This week’s spotlight features a digital health physical therapist who is using clinical and non-clinical skills in a healthcare tech startup setting at Hinge Health.
Disclaimer: The views expressed reflect only the spotlight participant’s personal views and are not the views of Hinge Health. Hinge Health does not encourage, endorse, contribute to or edit any posted information.
What is your full name and title at your current job?
Kelsey Quam PT, DPT
Physical Therapist at Hinge Health, a healthcare technology startup company based in San Francisco.
Where are you located?
Where did you go to PT school, and what year did you graduate?
I received my DPT in 2016 from Regis University in Denver, Colorado.
What did you do when you first finished school, and for how long?
I began working as a PT in the mountains of Colorado. I first worked per diem for a rural hospital outpatient system. Then, over the following 4 years, I worked full-time in private practice orthopedics.
What did you enjoy about your early roles? What didn’t you enjoy?
Interacting closely with humans to improve their health was very rewarding. I still keep in touch with several of my former patients.
Additionally, I was fortunate to work in clinics with generous appointment times that I found to be favorable for providing education. Whether it was spending time tailoring an HEP or getting out the anatomy book with a patient, I came to appreciate the role that PTs play as effective educators.
However, seeing barriers to accessing PT was disappointing. High deductibles, work conflicts, and even snow days put a strain on patients’ participation with PT.
Access to the therapist occurred mostly synchronously and patients were limited in accessing their therapist unless they were physically present for an appointment.
What are you doing these days?
I am working full time as a digital health PT at Hinge Health, a Series D healthcare technology startup company whose headquarters are in San Francisco.
Are you still treating patients, or are you solely non-clinical?
I work with individuals through our Digital MSK Clinic. I provide telehealth PT and I perform non-clinical roles.
How long have you been in your current role?
I joined Hinge Health in August, 2020.
How did you find your job?
I found Hinge Health through the company’s website.
Did you do anything special to your resume and cover letter to land the job?
What was the interview like for the role?
The interview process was virtual and I interviewed during the pandemic. The process was more thorough than those of my previous positions as a clinician. This had several advantages:
- As I went through the interview process, I developed a strong understanding of the role and the company. By the time I finished the process I was pretty confident the role would be a good fit.
- Additionally, I had the opportunity to interview with several individuals from different departments who would later become my colleagues. I felt it was a good sign that a company was investing such time and resources into their potential hires.
Did you get any special certifications or training along the way to help you get into your current role?
This role has brought me back to a few of my long standing interests: pain neuroscience education and the Spanish language.
I became interested in chronic pain during PT school, where I took an engaging elective on chronic pain. After PT school, I took classes and attended conferences on pain neuroscience education and chronic pain. Given Hinge Health’s focus on reducing chronic MSK pain in the workforce, having experience in this area has supported me in this role.
Additionally, I worked with some Spanish-speaking patients in the clinic, and I have been lucky to continue serving this population in my role at Hinge Health.
Shortly after I started my current position I took Greg Lehman’s course “Reconciling Biomechanics with Pain Science.” I have also used LinkedIn Learning, and I recently finished a certificate called “Foundations in Design Thinking” from IDEO.
How have people reacted to you leaving patient care?
Generally, people were curious about what I would be doing in this new role. I have been lucky to work with supportive staff and management in my clinical positions.
What are some of the challenges of your role? What are the rewards?
The healthcare technology field is changing rapidly. To keep pace with these changes requires one to hustle in a consistent and diligent manner. One must also stay flexible within this moving space. To be open to learning is very important for success in this role.
Although I work virtually, I have come to love collaborating on different teams within Hinge Health. I have been part of cross-functional projects that pull from my clinical knowledge and experience and apply it in a new way.
Although I work non clinically, I’m still a PT and I remain connected with the PT community.
Roughly speaking, how are the hours compared to patient care?
The day-to-day flow is different than when I worked in the clinic. Throughout the day at Hinge Health, I have synchronous tasks, such as calls and meetings, interspersed with asynchronous time. Working from home naturally allows flexibility in the day-to-day workflow.
What type of person do you think would do well in your role?
A do-it-all mentality offers a lot of value in the startup environment. Individuals must be willing to offer their strengths to various projects to help the company as a whole.
While I have my primary core tasks on the clinical team, I have also been involved in tasks supporting different company initiatives. The ever-evolving environment of a PT startup lends itself to those willing to work hard and step beyond clearly defined job roles.
Do you work remotely or on-site?
I work remotely.
Did you read any books, take any courses, or do anything special overall to get you where you are today?
It is important to know your strengths, interests, and what you want out of a role. I knew I loved educating and motivating my patients when I worked in the clinic. Therefore, I found Hinge Health’s active approach to wellness, combined with education and health coaching, appealing.
Informational interviews are also key to narrowing down different paths. I learned valuable insights from each person I talked to.
What is a typical career path for someone in your role?
I don’t think there is a typical path. Like many fields, there is room to branch into different directions.
What is next for you? What do you want to do with your career long-term?
I’m finding myself really engaged with this line of work. The healthcare technology world holds so many opportunities for growth and development. I plan to lean into the healthcare tech field to help improve the quality and convenience of healthcare. I plan to continue developing my clinical knowledge too.
What would you like to change most in your profession, and why? How would you propose doing so?
I would like physical therapy to be as much about treating pain and injury as maintaining health and wellness.
I would like to see more individuals seeking physical therapy prior to pain, accident, or injury. I would like PT to be more accessible to members of society as a whole.
If you could give yourself one piece of career advice you wish you had during your PT school program, what would it be?
Establishing and maintaining personal connections with your classmates and professors during PT school matters as much as the academics.
Particularly during the first few years of my career, I found the advice of my colleagues who graduated a few years ahead of me valuable as I navigated the profession.
If you could teach anything to today’s graduate students in your profession, what would it be?
I would love to see DPT students be exposed to creative ways to use their DPTs early on in their PT education.
In PT school, while the focus is certainly on didactics and clinical skill-building, it is not too early to learn about positions outside traditional brick-and-mortar clinics.
Additionally I would love to see more PTs developing business and entrepreneurship skills.
Do you have any special advice for others who want to follow in your footsteps?
While I acknowledge the many factors that contribute to each individual’s career path, I would emphasize:
- Spend time exploring new settings to understand your strengths and interests.
- Stay open and curious towards new opportunities.
- Take risks.
- Hustle, but in a deliberate manner.
- Stay true to your long-term goals and aspirations.