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Liu Excited About PT Opportunity

Published: March 20, 2016

Double-degree CSULB graduate Joanne Liu considers herself lucky to have her year-long term as the Physical Therapy (PT) Department’s first-ever orthopedic resident.

“I am so excited,” said Liu. “I feel so lucky to have this opportunity.” Liu earned her bachelor’s degree in 2009 and her master’s degree in physical therapy in 2011, both from CSULB. “Coming back to Long Beach is definitely a big plus,” she said.

One reason for which Liu believes she was selected as PT’s first orthopedic resident was her match-up of her experience and the department’s criteria.

“I have work experience and volunteer experience with the Physical Therapy Department,” she said. “I took both my degrees at CSULB because of their affordability. I knew I was going to college and I knew I would get an advanced degree after my bachelor’s.”

Physical Therapy’s Michael Miller applauded Liu’s appointment.

“While we are not limiting the program to our graduates, we want our graduates to get out there and become leaders in the field of physical therapy,” he explained. “Joanne has expressed a desire to give back to the field in the form of teaching and she will impact many physical therapists and their patients. She is motivated and is self-directed.”

Miller and Liu have developed a mutual understanding.

“He is always there in the room overseeing my hands-on performance,” she explained. “What is my body position? And what is the patient’s? How much pressure is being applied? All these details make a difference in terms of consistency.”

Liu’s residency includes opportunities to perform research.

“The Physical Therapy Department faculty all have various research projects,” she said. “Technology is a big part of this residency. The field is definitely changing. There has been a shift from the all-paper office to all electronic online documentation. There even are apps where therapists can take videos of their patients.”

Liu praises longtime PT faculty member Peggy Moyer as a prime influence. Moyer passed away last August after a 10-year battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The 31-year member of the PT Department made a lasting impression on Liu, as she did on many others.

“Peggy was known for her incredibly tough classes,” Liu recalled. “Not only was there a massive amount of information to memorize but it was the kind of class you wanted to work hard for. When you did well in one of her classes, you felt you’d really done it. She was instrumental in getting me into the program. She was the first to give me the chance to teach a class.”

Liu has fond memories of the physical therapy community, noting that her class really worked together.

“It was more of a community than it was a competition,” she recalled. “I’ve been in programs where people wouldn’t share notes because they didn’t want others to do well. But in our community, we were all in it together.”

Her bachelor’s and master’s degrees formed the foundation of her residency. Not only did her undergraduate degree provide her with a background in study skills, but in the master’s program, she earned all the nitty gritty of the various specialties.

Joanne Liu works on client in Physical Therapy Department.
Joanne Liu (r) works with a client in the Physical Therapy Department.

“We gained hands-on experience,” she said. “This Orthopedic Residency is a way for me to further enhance my skills. It is not common to get the kind of direction, mentoring and feedback I’ve found here. I knew right away I wanted to continue to advance my skills and I found that in the residency program.”

Her residency responsibilities include a 20-hour work week in the PT@TheBeach Physical Therapy Clinic where she meets and treats various patients.

“Three hours of that time is one-on-one mentorship with Dr. Miller who offers me feedback and critiques,” she said. “I want to continue to progress with my critical thinking and hands-on skills to provide better service for my patients. I want to perform research with a faculty member. I also have a weekend class for 10 months to study techniques and examination skills. All this preparatory to taking the Orthopedic Certified Specialist exam.”

“The Orthopaedic Physical Therapy Residency Program benefits the department in several ways,” Miller said. “It demonstrates a pathway to higher-level thinking and education for the participants. Also, this gives the students an opportunity to consider taking the residency here at CSULB. Part of the resident’s responsibility is to assist in teaching in the orthopedic curriculum in the department. The department benefits with a second instructor for these courses. The resident is a good role model for the current students who then witness the benefits of residency education.”

Her residency already has changed the way Liu sees the world.

“When I walk down the street, I notice how people move,” she said. “It has changed my personal life in terms of interaction and communication. It has made me more self-aware about my own health and fitness. If I’m not sitting in the best posture, I’ll notice. Can I support myself better? Definitely.”

Liu looks forward to the conclusion of her residency with a positive attitude. “I’m looking at pursuing a transition doctorate (tDPT) with an eye toward becoming a therapeutic pain specialist,” she said.