Interview with Dr. Laura Neuburger, DPT - August 2014
The following is not original material. This interview is reproduced with permission from Cinema, a former Twitter personality & blogger who left the social media world years ago. The reproduction is intended to preserve & share Cinema's insightful interviews.
Dr. Laura Neuburger, DPT opened In Motion Physical Therapy – an Out-Of-Network Cash clinic – in 2013. Soccer is one of her huge passions and you’ll soon find out about the strong link between soccer and her physical therapy practice. She also coaches a U14 girls soccer team.
In this interview we get into lessons she learned from starting & operating her clinic in year 1, and lots more. Enjoy!
What lead you into the wonderful world of Physical Therapy?
I was a competitive soccer player my whole life. Although I never had any serious injuries until college I knew that I wanted to do something with sports medicine. I did an internship my junior year of high school at a physical therapy clinic one day a week and absolutely loved it. I applied to Northeastern University for the 6 year PT program and graduated in 2011 with my DPT.
While at playing soccer for the varsity team at Northeastern I injured my back pretty badly that I stopped playing soccer. Although the PTs and ATCs in the training room helped, I felt like I never truly “recovered”. My mission has been to help others overcome their injuries and become better athletes than they were before.
Congrats on the establishment of In Motion Physical Therapy of NY! Why did you decide to start your own practice?
(I’ll also add in some of the how)
Thank you!! After graduating I was extremely excited to take on the world (as most new grads are), so I started working for a PT clinic that advertised that they worked with the semi-professional soccer teams on LI. I thought it would be a great stepping stone into working with high level athletes. Unfortunately, this clinic was not what I expected. I was left unsupervised from day 1, had to treat multiple patients at a time, and worked 11 hours days. Needless to say this left me completely exhausted. I knew that there had to be a better way and that this is not what I went to 6 years of school for. I hit my breaking point one day when the other PT was on vacation and I had “treated” (it was a complete joke) about 50 patients in 1 day. I sat down to talk with the owner of the practice. To make a long story short, his response was something along the lines of “too bad”. I knew that it was time for me to move on.
I knew I was interested in leaving but it wasn’t until January 2013 that I was talking to a PT colleague of mine and he asked me if I wanted 2 treatment tables because he was buying some equipment and could get them really cheap. I didn’t know where I was going to put them, but I agreed. I then asked another friend of mine who is the director at a strength and conditioning facility close by if he had any room for me to move the tables to, and he said absolutely. From that day forward In Motion PT NY was born.
What lessons did you learn as you started the clinic? (things that enterprising PTs who want to start their own practice could benefit from)
I bootstrapped my business from Day 1. I started without any real patients, but I put myself in an environment where I was able to prove what physical therapy can do for people. My first day I saw 2 patients (both other strength coaches that worked at the facility where I opened up). It was a completely nerve wracking experience. I learned that if you put yourself in the right environment, good things will happen. I quickly grew to seeing about 10-15 patients a week less than a month into opening and quit my job. I decided to start a home care job, since I was able to see patients in their homes in the morning and then treat athletes at my clinic in the afternoon. I learned that I really was capable of doing something to help people.
I also learned how important it is to be organized. I used this time in the beginning to create my intake forms, filing system, and create procedures for future staff. The processes have evolved tremendously over the past year, and I continue to change things as the business needs. If something is not working, I don’t hesitate to change it.
Describe the climate for Physical Therapy in NY. How has it changed over the years? What progress do NYers have to look forward to?
Unfortunately I have only been practicing for 3 years and am not very experienced with this topic. I do know that New York is one of the lowest reimbursed states for skilled physical therapy services. Because of this I only take cash or out of network benefits. The reason why there are so many “mills” is because its impossible to stay afloat accepting $27/treatment. (Yes, that’s really what one insurance company reimburses for a whole treatment session). I would love to get involved more with the NY chapter of the APTA to push for higher reimbursements and less restricted direct access (we currently have 10 visits or 30 days before a prescription is needed).
Who/what have been your biggest influences?
Personally and professionally my father has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He started working for my grandfather before he was in high school and eventually went on to become the vice president of a pretty large company that had over 15 stores and did millions of dollars in revenue annually. My grandfather then sold that business to an outsider and my father had to start over from scratch. Even though I was only in elementary school, seeing him go through that taught me a lesson about resilience. He didn’t quit and feel sorry for himself. He was able to spend more time with his family, he has a job that he really enjoys (coaching soccer), and is much happier for it. It has influenced me to strive to do the same.
Favorite books and authors?
My favorite all time book that I can read over and over again is Alice in Wonderland. I probably read it again every year or 2 and always find another part or meaning in the book that I missed previously. Other than that there’s probably too many to list here, I try to alternate between fiction, business, self development and fitness/physical therapy books. I keep a running list of the books that I want to read in my google drive so I order another one off of amazon every month. (I just finished reading Fight Club yesterday, I would highly recommend it)
How did you establish your referral sources for In Motion Physical Therapy?
I get most of my patients via word of mouth. The soccer organization I coach for (which is run by my father) has about 10-14 teams (which is about 200 kids). I get a good number of patients between the players, their siblings and their parents. I also have a great professional relationship with the Athletic Trainer at the local high school. We share a very similar philosophy in regards to treatment so it benefits the athlete tremendously. I also send patients back and forth with the strength coach that originally was one of the reasons why I opened In Motion PT. Unfortunately due to administrative/front office issues I moved about a mile down the road inside a gymnastics academy. I now have quite a few gymnasts as patients as well. I have not done any advertising to this point or marketed to doctors (besides the interaction regarding mutual patients).
Congratulations for making it beyond your first year! I’m sure this is just the beginning. What were the biggest take-aways from Year One??
The biggest take away was not to stress over the little things. Learning the natural ebbs and flows of business has been a little challenging but I have become much better at not stressing out when my schedule is not full for the following week. More times than not, by the time Monday comes around the schedule is full and I have the opposite problem of trying to find appointment times for patients. I have learned that if you are working hard and doing the right thing, success will follow.
Which Continuing Education courses have you taken that you’d recommend? And why?
The continuing education course that has most influenced me thus far has been the SFMA. It is such a powerful tool to make sure I am on the right path with treating patients. I am able to treat true motor control dysfunction much more effectively than I previously was, and I am able to track progress each visit with the patient. Next on my list is PRI…
Life is an adventure. Tell us about one of your life’s adventures so far.
Life is definitely an adventure. There have been so many over the past few years, but one the relates to the physical therapy world is when I went to Ecuador for our capstone project senior year of college. About 10-15 students from our class went to an orphanage in Ecuador for a week. We helped with development programs for the Tias (caretakers) to implement with the children in the orphanage. Some of the children were newborns, others were older (up to the age of 14) with various developmental disabilities. In only a week, we were able to make such simple yet effective changes in these childrens and caregivers lives. It was extremely empowering and made me so grateful for all of the opportunities that we are afforded here. (After buying one of the girls a new pair of sneakers, I don’t think I have ever seen someone smile so much) It is definitely a future goal of mine to continue to give back and create a better quality of life for other people whether it is here or in another country.
Laura, thank you for the insightful interview. Let’s do this again some time.