Tannus Quatre, MS ’99, PT, MBA : Improving physical therapy one relationship at a time
The UCSF/SFSU Department of Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Science is honored to announce the 2023 Alum of the Year: Tannus Quatre, MS ’99, PT, MBA.
Inspiration and necessity came together to give Tannus Quatre, MS ’99, PT, MBA, a push on the path to his life’s work.
He went from practicing physical therapy to becoming an entrepreneur and executive focused on improving the practices of physical therapy operators to now being named the 2023 Alumnus of the Year for the UCSF/San Francisco State University (SFSU) Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science.
When his wife, Heather, his high school sweetheart, became pregnant with their first child in the first semester of their freshman year of college, Quatre saw it as an opportunity to accelerate his career path.
“It lit a fire that I had to start working, had to get a job quickly,” Quatre says. “Because of that, I got motivated to figure out what I wanted to do in life.”
Fortunately, he soon found his passion.
He had grown up in the Central California farming community of King City, where his father was a high school teacher and coach and his mother was a nursing instructor with a severe orthopaedic condition that required physical therapy. She suggested that Quatre ask her physical therapist about working in his office.
“I became a therapy aide and just hung out around the clinic,” Quatre says. “I was like, ‘This is what I’m going to do.’ It was that clear. It was a real light-bulb moment.”
After completing an associate’s degree at Gavilan College in Gilroy, California, Quatre earned a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from San José State, then went on to UCSF/SFSU to pursue a master’s degree in physical therapy.
It was a time of intense work and immense joy as he immersed himself in his training, while also commuting back and forth from San Francisco to Gilroy, where he and Heather by then had three children. His mentors in the UCSF/SFSU Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science included Kimberly Topp, PhD, PT, a postdoc alum and professor and chair emerita; Linda Wanek, PhD, PT, a professor and chair emerita; and Rita Arriaga, PT ’74, MS, an associate clinical professor emerita. They instilled in Quatre valuable skills and an invaluable sense of confidence.
“Walking into my first class at UCSF in anatomy and physiology was one of the most intimidating things I’ve ever done in my life,” Quatre says. “There’s a lot of opportunity to feel like you’re not good enough. Those mentors made me feel like it was totally right for me and this is the path I should be on.”
Quatre started his career as a physical therapist in California’s Salinas Valley before the family moved to Bend, Ore., where they still live.
To his surprise, Quatre was increasingly drawn to administration and entrepreneurship. “I always really thought that I was going to focus on clinical excellence,” he says. “But I found myself just gravitating more and more toward leadership.”
Spurred by an encouraging mentor and his supportive spouse, Quatre earned an MBA from Duke University. He then co-founded Vantage Clinical Solutions, with a mission to improve health care through entrepreneurship. The firm quickly grew to serve hundreds of physical therapists throughout the U.S.
One of the innovations he’s most proud of is PT Pub Night. The Vantage team was seeking new ways to sell their services to physical therapists and ended up capturing lightning in a bottle (or a pint glass).
“It’s not easy to make cold calls, but it’s really easy to get to know people over a beer,” Quatre says, “especially in central Oregon.”
He invited about 20 physical therapists from the region. “Everybody showed up, and we had the best night,” Quatre says.
The branded gatherings caught on, with thousands of events in 15 countries returning value well beyond an opportunity to sell Vantage’s services.
“A real problem in physical therapy is that without kind of being intentional about getting together, it’s very cutthroat and competitive,” Quatre says. “You’ll have therapists who live in the same town that never talk to one another because they’re competing for the same patients. We found we could break that down by creating this friendly, positive, fun brand.”
Vantage was acquired in 2018 by the software company Optima Healthcare Solutions, which in turn was acquired by another software company, Net Health, with Quatre staying on through the transitions as an executive.
An Enthusiastic Proponent
The son whose imminent arrival catapulted Quatre toward his career is now 30 and has two children of his own. Quatre’s second son started a construction company, and his daughter is just beginning a health care role at a central Oregon hospital. He and Heather have been married for three decades. They love spending time with their children and grandchildren at their cabin on the Deschutes River in central Oregon.
He calls receiving the alumni award “a big shock” and an honor that “just means a ton.”
Topp, his former mentor, says it’s well earned.
“Tannus has been an enthusiastic proponent of the physical therapy profession, an innovative problem-solver, a welcoming and understanding ambassador, and a role model for creative thinking, strategic action, community service, and personal and professional growth,” she says.
“It’s been a fun journey,” Quatre says. “I work hard, and it’s not always easy, but I’m so lucky. I get to do something I love every day. It’s a gift. And it all started at UCSF/SFSU.”