Meaningful Mentors: Meet NAIOMT's Liz Henry

Posted by NAIOMT on Oct 19, 2019 8:13:43 AM

Liz Henry, PT, DSc, OCS, COMT, FAAOMPT, CCTT is the president of LifeForce Physical Therapy in Wilmington, NC where she specializes in temporomandibular and craniofacial dysfunction, golf injury rehabilitation and golf performance, and dance injury/rehabilitation. She is senior consulting therapist at the Carolina Ballet. In addition to being a member of the APTA, AAOMPT, she is also a member of the American Academy of Orofacial Pain. Liz underwent fellowship training with NAIOMT in 2011 and was accepted as a Fellow by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapists (FAAOMPT).


What drew you to PT as a career?

I had PT at age 12 while living in Australia and was fascinated by the whole process. I must have driven the poor “physio" nuts by asking a billion questions about everything we did. After that, I kept seeking out opportunities to volunteer with different PT specialties. I think from age 12 onward, I was saying “I want to be a PT when I grow up.”


Where did you go to school and why?

My entry level PT degree was from University of Vermont. I vacationed a lot in Vermont as a child, as I had grandparents there. A cousin took me to the campus when I was 12 and since then, it was my dream to go there. Lucky for me they had a good PT program!

Later I studied clinical biomechanics at New York University and then did the DSc at Andrews University, coupling it with Fellowship training.


A few jobs later, I had my dream job, working in New York City for 25 years at Westside Dance and taking care of the New York City Ballet.


What was your first job and what did you learn from it?

I worked in a large hospital in Los Angeles. I learned that working in a hospital was not for me. To me that first job was unimportant. It was back in the day when it was felt you needed to work in a hospital as your first job before you went to outpatient. A few jobs later, I had my dream job, working in New York City for 25 years at Westside Dance and taking care of the New York City Ballet.


Why did you leave your first PT job?

I wanted to work in outpatient orthopedics.


Where did you take your first NAIOMT courses and what was your first impression?

At Westside Dance PT in New York, we brought in Michelle Roy to do some in-house teaching. We then took our staff though levels I-III. At that point I think I had taken just about every manual therapy discipline around, but somehow the NAIOMT approach was different. Hard to describe, but it felt like “home.” 


What got you hooked on NAIOMT?

It was a complete system including clinical reasoning, excellent mentors, and most of all, NAIOMT addressed hypermobilities. Other manual therapy trainings I had taken were focused only on mobilizing hypomobilities. 


Was fitting the fellowship into your lifestyle challenging?

Sure, but entirely do-able when compared with the Fellowship programs where you need to quit your job, and move out of town for a year to do it. I liked that I could shape and sculpt the process, make it into what I needed and wanted it to be.

I coveted going through fellowship since early in my career practicing out in California where there were many Kaiser Hayward FAAOMPT grads. Unfortunately, it was the only place back in those days where you could do fellowship. You needed to move there for a year. I just couldn't swing that at the time. With NAIOMT I was able to fulfill this dream, keep my job, and pace it as I needed. 


Who was/is your mentor? Tell us about several if you have them!

Marika Molnar, who I worked with at Westside Dance and the New York City Ballet for 25 years. She IS the founding mother of PTs specializing in the care of professional-level dancers. She taught me so much and pushed me to excel, explore, think harder, and think out-of-the box.

Of course my team from NAIOMT fellowship: Erl Pettman, Laurie McLaughlin, and Mark Looper.


Why did you decide to become a mentor?

To give back; I had such excellent mentoring.


I love the richness of learning styles I encounter when teaching. I seek to change my teaching style and techniques to help the learner acquire knowledge and skill.


What’s unique about you as a teacher?

I love the richness of learning styles I encounter when teaching. I seek to change my teaching style and techniques to help the learner acquire knowledge and skill. I try to put clear visuals in my teaching slides for the visual learners. I love putting my hands over my students hands, melding them into one and guiding them to feel and propriocept. An incredible neuro-sensory-cognitive process!


What do you like to do in your spare time?

