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ADVANCE Perspective: Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine

CSM 2012: The Power of Chance

Published February 21, 2012 4:52 PM by Jon Bassett

CHICAGO -- All of us have chance encounters in our histories -- whether it's the person you met on vacation who ended up becoming your spouse, or the random conversation you struck up with a stranger on a plane that led to your dream job.

Don't underestimate the power of these seemingly minor events -- use them to your advantage, stressed Lawrence Cahalin, PT, PhD, CCS, professor of physical therapy at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine. Dr. Cahalin summarized his own journey through PT research and academia, in which seemingly small events led to large career transitions, during the APTA's Linda Crane Lecture at the Combined Sections Meeting in Chicago Feb. 9.

Dr. Cahalin's talk was titled "Professionalism and Core Values in Physical Therapy."

Dr. Cahalin began as a business student at the University of Missouri in St. Louis. While visiting the school's career center, he happened to open a book on career choices directly to a page describing physical therapy and the work that PTs do. Dr. Cahalin immediately applied to the school's PT program, and a career was born.

Later, as a PT student at Missouri, Dr. Cahalin was unsure of where to direct his talents when he happened to notice an issue of the Cardiopulmonary Physical Therapy Journal, and in particular an article profiling the cardiopulmonary research program at the University of Southern California. Dr. Cahalin contacted the program and soon found himself conducting research alongside notable cardiovascular physical therapists Scot Irwin, Randy Ice, Ray Blessey and Bob Huhn.

While at USC, Dr. Cahalin's advisor was Helen Hislop, who spent three decades in USC's physical therapy department and has an APTA award named in her honor for outstanding contributions to PT literature. Hislop advised Dr. Cahalin to move to the University of Iowa, where he could further develop his talents, and where he would ultimately earn his master's of physical therapy degree.

Further "chance encounters" would lead Dr. Cahalin to the University of Massachusetts Boston, where he'd earn his PhD in gerontology, and academic positions at Boston University, Northeastern University and now the University of Miami.

"We love the social capital" in physical therapy, Dr. Cahalin told his audience. Chance encounters are abundant in such a people-driven profession. Take charge of these random moments and optimize their power by following up on recommendations, returning phone calls and maximizing your involvement in professional associations. "We can't just leave things up to chance," he said.

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