Stacy Soappman, PT, DScPT, COMT, FAAOMPT received her physical therapy degree in 2001 and her DScPT degree in 2011 from Andrews University in Berrien Springs, MI. She completed her fellowship training through NAIOMT in 2011. Stacy currently works in outpatient orthopedics in Denver, CO and is also an adjunct professor at Andrews University in the Physical Therapy Department. Stacy currently teaches NAIOMT classes in Denver, New York, Orlando and Seattle.
What drew you to PT as a career? When and how did you start your journey?
I started PT school in 1998 at the age of 21. I am really not sure what drew me as I originally went to college thinking I would be an orthopedic surgeon but I literally woke up one morning and decided to be a PT instead. It was pretty black and white from one day to the next and I have never looked back. I know that I am doing exactly what I was meant to do.
It was love at first sight. I knew I wanted what NAIOMT had... I just had to figure out how to get it.
Where did you take your first NAIOMT courses and what was your first impression?
Andrews University in Michigan with Erl Pettman. It was love at first sight. I knew I wanted what NAIOMT had... I just had to figure out how to get it.
What got you hooked on NAIOMT?
- I saw what they could do to help patients and I wanted that skill set.
- The people--this is one of the most fun groups of people--who also happen to be amazing therapists, mentors, and friends.
Was fitting the fellowship into your lifestyle challenging?
Yes! I did the fellowship and DSc degree while pregnant with both my kids. I joke that there are portions of those 3 years that I do not remember due to sheer exhaustion. It was a sleepy blur of pregnancy, nursing babies, studying, and working. Right before we had our second child, my husband decided to stay home with the kids for awhile so I could finish up my fellowship and DSc degree and so that we could both get some sleep. He is definitely a rock star who believed in my dreams as much as I did.
Why did you decide to become a mentor?
Because I see so many young women who want what I have (fellowship, flexible schedule) and they think they cannot do it because once they have kids they do not know how to fit personal growth into their lives anymore. Yes, I love mentoring clinical stuff but I also love helping women figure out how to pursue those clinical dreams while still doing life. We need to change the perception that physical therapy has to be done in the traditional model it has always been done in.
... I have this intense desire to learn and wanted to better myself so I just kept trying. I remember what it was like sitting in those chairs and being utterly confused. I keep that in mind every time I teach.
What’s unique about you as a teacher?
I am not brilliant. I just keep showing up and failure is not an option. It sometimes took me awhile to really grasp a concept, but I have this intense desire to learn and wanted to better myself so I just kept trying. I remember what it was like sitting in those chairs and being utterly confused. I keep that in mind every time I teach.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Hike, read, bike, bake, dance around my house
How do you combine these interests with your PT profession?
Have you seen me teach? It is one large perpetual movement... with a bit of dancing mixed in.
What's your mantra when it comes to treating?
Always make the patient feel better when they walk out the door than when they walked in... that can be physically or emotionally better.
Give an example of a time when you know you made a difference with a patient.
The patient I am thinking of had seen multiple doctors for her pain. She had intermittent tingling and pain that would move to different parts of her body. There was nothing predictable about her pain. She was beginning to think she was crazy because no one could tell her why she hurt. After listening to her I decided that physical therapy was not what she needed--she needed to see an allergist. Getting her food/environmental allergies under control took away her joint pain.
I can see the aha moment when I am teaching, and notice when things click and they realize that they CAN do this.
Give an example of a time when you know you made a difference with a student
All the time! I can see the aha moment when I am teaching, and notice when things click and they realize that they CAN do this.
What inspired you to develop the NAIOMT specialty course “Manip Like a Girl: Work Smarter Not Harder”?
When I went to PT school we were not taught manipulation. I learned manipulation in continuing education courses--that were all taught by males. On any given day 99% of the patients I treat are bigger than me and I quickly learned that what I learned in class was not going to translate to me being successful in the clinic. My teachers were brilliant and the mechanics behind the techniques were great… I just had to adjust them a bit to make them work for me in the clinic. So this class was inspired by the fact that when I wanted to do a supine thoracic manipulation, I did not want the patient's face in my chest. Or that when going to do a lumbar manipulation I did not have enough weight to drop onto the patient so I had to use longer levers to my advantage, and the fact that having people lay on my hands hurts my hands. I developed this class to help others succeed in the clinic through my years of trial and error.
What kind of feedback do you get from students when you teach this course? And who are your typical students?
People who come to this class often say that I am the first female orthopedic instructor that they have ever had. I think this is a pretty sad state of affairs for a profession that is predominantly female. After the class I often get emails from people telling me that they were finally able to perform a thoracic or lumbar manipulation in the clinic despite "having known how to do it for years".
This class was designed with the smaller female therapist in mind but I have actually only taught one entirely female class. I often have a number of males on the course. Some of them are smaller in stature but often they are the size of the people I used to struggle to treat. The bigger males come to class and tell me they wanted to take it as they have smaller PT students or co-workers in their clinic and they want to know how to better teach the students or their peers.
In work and in life in general, what really matters to you?
Flexibility. With kids and multiple part time jobs between clinic and teaching, my schedule never looks the same from week to week.
This flexibility may look chaotic at times but it lets me spend more time with my family.
If you could have lunch with anyone in the PT profession (alive or passed) who would it be?
Most days I am just happy to have time to eat lunch... let alone be social during lunch. Which for those of you who know me might sound strange because I truly enjoy people. But with the chaos of life, I often treasure sitting by myself and reading through lunch to regroup for the rest of the day.
What's something your fellow faculty members might not know about you?
I am going to be a circus performer one day... I can ride a unicycle, do Ariel silks, and I just taught myself to walk on a slackline.
Favorite vacation spot? Why?
Something with water... lake, ocean. I love being in the water!
Do you think your birth order impacted your personality or choice of profession? Why or why not?
Maybe... I tend to like to solve problems. My sister is a therapist also... occupational therapist.
Favorite Sports Team?
I am the person who hosts the Super Bowl party for social reasons... I don't really follow sports. However, during July you will find me watching the Tour de France.
When and where does Stacy Soappman teach next?
On NAIOMT's course schedule it is easy to find all Stacy Soappman's upcoming courses. Simply click the "Instructor" headline to sort the schedule by instructor, then scroll down to find all Stacy's currently scheduled courses listed.