Patsy Shropshire, who runs her own health and wellness program in Dallas, Texas, has traveled to classes at Hardin-Simmons University for the last year-and-a-half to earn her Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. The 52-year-old student and licensed physical therapist is now being recognized by the American Physical Therapy Association as the winner of its recent challenge, Fit after 50.
The challenge was designed to recognize physical therapists that are fit and active after the age of 50, who work to inspire others of similar age to do the same, and who serves the 50+ community through activities to enhance function and quality of life.
For the last 10 years, Shropshire has run her health and wellness clinic for women who are primarily in their 50s and 60s. Many have survived breast cancer, uterine cancer, and thyroid cancer, as well as the challenges of multiple sclerosis and leukemia, she said.
While Shropshire has been a physical therapist for more than 25 years, she wanted to further her education in the transitional DPT (t-DPT) program at HSU, meant precisely for active PTs like Patsy. The part-time, two-year program allows clinicians to maintain their job as physical therapists while adding to their base of knowledge in areas such as evidence-based practice, differential diagnosis and imaging, and to pursue more extensive knowledge in their own area of practice.
Shropshire said while she has been active all of her life, she wants to share with other women the importance of exercise. “I believe the more one learns about the human body, the more motivated she or he will be to exercise. That’s why I teach women about anatomy, posture, proper nutrition, and injury and disease prevention,” said Shropshire.
“Not to sound overly dramatic, but for the women I treat as a physical therapist, exercise can mean the difference between quality of life and practically no life at all,” she emphasized. Under her supervision, groups of 10 women meet at least three times a week for jogging, speed-walking, weight-lifting, stretching, sprint drills, balance drills, and yoga drills.
Shropshire said physical therapy makes all the difference for these women as programs are designed based on evidence that takes preexisting conditions into account and teaches them what they need to know to get better and stronger.
“One of our members, a professor with leukemia, underwent a bone marrow transplant and credits exercise for her survival. Another is several weeks out from a double mastectomy. While she waits to see what her next treatment will be, she’s doing fast walks and some easy runs,” she said as example of what 50- and 60-year-olds can do to stay fit.
Exercise doesn’t just provide physical health, she said, but mental and emotional health as well. “I love competitive runs, lifting weights, yoga, and teaching these concepts to others. I also have a veggie and fruit garden so I can feed my family fresh, organic food. My husband and I have four kids who are becoming more and more health conscious themselves. Exercise has been, and always will be, the answer for me.”
Shropshire shares her experience as a physical therapist and what she is learning at HSU in wellness talks to various communities in her area, including the National Charity League, the DeBusk Foundation, people working in the cancer support community, and students. She will graduate with her Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from HSU in December of 2013.
Patsy won her number-one spot in the APTA Challenge competing with PTs nationwide. Coming in second place in the challenge was Paul Sullivan, a 52-year-old PT from Barrington, Illinois; third place, 56-year-old Bill Case, a PT in Houston, Texas. There are seven other finalists, including 73-year-old Herschel Budlow, a PT in Pikesville, Maryland.
HSU’s eight full-time PT faculty members are all physical therapists with additional credentials in education and various specialty areas of clinical practice.