Student Spotlight Series: Chad Woitas, PT, DPT; Megan Mitchell, SPT
Chad Woitas was part of University of Maryland Baltimore's DPT Class of 2017. During his third year Chad had the opportunity to intern at two prestigious clinics: Walter Reed National Medical Center, one of the nations largest and most renowned military medical centers, and San Antonio Military Medical Center (SAMMC), Institute of Surgical Research (ISR), Burn Rehabilitation Center. Chad currently resides with his wife and two sons in Santiago, Chile. Upon return to the United States he plans on continuing to serve the military community as a Physical Therapist, and remain involved in the burn rehabilitation setting.
Can you provide some background information on the two of the clinicals that you interned at?
At Walter Reed I specifically worked within the Military Advanced Training Center (MATC) and spent the majority of my time providing rehab services for amputees or limb salvage cases from combat related trauma and from accidents here in the United States or US occupied regions. The clinic is spacious, surrounded by an indoor track with suspension rail and harness system, and supplied with all the necessary rehab equipment. The care is efficient and utilizes the multi-D team approach in an effort to streamline care with all the rehab and medical specialties a patient may need. I was able to work with Prosthetics / Orthotics, Occupational Therapists, PM&R, Gait Lab, within the pool, and witnessed all the different stages and progression of amputee rehab. The majority of patients were 20-30 years old, but also a 90 year old female transtibial amputee.
At SAMMC I worked in the Burn Rehabilitation Center, which included the Burn ICU, and burn progressive care unit. The Burn Center is responsible for active military, veterans, and their family members, and civilian patients with burns for the southern TX region. Here you will care for some of the most critical patients depending on severity of burns, age, and previous health status (comorbidities). Again, the multi-D team approach is needed in the setting, as every specialty has a significant role in caring for these critically injured patients. No pediatric patients, all 20-70 years old. Having the ability to communicate in Spanish would be beneficial as well, used it on a daily basis.
Did you have to go through a special application process to land these internships? If so, why do you believe that you were chosen?
WRNNMC, there is an application process. I have previous active duty experience, currently in the US Army National Guard, and a medic within the Special Operations Community. My wife is also a current active duty service member. I believe all these factors combined added extra value to the application.
SAMMC, no application. Although, you should have an interest in burns. I had a part-time internship at Johns Hopkins Burn Center, and afterward I was still interested in SAMMC Burn Center. I feel this had value.
Also, both locations required an extensive background investigation (security clearance). To successfully begin your rotation on time I recommend beginning these ASAP, give it at least 3 months.
What made your internships so valuable?
Both were unique experiences within special settings. Due to the specialized nature of both settings, I had to be sure my interest was strong enough to justify missing other clinical experiences that would be more realistic and likely for me to work in. Otherwise, these are two of the most advanced rehab centers for these patient populations and the experience I received is unquantifiable.
Are there any clinical pearls you could offer to our readers that you learned from your internships?
Although there's a great deal to learn within our specialty, don't disregard the other disciples around you. Even though it may not be within our scope, it's helpful to understand the roles, responsibilities, and capabilities of everyone else so when an issue arises you can efficiently address it by referring the patient to the proper discipline. You don't know what you don't know, learning from other disciples can be extremely beneficial to the patient.
What was the hardest part about working with military personnel?
With my background I felt at home working alongside the providers and patients. This population will complete any task you give them, so have a plan, tell them what they are doing and why, and they'll do it. If anything, you'll have to stop them from doing too much. Also, military service members tend to speak their mind without a filter, don't take it personal and remain professional.
What advice do you have for someone that is going into a rotation similar to yours?
Both of these settings require the efforts from all members of the Multi-D team. Although your plate is full with priorities of the PT specialty, place effort on understanding all the other roles and their responsibilities as well. Be a team player, help out whenever possible, and understand that although you are an intern, other providers will be expecting a plan and recommendations from you. Be confident. Appreciate and be grateful for the opportunity and take advantage of the great experience and education you'll receive.
For more information about Chad, or his internships, please email us at email@example.com