I had been to Hawaii with my family on vacation and I fell in love with the scenery but missed out on the culture; it’s tough to get a full cultural experience as a tourist. When I heard about a co-op opportunity that would allow me to be less of a tourist and more of a resident in a place that could not be more beautiful, it rose to the top of my list. Talking with the previous co-ops about their experiences at Fukuji & Lum only fueled my desire to live and work here even more. Hearing their stories about how welcoming the entire work community was and how much they learned about treating patients holistically resonated with my values and goals as a future therapist.

What has your experience been like so far?

My experience has been absolutely incredible. I come home from work every day in awe of how everyone really does seem to be “happy at work,” and I think of how lucky I am to be here. The entire F&L community has been so kind, welcoming, inclusive, and eager to help us learn, and patients have been so happy to work with us even though we are still beginners.  Time seems to fly in the clinic because there is always something to do – a patient to help, a new exercise or skill to master, a note to write, a conversation to have. One of the therapists convinced me to start coming for 6am workouts before the work day, and although I have never been a fan of early morning workouts, something about going in early and starting my day sweating with them has been such a positive experience. Outside the clinic, weekends are packed full of adventures: hikes, beaches, snorkeling, arts festivals, and more. I did not know the other co-ops very well before coming here and it has been fun getting to know them and to explore with them these past few weeks. I am so excited for the rest of this experience and will try to soak in as much as I can before returning to the Boston cold!

What's the strangest thing that you've eaten since arriving?

Lychee! It was extra special because it was from a coworker’s tree back home in Kauai. And although I would not consider it strange, poke is my favorite meal I have eaten (more times than I would like to admit) since arriving.

What is on your to do list while here?

My to-do list already seemed never-ending before I arrived, but after all the recommendations from patients and coworkers, I think I could live here for 6 years instead of 6 months and still not get to everything! The list includes too many hikes to name them all, skydiving, windsurfing & surfing, watch a surfing competition at the North Shore, lots of snorkeling, go to a luau, visit the Mermaid Caves, take a hula class, swim with sharks (maybe?), run the half marathon at Kualoa Ranch, try poke from every spot recommended by patients, go camping for a weekend, kayak to the Mokes, walk/swim out to Chinaman’s Hat… it really just never ends!

On a more personal level, I am really looking forward to using this time away from school and home to discover a greater purpose and to further develop goals for myself as a therapist. I am also hoping to impact the lives of patients and to give back to the community here, even if only in a small way. I’ll follow up on that in the final reflection!

What kind of therapist do you hope to be?

While I am still unsure of which route I would like to take within the PT field, I hope to be the therapist that my patients need at the moment in their lives that we happen to meet. While that is a lofty aspiration, I will work my hardest to make it a reality because every patient deserves a therapist who sees him/her not as an injury or condition, but instead as a person. I want to continue learning long after I graduate to keep up with the latest research that could potentially help my patients. I hope to be creative and to think critically like the therapists at WORC when they come up with exercises that mimic activities in patient’s work environments to help heal and strengthen them before they return to their jobs. I hope to be confident enough in my knowledge base to be able to adapt my style to fit various personalities and lifestyles that patients may lead – be more stern with some if necessary, humorous with others, a shoulder to lean on for someone who may need it at the time – and most of all, I hope to be empathetic and to help my patients understand that they are more than whatever injury or condition might be weighing them down.

Who is your greatest influence in your life?

My parents have always been the greatest influence in my life, although I am so fortunate to have met many other wonderful influences along the way, too. My mom’s compassionate, empathetic nature has allowed her to constantly support and encourage me and to instill in me the importance of giving back to the community. My dad has never stopped inspiring me to be intellectually curious – he reminded me every day before middle and high school that my end goal was to learn as much as I could from every situation, every textbook, every conversation. Whether it was playing the “hard question game” with me on rides to dance and gymnastics as a kid, taking long walks with me on the beach or in a foot of snow to talk things out, or sitting front and center at every dance recital, my parents have never stopped giving their all for me or being my number one fans. Mahalo, Mom and Dad!!

By Deb Matsuura

Mahalo from Taylor

My time in Hawaii has come to an end, unfortunately. A lot of things have changed since my last reflection, I became more efficient with time in clinic, cultivated PT skills, created a new Ohana in Hawaii and my hair grew an inch or two. My time at F&L was very enjoyable from talking story with patients or learning new PT techniques. The staff at F&L created a comfortable and positive environment, to allow students to grow not only in their skills but in their thinking as well.
F&L offered everything; both physical therapy knowledge or tips for after graduating and best spots to check out. I was able to explore the beautiful islands of Hawaii, especially while hiking. All the locals knew where to cruise through and here are some of the beautiful views and Ono grindz Hawaii has to offer. Mahalo nui loa to the Fukuji & Lum PT Ohana for all the great experiences and teaching moments during my six months!
Mahalo,
Taylor
By Hillary Lau

Talia’s Co-op Reflection

Since returning from Hawaii, I have reunited with many friends and family that I have not seen for 6 months, and I have discovered that most of these interactions begin in the same way. First, they tell me that I look really tan and I assure them that it won’t last long and I’ll be back to my East Coast paleness in no time. Then they ask, “How was Hawaii?”, which always stresses me out because there is no possible way I could answer that question truthfully without talking for 5 hours straight or maybe more. In 6 months I saw more, did more, and learned more than I could have ever imagined. I feel that I got the chance to explore pretty much the whole island, and every new adventure seemed to offer a teaching moment.

