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NORMAN — Norman Physical Therapy offers an array of outpatient services to the local community but also offers specialities that attract clients from across the state.
“I have patients that travel from the southeast corner of the state to be fitted for a custom lymphedema garment,” said Debbie McConnell, PT, CHT, MLT. “Often times, we will get a call from a local orthopedic or rheumatology physician to ask us to see a client that is in town for a custom splint or orthosis.”
Services like that are now always accessible in rural areas of Oklahoma.
McConnell brings specialties to Norman that are not provided in any other physical therapy clinic in the area.
She gained experience in her early years, working with a renowed hand surgeon who encouraged her to spend time with him seeing patients in his clinic and observing surgery. She also worked with an occupational therapist who taught her the art of making custom orthotics.
That experience led her to passing the certification exam for hand therapy the first year it was offered in 1993. McConnell remains the only certified hand therapist in Norman and one of approximately 40 in Oklahoma.
Several years after completing her certification in hand therapy, an oncology nurse asked McConnell if she had heard of a technique used for lymphedema. After finding that no therapists in the metro area were certified in this skill, McConnell called the National Institute of Health and learned that the training was offered in Germany in a two-week course.
Although this was not a viable option, she vowed to make this a priority when the training was more practical. In 2007, McConnell completed her training as a manual lymphatic therapist. These two specialties make up nearly 100 percent of her caseload.
To round out the outpatient clinic, Erin (Higgins) Allen, DPT, treats a general caseload of orthopedic clients.
As a former basketball player at OU, Higgins underwent two ACL tears while playing for Sherri Coale. The experience of a debilitating injury, as well the experience of overcoming the injury to play out the remainder of her career at OU, makes Allen an understanding therapist and an encourager for those who might not see themselves overcoming an injury.
Allen has specialized training in the treatment of spinal dysfunction, as well as shoulders, knees, ankles and hips. Allen has a knack for relating to people of all ages and walks of life.
She is often asked to treat infants with torticollis or a child who is having difficulty with the development of their gait. She is just as enthusiastic about working with an older person who has difficulty with balance or having a history of falling.
The newest member of the staff is Eden Woznick, PTA. Woznick balances her PT profession with her commitment to Air National Guard.
“When I first interviewed Eden, she was a new graduate of physical therapy,” McConnell said. “Having watched my son-in-law transition from being an active duty Marine to employment in the private sector, I had an insight as to what a military background can bring to the work place.
“Eden has not disappointed. She has a sense of professionalism, loyalty and commitment that is above and beyond what I would expect. Having served active duty in the Air Force, she comes to us with the maturity that most new grads would not have. I can teach a lot of things to employees to improve their clinical skills, but these are not traits that can be taught. Eden has a special gift of caring for each and every person who crosses her path.”
The diversity of the staff brings depth to the clinic. A common thread of each staff member is that they are all encouragers.
Twenty years ago, McConnell said her peers thought she was crazy to open a clinic.
Today she said she is often asked how the new health care will affect her. McConnell said she will change with the times and continue to offer the best service she can offer.
“If I don’t survive the current changes in health care policies, it’s not because of my ineptness,” she said. “However, that has not been the case at Norman Physical Therapy. Last year was probably our strongest year yet, and we expect to continue to thrive in any changes in health care that come our way.”
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