Clinical Specialty Area: Oncology

In Specialty Practice Area Since: 2011

Areas of Professional Interest: Breast cancer; axillary web syndrome; lymphedema (primary and secondary); bone health and osteoporosis risk in breast and prostate cancer; skeletal-related events; bone metastases and fracture prevention; orthopaedic limb salvage surgery and rehabilitation; and tumour specific cancer rehab (i.e., hematological and sarcoma).

Hobbies: Swimming, jogging, playing squash, cycling, hiking, playing the piano, reading, cooking, and traveling.

What did you find most rewarding about the Specialty Program? 

There were two things that I found most rewarding about the Specialty Program. First, I enjoyed the self-reflection process as it allows one to grow by reviewing and assessing one’s knowledge, actions, and perspective to ensure the provision of patient-centred and high-quality care. Second, the evaluation process by which one is assessed and evaluated by specialists and experts in the field; validating one’s knowledge, expertise, and clinical practice.

What were your reasons for applying to the program? 

The reason for applying to the program was to ensure and validate my level of knowledge and expertise in oncology rehabilitation. It’s easy to call yourself a “specialist,” however, without the proper and rigorous evaluation process to back up these allegations, words are merely utterances.

Where do you hope to see the profession in 25 years? 

My hope for the future of physical therapy specifically in the field of oncology is threefold. First, I hope that a course on oncology rehabilitation becomes part of the curriculum in the physical therapy programs in universities across the country. This is because, to date, there are limited oncology rehabilitation courses available to physical therapy students and with the rising prevalence of cancer-related diagnosis, survival coupled with oncology-related sequelae, it is imperative for physical therapists to have a strong knowledge of oncology rehabilitation and management. Second, I hope that allied health care providers, such as physicians and surgeons, attain a better understanding of the role of physical therapists and lymphedema therapists in the oncology setting; which, in turn, would promote a more collaborative approach to the provisions of patient care and, in turn, improve patient health and outcomes. However, this will only come with education and concentrated efforts from the physical therapy profession, which is the most powerful tool to foster change. Finally, my hope is that governments will implement more mandatory oncology rehabilitation programs to ensure adequate oncology-related rehabilitation settings are in place for patients living with cancer and to better support their recovery and ability to return to their daily living activities and society. Supporting persons living with cancer to obtain maximum physical, social, psychological, and vocational functioning within the limits imposed by disease and its treatment is not merely a responsibility for health care professionals like physiotherapists, but a fundamental responsibility from the Ministry of Health. Successful patient health outcomes depend upon timely recognition of functional problems and prompt referral for rehabilitation in order to maximize the quality of life of these patients.

What impact do you think specialization will have on your specialty area? 

I believe that the specialization will enhance knowledge translation through the dissemination of resources, provide mentorship opportunities for the future, provision of knowledge through research and collaboration with other specialists in the field.

What is the value of the Specialty Program to candidates? 

There are several values to a Specialty Program. First, just like in medicine, there are specialists in different fields, which allows for the provision of more specific patient-centred care. This should also be applied for physical therapists as knowledge levels will vary depending on one’s specialty. Second, it is not enough to call oneself a “specialist,” but undergoing a rigorous process through a national organization enhances the credibility of the therapist. Patients looking for specialists will be guaranteed the authenticity and credibility of the physical therapist as they would have gone through an extensive evaluative process by a national association. Finally, specializations allow for national and international collaborations to enhance and expand the field of oncology rehabilitation.

Have you used your specialist network? If so, how? 

I have used my specialist network to share information with other specialists in the field nationally and internationally thus far and hope this will continue to bear more collaborative opportunities in the near future.

What are important things to consider for those who are interested in pursuing their clinical specialty? 

Pursuing the clinical specialty requires a lot of work, from selecting and organizing one’s cases, engaging in self-reflection on one’s own practice, reviewing the literature and rehabilitation frameworks, as well as updating one’s courses and certificates. These are all critical to organize and prepare ensuring a success application process. However, the most important thing to consider for those interested in pursuing this clinical specialty is patience! It is a long process, but if one puts their mind to it, it can be done.

What new skills or enhanced skills did you obtain going through the specialty process? 

The process enhanced my communication (verbal and written), self-reflection, clinical, and research-related skills.

What advice would you give to applicants going through the specialty process? 

Nothing to lose, only a lot to learn and gain from the experience. If your goal is to be recognized as a specialist, then the work has to be put in for such recognition.

What impact has the specialization designation had on you and your career? 

The specialization program has allowed me to be more recognized for my area of expertise, which, in turn, afforded me countless opportunities that I am deeply grateful and humbled for.

How did you become interested in Oncology Specialization? 

I became interested in the Oncology Specialization when I discovered how important it was to be rigorously evaluated prior to calling oneself a specialist. Like in many disciplines in medicine and health care, to become a specialist in a field, training and certifications are required to ensure the individual possesses adequate knowledge and expertise. It takes dedication, skills, knowledge, expertise, and persistence to become a specialist in any field. Which makes one think: if a rigorous process did not exist, then how would health care providers and patients be able to differentiate true specialists from others?

What made you choose physiotherapy as a lifelong career? 

My decision to choose physical therapy as a lifelong career is due to my dear father who instilled in me the importance of exercise and physical activity from an early age. There is no medication out there, to date, that has the effect and power of exercise and the impact of rehabilitation on supporting an individual’s recovery. Irrespective of the mechanism of injury, physical therapists play a vital role in supporting patients to get back on their feet (literally and figuratively). “If doctors save lives, then physical therapists make it worth living.” This is what makes me get up every day, knowing how many individuals I can possibly influence by using my knowledge, skill, the power of exercise, and rehabilitation to change one’s life.

Education: University of Toronto and McGill University

Current Work and Role: Currently working at the McGill University Hospital Centre Lymphedema Clinic with the well-renowned Dr. Towers and her multidisciplinary team.