Leader in the Spotlight: Courtney Long, Physical Therapy Ace & Circus Devotee

Our May 2015 Leader in the Spotlight is Courtney Long, a BSc graduate who majored in biology and minored in sociology at the University of Alberta. Early in her undergrad, Courtney admits to having poor studying habits, but has since rebounded academically and is currently a MSc Physical Therapy student. She has volunteered with CapitalCare Edmonton, TeamUp Science and Children’s Autism Services of Edmonton. In our interview below, Courtney distinguishes between occupational and physical therapy, and shares her successful study habits.

1) You mention that you originally wanted to pursue occupational therapy. What’s the difference between occupational therapy and physical therapy, and what made the difference for you? What makes you passionate about physical therapy?

In my opinion, the main difference between occupational therapy and physical therapy is their approach to rehabilitation. I feel that occupational therapy focuses on the environment of a client while physical therapy focuses on the client’s physical condition. To illustrate, let’s examine a patient with a spinal cord injury. An occupational therapist will work with the patient to ensure that their home is fit for their return and make their home wheelchair accessible. A physical therapist will focus on the patient’s physical condition and help improve a patient’s upper body strength.  However, the roles of an occupational therapist and physical therapist often overlap and you can see these two professions working closely together.

I was always interested in rehabilitation because I enjoy working with people. Initially, I was interested in OT because I was physically inactive and did not want to pursue a kinesiology degree under the Faculty of Physical Education (which is the common undergraduate degree for students in the MSc Physical Therapy program). Early in my undergraduate degree, I volunteered for a centre that provided services for autistic children. Since I enjoyed my experience at this centre, I was interested in occupational therapy for autistic children specifically. Upon further research on occupational therapy, I realized that I was not interested in other areas of this profession, such as work place evaluations or wheelchair assessments.

I am more interested in working with a patient’s physical condition as opposed to changing their environment.

2) You mention on your profile that you love to exercise and recently started Crossfit. What do you enjoy about exercising? Is it necessary to be fit to go into physical therapy?

I enjoy exercising because I feel energized after exercising and it helps me relax. Currently, I am taking a break from Crossfit; I want to improve on my strength and endurance before starting again. My current workout consists of cardio (20 min run on the treadmill) then strength (5 sets of 10 reps of bicep curls, shoulder presses and squats with minimal weight … I am a weakling but I am working on that), then stretching (I am working towards the front splits and my backbend) and lastly core (50 hollow rocks at a lower progression).

Also, I love circus. I have taken a contortion class and I want to take an acrobatics class this summer.

No, it is not necessary to be fit to go into physical therapy. I do not consider myself as being fit and I am in the program.

3) You describe yourself as having been “an unfocused student” with “poor studying habits” when you first started university. What’s your advice to a first-year student who is just like you were?

Do not let lower marks discourage you; find a new studying method.  In high school, I studied by reading my textbooks and writing notes from the textbook. During my undergraduate degree, I learned that this was not an effective way to study as making my own notes was too time-consuming. I found focusing on the lecture notes and referring to the textbook to clarify concepts was a more effective method of studying.

Currently for my graduate degree, I make my own summary notes due to the high volume of information. Although I have adjusted my studying habits to accommodate my degree, I have found some methods to always be effective. This includes finding a study buddy for missed notes, clarifying concepts, maintaining organized notes and studying in advance.

4) Tell us about your favourite circus act and you favourite show.

I do not have a favourite circus show but my favourite acts are hand to hand acrobatics, aerial hoop and contortion.

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Want to ask Courtney a question? Schedule a chat with her today! Courtney is happy to answer your questions and offer advice on physical therapy admissions.

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