Thanks to Dr. Erin Green’s clear vision and trailblazing spirit, freshly minted physical therapy (PT) graduates now can specialize in a UCSF residency program like those for new medical doctors. The yearlong orthopedic program she spearheaded and directed has been so successful that it fueled the start of a second PT residency in acute care.

What brought you to the field of physical therapy?

I studied psychology in undergrad. I had this athletic background as well (as a collegiate volleyball and lacrosse player). Physical therapy seemed liked this neat collaboration between the brain and how it works and how we move. We take it for granted when we’re able-bodied that we can do all these things and then an injury happens, and physical therapists are there to guide you through that really challenging healing process.

Describe the new PT residency program

In physical therapy, there wasn’t this structured environment to specialize early in your career. There’s been a push toward developing residency programs. Our goal is to create a forum for new graduates or experienced clinicians to have a structured mentor experience and didactic coursework that’s catered toward a specific specialty – whether that be neurology, orthopedics, pediatrics, or acute care. You need a group of people who are really passionate about offering this level of training to make it work.

What was UCSF’s program like for you?

It was incredible. There were knowledgeable faculty who were at the forefront of the field, but who also really cared about the students and how they were building their critical skills. The one-on-one attention… from faculty and the foundation of education that I got from the program were so great that I really felt prepared to enter into the profession and excel.

What’s new and exciting on the horizon for physical therapy?

A lot of new evidence is emerging that physical activity and how we move and use our bodies play an important role in our health. If we talk about the opioid epidemic, how can physical therapists contribute to addressing chronic pain? We also can provide a wellness role. Imagine if everyone got a wellness check-up on everything from your muscle strength to your endurance the way we go in and see a dentist.

What do you do for exercise these days?

My body will not allow me to play volleyball anymore. I do many other things that give me satisfaction. I run, I do yoga, I cycle and I swim. The body changes and sometimes we have to change with it. I think everyone can be active; it’s just in what form are you active.

For her role in creating and successfully launching UCSF’s first physical therapy residency program, Dr. Green is the winner of a 2019 UCSF Campaign Alumni Award in “The Pathfinders” category. She recently joined the Department of Physical Therapy at California State University, Sacramento, as an assistant professor.

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