Kayak, SUP, swim/surf in the ocean, Argentine tango dance, cook with my husband, play with my yellow lab, Ax.


How do you combine these interests with your PT profession?

I live in a beach community so everything I love to do is close by.


What's your most strongly held belief about how PT should be provided?

Physical therapy should be provided by a PT, customized to the INDIVIDUAL patient, with an ongoing clinical reasoning process, and at the top of the PT skill-set.


What do you believe is the biggest problem facing PT today?

Too many techs providing treatment instead of PTs. Patients get the idea that physical therapy is teaching a bunch of "cookbook" exercises for a region. They could have stayed home and done that.


Why do you believe in the NAIOMT system?

It is a system that is just as much about hypermobilities as hypomobilities and builds reasoning above all. I have trained in other systems and they are lacking in joint hypermobilty aspects.


Listen - Engage - Educate - Inspire!


What's your mantra when it comes to treating?

Listen - Engage - Educate - Inspire!

(Sub-mantra: How is this patient different biopsychosocially than any other patient with the same pathoanatomical diagnosis?)


Give an example of a time when you know you made a difference with a patient.

The many times dancers have told me I saved/extended their career. This crowd is passionate about what they do, and dancing is more than just a job for them. It is the very soul of their being!


What changes would you like to see the PT profession make? 

I would like PTs to be seen as THE NMSK specialist to go to for entry-level, outpatient care, and even acute care, above primary care physicians, and ortho surgeons. I'd like to see us work more like military PTs with limited prescription writing and the ability to order radiological studies and other tests related to NMSK system. Higher pay reflecting that level, on-par with primary care physicians, would be appreciated as well!


In work and in life in general, what really matters to you?

It's all about family and relationships!


If you could have lunch with anyone in the PT profession (dead or alive) who would it be?

Mary Kay Hannah, PT and professor of orthopedics at Elon University in NC. We met and became friends over the spinal manipulation legislation in NC. We were each person's support system to persevere, keep the faith and never give up. Our hard-fought battle paid off this year (2019) when we got our bill passed to allow PTs to perform spinal manipulation without needing a dedicated physician prescription in order to do so. She was also my fighting buddy in the NC dry needling lawsuits that we also won this year. She is bold, brave, and fearless and happy to shake up the established order.


What's something your fellow faculty members might not know about you?

If I'm around Brett [Windsor, NAIOMT CEO] too much, and start to sound Australian, it's because I grew up for 6 years in Australia!

Favorite movie? Why?

Lost in Translation. Never bored with watching it again and again. Reminds me of touring in Japan with the New York City Ballet. Plus I'm a HUGE Bill Murray fan. 


Grants Anatomy, British ed. I can get lost in it and am never bored. Geeky, right?


Favorite book? Why?

Grants Anatomy, British ed. I can get lost in it and am never bored. Geeky, right?


Which historical figure has been most influential in your life? Why?

Martin Luther King. He was such a force on social injustice and we could use him now.


Would you rather 20% salary increase or two more weeks of paid vacation?

Ha! I'm a practice owner: no vacation, no salary increase. Would take either!


Favorite Sports Team?

Haha, The New York City Ballet and the Carolina Ballet. They are elite-level athletes after all. But more that that, they are performing artists as well. It has been and still is my great privilege to provide their physical therapy care.


Sports team you love to hate?

None, I just love that (hopefully) all athletes are out there trying to be their best, take good care of their bodies, and are passionate about what they do.


Hiking or a movie?

Hiking, but unfortunately I live in low-country coastal North Carolina so my substitute is beach walking.


What TV or movie character would you love to treat and why?

Bill Murray: love his understated humor and how he relates to other humans. I'd love to treat any of his golf injuries! I could be his personal PT at Pebble Beach!



Liz Henry is the lead faculty for the new NAIOMT course site at Elon University in North Carolina. For a full NC course schedule and instructor videos by Liz, please visit NAIOMT's North Carolina page.

Liz Henry is also the lead faculty for NAIOMT's new course site at Westside Dance Physical Therapy in New York City. For a full course schedule and instructor videos by Liz, please visit NAIOMT's New York page.


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