Posted by vanessa on February 13, 2018
For physical therapists, the field of women’s health “has exploded” during the last five years, according to adjunct faculty member Dr. Lila Abbate. “Every private practice wants to be into this.” Dr. Abbate is preparing physical therapy students in the Columbia DPT program to enter this burgeoning area of physical therapy. “Many graduating DPTs are going directly into this field.” And within women’s health, there are sub-specialties such as cancer treatment, athletics and post-partum.
Dr. Abbate teaches the Columbia PT program’s 7-week elective in women’s health. The course is coordinated by core faculty member Dr. Martha Sliwinski. It covers basic anatomy, focusing on general pathologies related to pelvic health in women. It includes key women’s health areas such as bone health, obstetrics and gynecology, chronic pelvic pain, bladder and bowel dysfunction, nutritional dysfunction, cancer rehabilitation and fibromyalgia. The course targets women from adolescence, childbearing, peri-menopause, menopause, through geriatric years. Also covered are men’s and children’s health issues as they relate to the pelvis.
Columbia’s course incorporates orthopedic techniques, something that makes it unique. Dr. Abbate, who has been teaching this course for 7 years, developed this approach through her interest in hip pain and its causes. “Ten years ago, women’s health courses were typically not ortho-based.”, she noted.
Students learn to diagnose the difference between a pelvic floor issue and an orthopedic issue in a patient. While Dr. Abbate’s course does not involve internal examinations, Dr. Abbate wants her students to feel empowered that they have the knowledge to treat women’s health issues and also be able to determine whether or not the patient should be seen by a specialist. The class requires a final project. Once completed, the student has a presentation and patient handouts they can use as resources when they are practicing. It is a cumulative effort, bringing together all aspects of women’s health.
Dr. Abbate pointed out that the course syllabus is organized in order to prepare the student to consider further courses and eventually take the WCS (women’s health clinical specialist) test for certification. Stephanie Viola, CUDPT 2017, reflected on her experience with the course. “The women's health elective gives students a great overview of pelvic floor PT. I felt much more prepared after taking the elective especially when I went on to take continuing education courses in pelvic floor.”
Dr. Sliwinski commented, “Dr. Abbate brings to Columbia students a unique opportunity for expanding their skill set prior to graduation. Taking this course has afforded several of our graduates to begin practicing in the field or apply for a residency program.”
Another program graduate practicing in women’s health, Monica LoConti, CUDPT 2017, said “Dr. Abbate’s class provided me with a solid foundation. I am a confident and successful pelvic health therapist today because her course set me off on the right foot!”
Note: Dr. Abbate will be speaking at this year’s White Coat Ceremony on April 15, 2018.
Dr. Lila Abbate, 3rd from left in front, with students from the Class of 2016