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Professors Dina Brooks & Euson Yeung, Department of Physical Therapy, University of Toronto

Many physios have been asked questions like:

“What’s the difference between physio and occupational therapy again ?”

“How is being a physio different than other health care professions, exactly?”

We recently hosted a Mini-Physio School to teach non-medical professionals in our community about the practice of physiotherapy. As members of the Advancement and Community Engagement (ACE) Committee for our department, we felt there was a need to educate our local community.


We realized many people want to learn about physiotherapy to:

  • clarify the role physiotherapy plays in our health care system
  • enhance their knowledge so they feel better informed when visiting a physio
  • improve their health and better understand their body
  • explore physio as a career option
  • learn how physio can assist an aging parent or spouse

Our Mini-Physio School functioned as a six-week lecture series that took place for two hours every Tuesday evening in our Rehabilitation Sciences Building. Starting on October 11, 2016, each lecture consisted of two, one-hour presentations on exercise-focused topics, with lots of time for discussion.

The overall goal of Mini-Physio School was to enhance the public’s understanding of physical therapy, and provide them with the basic knowledge and skills to support them in accessing and using physical therapy-related information.

We chose to focus on exercise as our overarching lecture theme, because it is an applicable and accessible aspect of physiotherapy.


Topics included:

  • Why is physical activity important?
  • What is exercise?            
  • Reading medical studies: healthy skepticism
  • Balance and resistance training
  • Exercise and cancer
  • Exercise and CV disease (including diabetes)
  • Exercise in arthritis
  • Exercise in osteoarthritis
  • Common sports injuries
  • A panel discussion


Our presenters were mostly status-only or adjunct  faculty who specialized in a relevant field. We provided snacks between the two talks (which were a huge hit).

Each lecture was recorded and emailed to participants within 48 hours.  We charged $160 to register ($120 for students and seniors)which covered our planning and administrative fees and contributed to future community engagement initiatives.

All our lecturers presented pro-bono.

The overall goal of Mini-Physio School was to enhance the public’s understanding of physical therapy, and provide them with the basic knowledge and skills to support them in accessing and using physical therapy-related information.


Were we successful?


Did everything go off without a hitch?

Not quite.


What we learned

Overall, Mini-Physio School received very positive feedback. We asked our students for their opinions throughout the lecture series, and the vast majority really enjoyed our program!

They expanded their knowledge of physiotherapy, and said our lectures were fun, understandable and interesting. The “Common Sports Injuries” lecture was particularly well received, as many felt it related to their everyday lives.

Hosting Mini-Physio School was a great experience, but also a lot of work. Here are the top six lessons we learned while organizing and running this course:


  1. It takes time (at least the FIRST time).

From inception to completion, Mini-Physio School took about a year to coordinate. It was our first endeavour of this kind, and there was a definite learning curve. That being said, when we run this lecture series again in 2017, a framework will have already been established.


  1. Know exactly what you are offering before you start marketing!
    To ensure high enrollment, we started marketing a bit prematurely, before we fully understood what exactly the course would entail. This affected the clarity of our messaging.  To avoid frustration, know your product intimately before selling it.


  1. Get in the paper!
    Our registration numbers soared after placing two ads in the Toronto Metro News. We had budgeted for this advertising, and it was well worth it. Our course had over 90 registrants, and we had to create a wait list for future lectures!


  1. Build a committed, skilled team.
    Organizing Mini-Physio School was not a two-person job. We relied on the help of volunteer lecturers, as well as many staff members. Our IT staff helped us set up and record our lectures, while our communications staff helped promote the course. Administrative staff helped with registration, payment and class lists. Mini-Physio School was truly a team effort.


  1. Ensure lecture material is understandable for a non-medical audience.
    Our attendees were non-medical professionals, so we made every effort to ensure that presentations were straight-forward, accessible and understandable. We met with our presenters prior the course starting, and provided guidance to ensure they were on the right track.


  1. Appreciate the diversity of your audience.
    Our attendees ranged in age, education, learning-style and motivation for taking the course. Some of our participants were self-identified senior citizens, who preferred presentation hand-outs instead of lecture videos. Some were high school and university students who loved the videos, and had pre-existing knowledge of exercise and human anatomy. We even had a mother-daughter duo attend!


When we received feedback, some people wanted the content to be “less medical”, whereas others wanted more technical, advanced topics to be discussed.  We needed to accept that we couldn’t please everyone, but worked hard to appreciate and accommodate the diverse needs of students. For example, we incorporated a breakout session with students who wish to pursue physio professionally, where we talked to them about our program at the University of Toronto.


Hosting Mini-Physio School was a great experience. We would recommend other schools or health organizations consider pursuing a similar lecture series to help their local community understand physiotherapy. 

If you decide to set up something similar in your area, we hope these six lessons will help you get started!


Please contact our Communications Officer if you wish to discuss further!

Alyson Musial



About Dina and Euson

Dina Brooks

Dina is a Canada Research Chair (Tier 2) in Rehabilitation in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. She is also the recipient of several teaching and research awards and holds many grants. Her research experience has included varied models (e.g., anaesthetized animals, conscious animals and humans) and different research approaches. She is presently involved in research in two main patient populations: individuals with chronic lung disease and those with cardiovascular disease. In the area of chronic lung disease, she is involved in several clinical trials on the effectiveness of different components and modes of delivery of pulmonary rehabilitation. In cardiovascular rehabilitation, she is investigating the effectiveness of exercise training in individuals after stroke.


Euson Yeung

Euson is a physiotherapist and a lecturer in the department of Physical Therapy, and co-organizer of Mini-Physio School.  He has been practicing as an orthopaedic therapist since completing his BSc in physiotherapy at Queen’s University.  He completed his advanced diploma in manual and manipulative physiotherapy in 2000 and has been a fellow of the Canadian Academy of Manipulative Physiotherapists since then.  He completed his Masters in Education (Adult Education) and his PhD with the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute at the University of Toronto. Euson is a member of the education committee at the Centre for Faculty Development, St Michael’s Hospital and is involved in the planning of faculty development sessions.  Euson is also an active member of the Orthopaedic Division of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association and is currently the Credentials Chair for the education committee.  In this role, he is responsible for the maintenance and development for all instructors within the Orthopaedic Division in Canada.



Our profession sorely needs these kind of approaches in order to educate public about who we are, and what we do. We're the best kept secret and have been bismally poor in promoting ourselves! 

What a great initiative!! Way to go Dina and Euson!!! Thank you so much for your hard on this very worthwhile project!! 


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