There was the time we made the decision on a whim to walk out to Chinaman’s Hat, simply because we were driving by on the way to North Shore and the tide happened to look low. It was something we had been talking about doing for a while but didn’t know much about the best way to get there. People had previously told us that we needed kayaks or at least some kind of flotation device, waterproof bags, etc. but we were completely unprepared so I waded/swam out and climbed to the top of the summit in nothing but a swimsuit and my hiking boots (which were soaked for the rest of the day being the only pair of shoes I had brought). I also left my phone behind completely, which is very rare for me. This ended up being one of my favorite excursions because it was so spontaneous. I was used to planning ahead of time and being able to bring everything we might need for whatever weekend activities we decided to do, but from that moment on I was less worried about that and more willing to go with the flow. I learned to explore my surroundings with an open mind even when I didn’t exactly know where I was going, because it would often result in a new discovery. Hawaii pushed me to venture into the unknown, a task I will continue to take on as I come across unfamiliar classes, people, and clinical settings moving forward with my education.

Diamond Head became my favorite place to surf, and here I learned to revel in the power of the ocean as I spent the majority of my time there getting pummeled by waves. Yet at the same time, I was also able to appreciate the serenity found in nature; one of my favorite routines was to go for a swim at Ala Moana then fall asleep on the sand to the sound of the beach. Our 6 hour hike up Mt. Ka’ala was another beautiful example of finding enjoyment in the outdoors. I originally approached the challenge with the singular goal to successfully summit the tallest peak in Oahu, but I was surprised to find that even though the views waiting for us at the top were pretty cool, I actually enjoyed the entire process of trudging up steep hills and scrambling up muddy rock walls even more. The phrase “it’s about the journey, not the destination” may seem overused, but I truly did internalize it that day. I have since used the experience to remind me not to get so caught up in checking things off my list that I forget to appreciate the process. This is especially important as I return to my busy life at school and my first Gross Anatomy class; I have found I am more conscious now of the way I study and learn, taking the time to revel in the beauty of the human body and how it works rather than simply memorizing what I need to pass the test.

Since my first rock jump at Waimea Bay, I have jumped off of many more ledges and cliffs of varying heights, I have swung on frayed ropes into icy waterfall ponds, I swam with sharks, and I went skydiving for the first time. I won’t lie, I got scared every time I was at the brink of the jump, looking down at the dive I was about to take, regardless of how often I’d done it before. But I never backed down because I learned to accept my fear as an ever present challenge constantly pushing me to test the limits of my courage. Now I apply this skill every time I force myself to go outside into the frigid cold of Boston.

I also biked over the H3 when I did my first Olympic triathlon here in Hawaii, and I will never forget the amazing feeling of flying down the mountain I had just used all my energy to ascend as the beauty of Kaneohe Bay unfolded in front of me. I know I could not have done it without the help of those around me who encouraged me, lent me a bike, helped me transport all of my gear, gave me training tips, and overall provided me with the support I needed to believe in myself and my abilities. The warm and welcoming people I have met in Hawaii have shown me that I should not be hesitant to ask for help, as it can open doors to new and rewarding opportunities. And after everything I have seen and experienced for the past 6 months, it has become clear to me that humans were made to help each other out.

Of course, I did work a bit in between our island excursions. Though my time at the clinic rarely felt like “work” because I loved being around my coworkers and patients so much. I was incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by so many great teachers who were always willing to help me learn and grow as a therapist. From my time at WORC and the pool, I have learned so many unique methods of rehabilitation and exercise that have shown me how physical therapy can integrate creativity, health science, and empathy into a plan of care that encompasses the patient as a whole. This co-op has reaffirmed my choice in career path, and I am excited to return to my studies with the real life context and passion for my job that I gained here.

When I look back on my time in Hawaii, I will definitely miss the warm weather, fantastic sunsets and sunrises, eating poi with a spoon and Foodland poke bowls. But what will stay with me the most is the sense of acceptance and belonging I was given by everyone at Fukuji and Lum. My fondest memories are of the times I got to spend with these people, from holiday potlucks, to crazy outfits, to early morning WODs. I have come to consider them my ‘Ohana and I will never forget the lessons they have taught me in the power of gratitude and compassion. Leaving Hawaii was hard – I lost count of the number of times I cried during that last week – but I will always keep the places, people, and experiences there close to me, as a special piece of Aloha in my heart.  

