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Karen Litzy Shares Advice for New PTs

by Brett Kestenbaum, PT, DPT

At last year's CSM, I had the opportunity to interview Karen Litzy, PT, DPT, who was named as one of Clinicient’s most influential people in physical therapy.  She founded the popular podcast, Healthy Wealthy, and Smart, and is the founder of the Women in PT Summit. She was kind enough to sit down with me and share some advice for new PTs.

Advice for new PTs

  1. Join the APTA - The more people join who join the APTA, the bigger our voice is, especially when it comes to things on Capitol Hill.
  2. Donate to the PT- PAC - If everyone in the APTA donated $20 to the PT-PAC, we’d have the biggest PAC in the country. We can push forth initiatives to Congress with more gusto if we have more financial backing.

Be open to creative possibilities in PT - Your career might not be what you thought it would be, and you have to be OK with that. Have some curiosity and see where it leads you.

How Dr. Litzy got into podcasting

Several years ago, a friend of Dr. Litzy's (a personal trainer) from Reebok asked her to be a guest on his show to talk about what PTs do. The person at the station said, “You have a nice voice and you seem smart. Would you like your own show?” She thought about it for a month or two and then said yes.

It wasn’t a podcast when she first got started. It was a live radio show. She went back to school for her DPT, and when she came back, she decided to just do her own podcasting from her own apartment.

“I feel like I’m sitting here as a result of having that podcast,” she said. She feels that the podcast has been one of her greatest forms of education because she learns so much from her guests, from physical therapy to non-clinical info. She loves meeting people all over the world that she’d never meet otherwise.

How she picks guests for her podcast

She told me that lots of people pitch to her and she looks for people who are doing interesting things. She always picks things she's interested in because she figures others are likely interested as well. She encourages new PTs to reach out if they have exciting ideas. "If you’re interesting and passionate, I want to know about it," she said.


How to find a mentor

Mentorship isn't always going to present itself to you. She recommends that you talk to professors in school. They might be willing to mentor you, or at least recommend someone who will. She also recommended you use social media to find groups or people whose passion and vision resonate with you. "Reach out to them and see if they’re mentoring," she advised.

Dr. Litzy recalled that, at her first job at small clinic in NYC, two long-time clinicians were willing to mentor her. She also told me that Mike Sazali and Evangelos Pappas, her original two mentors, still mentor her to this day. She was always genuinely curious about what they were doing and genuinely happy for them when they succeeded, and said it has always been the same on their end.

"Mentorship should be a two-way street," she told me.

Why she chose physical therapy

Dr. Litzy grew up in a small town in PA and always was into sports. She decided to pursue physical therapy school and thought maybe she’d then pursue medical school. She decided not to do med school after her first clinical because she was hooked on the relationships formed by having time to spend with patients. She told me that 100% of people can use PT at some point in their lives, but only  7-9% actually use PT services. Sees the aging population, and is excited about PT becoming more mainstream.

She recommended that new grads get creative with your degree to help the general public. Promote PT for preventative measures, health and wellness, and other creative treatments. She also pointed out that HHPT is very viable and people are willing to pay for it if you make it convenient and exceptional. Dr. Litzy still treats patients 25-32 hours/week; she loves treating patients and doesn’t want to only do marketing. But she loves the fact that her job allows her to do both.

Women leaders in PT

Dr. Litzy told me that there are definitely women leaders in PT, but they don’t always come to mind right away. She credits Sharon Dunn, APTA president, for having a positive impact on her career as a female PT. But she was frustrated to see that someone blogged about the "disrupters" in the PT world, and he included zero women on that list. She wrote to the author of the blog because she feels it's important to have females represented in PT leadership.

She suspects that women are far less likely to present ideas or projects until they're almost perfect, whereas men throw things against the wall to see what sticks. She is eager to see women taking more chances and being less wary of judgment.

Dr. Litzy's advice to new women PTs

  • Say "yes" to things
  • Put yourself out there
  • Don’t be afraid
  • Find a mentor (male or female) who is willing to help you get to the next level and help you work through the feelings of trepidation.


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