By Deb Matsuura

David & Erik, NEU Co-ops (cont.)

Our Co-ops have been here for a few months now, learning about physical therapy and exploring the islands. We have two more students to introduce to everyone, David and Erik, who are both post-bac Doctor of Physical Therapy students at Northeastern University.

 David

What drew you to physical therapy?
I had neuroblastoma as an infant, which was a tumor on the base of my spinal cord. This damaged some nerves that caused deficits in my right leg. So I was a patient of physical therapy as a young child, and the physical therapist that I worked with was an incredible, compassionate, and empowering woman. She was the reason I was able to participate in little league and other activities with my peers growing up, and she is the reason I entered this field and who I want to model myself after as a physical therapist and just as a good-hearted human being in general.

Why did you want to do your co-op in Hawaii?
After speaking to some of my peers that did their co-op with Fukuji & Lum in the past, I knew this was the place I wanted to be. The culture of the clinic seemed like an incredible experience, as compassionate care is one of the main goals of Fukuji & Lum, and one of the reasons I wanted to do physical therapy in the first place. The aloha spirit really drew me in, as all of the patients and employees are extremely kind and amazing to work with. I also wanted to come to Hawaii because I am a big nature lover. I love hiking and being outdoors, and this is one of the best places in the world for that. Certainly can’t top escaping the Boston winter and coming to a tropical paradise.

What has been your experience like so far?
My experience so far has been everything I could have imagined. I’ve been able to work with a diverse patient population in a variety of settings and apply a lot of the knowledge I’ve obtained in the program so far. Any down time I’ve had has been spent hiking, going to beaches, and exploring everywhere on this beautiful island.

What’s the strangest thing that you’ve eaten since arriving?
I’m a big time foodie and a pretty adventurous eater, so it’s very rare that I consider any food weird. But everything I’ve tasted here so far has been absolutely delicious. I’ve eaten poke at least every other day since being here, I can’t get enough! The only thing I was told is a bit of an acquired taste was poi, but I enjoyed that as well!

What is on your to do list while here?
While I’m in Hawaii I’d love to just go on as many hikes as possible and see as much of this beautiful island as I can. I’d also love to be able to visit a few other islands while I’m here, I already have trips to Kauai and the Big Island planned! I’m scheduled to run a half marathon in April, which will be my first one so I’m very excited.

What kind of therapist do you hope to be?
I hope to be a compassionate, spiritual, empowering, and kind-hearted therapist, just like the first PT who influenced me, and like everyone here at Fukuji and Lum. I want to help my patients improve their functioning, and help them build confidence to be better than they ever thought they could be.

      

Who is your greatest influence in your life?
I have many great people that have influenced me throughout my life, but my greatest influence has to be my grandmother. She moved in with my family to help my parents when I was sick as an infant, and she never left, so she was always around when I was growing up and helped me become the person I am today. She is an incredibly strong woman, as she was a single mother and worked a few jobs at any given time to help support my mom and my uncle. She’s now 76 and still works full time and does a lot of house and yard work; she never stops moving!
Answering the same above questions as David, Erik shares his thoughts about Hawaii and being a PT student.

 Erik

I am from New Hampshire and have a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science from Keene State College, and currently pursuing a Doctorate in Physical Therapy at Northeastern University in Boston, MA. I have always wanted a career in helping people since I was young and experienced my brother battle cancer for years. I myself have been to physical therapy twice for different sports-related injuries and found that it would be a highly rewarding career. I believe my balance with helping others and exercise science is a perfect blend in the physical therapy world.

There are a couple big reasons as to why I wanted to do my co-op in Hawai’i. First, I have never been to the island(s) and wanted to experience something new and different that Boston would not be able to offer. Second, Fukuji & Lum Physical Therapy gave me the feeling that I would be able to work closely with other patients and receive an invaluable co-op experience.

Thus far, my experience in Hawai’i has been amazing. While I’ve only been here for three full weeks, between hiking, snorkeling, and eating the local food I feel as I have begun to settle here and become more accustom to the island life. I would not say that I have eaten anything strange since arriving; however, the random snacks that have been offered to me at work are definitely unique to say the least.

My “to-do” list while I am here is to do a lot of hiking and swimming. Thus far, I am on the right track with hiking every weekend but I want to continue seeing new viewpoints and snorkeling in different reefs. Another thing on my bucket list while I am here is to visit at least two other islands.

     

I hope to be the type of therapist to always advocate for my patients, create a friendly work environment with those around me, and constantly learn new ways to treat impairments. I have several great influences in my life: multiple professors, musicians, and actors, as well as my father.