Jacky Ding joined Up Clinic earlier this year. She’s originally from China, but studied at Boston University where she was enrolled in their six-year Doctor of Physical Therapy program.
She’s incredibly passionate about her work, but says some of her other passions include exploring new cafes or bars, and singing karaoke at different spots around the city. Above most things, music is one of her biggest passions in life:
“I have quite an eclectic taste, but I’m mostly into hip hop, rap and some R&B. I see music as a great companion and a friend; it’s something that has helped me get through tough times in life. It can transpire through time and culture; it’s almost limitless..,” says Jacky.
Author / Lauren
That’s so fun! Thanks for sharing a little about yourself – we look forward to when the ‘movement is medicine’ musical debuts. What brought you back to China and what potential do you see for your skills here?
Two things: One was to be with family. The other was for career prospects.
I had been away since I was 16 years old. I spent my high school and college years away from my hometown and my family. After graduation, I started considering the possibility of returning to China for work. It felt like it was time to come back.
I also loved the thought of growing as a physical therapist in China, specifically at UP Clinic. There are more opportunities for physical therapy majors in China now, as it’s becoming more and more popular. A lot more people know what we do and what our job entails. I have people reaching out to me on WeChat or in person to ask more details about our profession because they have kids or cousins who are interested in pursuing the same major.
What made you decide to pursue physical therapy?
I always knew I wanted to major in the medical field ever since I was in high school learning about biology and other science classes. My biology teacher wrote me an incredible recommendation letter that got me into the Sargent College at Boston University. Initially, I was torn between being a pre-med student and physical therapy student. Luckily, we were able to take a class that allowed us to explore different occupations in the medical field; we had different speakers come in and gave us great presentations detailing their work life and what it entails. After I learned about what it’s like being a physical therapist, I said to myself “this is it!”
It’s active, research-based, and you get to talk and help people! What’s not to love about that? During that summer, I contacted various physical therapy clinics in Boston and asked if I could shadow them so I could get to learn and be a part of action. Every physical therapist I got to meet that summer was smart, driven and someone that I could look up to.
If I really must break it down as to why I am passionate about what I do, I think number the one reason is I think the human body is just too amazing. When I was learning gross anatomy and functional anatomy – about how our body moves and coordinates through space during movement… it reminds me of a symphony.
The other main reason is that I love learning and also sharing knowledge, and if you can help people or change people’s lives while you are sharing your knowledge, that to me, is the most fulfilling thing in life. By being a physical therapist, while you are individualizing your treatment plan and critically thinking about patients’ problems, I get to feel that every day. What’s there not to love?
You’ve shared a few case studies with us already… from patients dealing with low back and more. Could you share a little bit about the specific types of injuries that you treat or have treated?
That’s a hard one to answer – lots and lots of patient’s experiences come to my mind..
I remember when interning at the hospital where I was working with an amputee with diabetes (who suffered from depression), initially he wouldn’t talk to me or even participate in therapy. After we got to know each other, he shared with me that he has a daughter who will be getting married soon. I asked him, “Don’t you want to dance at your daughter’s wedding? Let us help you do that, please.” From that moment on, he became super motivated and cooperative, even trying out different prothesis and practicing weight shifts and gait. Long story short, he made that dance happen.
Then there are those patients who you help feel like they have a new body after suffering for years and years. ( 18 years of back pain gone for good!) Or when you get messages like these that make all the long hours and hard work simply feel worth it:
“I am writing this letter to express my endless gratitude to you. You not only healed my foot, but also gave me a new soul. You are a medical super heroine! I still remember when I first stepped into your clinic, your smile was like a ray of warm sunshine that lit up my whole being… Thank you very much, Dr. Jacky! You are not only a medical superstar, but also a hero in my heart.”
They say “people are in the game of life”. Those of us in our profession are in such a privileged position to do what we do. I truly feel honored.
You also work with patients who suffer from balance deficit-related issues. Could you tell us more about what that is and who might consider getting see for it?
Balance deficit, in a nutshell, can be categorized into two specific patient populations: one is geriatric, the other one is for recreational or professional athletes.
In geriatric populations, because of the natural degeneration of components of our balance system, our natural aging process can cause problems with balance. The most important therapeutic treatment is working towards or with “ fall prevention.”
There are different measures that capture an older adult’s ability to balance (such as measuring their static and dynamic balance, comfortable walking gait speed etc..). Based on these outcome measures we can also predict how likely they would fall in the future and plan treatments that target specific areas where they score low on the outcome measure. The goal for our treatment is of course, lowering their chance for falling and increasing their quality of life.
In the athletic population, balance deficit treatment can be seen as a way to increase an athlete’s neuromuscular control and stability, specifically in the single limb (upper or lower limb) support phase. More and more evidence is pointing out that training for an athletes’ joints’ proprioception and their neuromuscular control is vital for increasing athletic sports performance. The tests and measures we use to capture their ability to do these things are different depending on what kind of sports they play. Treatment would also be different depending on an athletes’ baseline ability and goals.
Thanks so much for sharing! Along with the work you do inside the clinic, is there anything you feel is important to helping a patient’s journey to recovery?
Patient education. I personally think that there are a lot of things, which can be grouped under patient education. Even things like, work ergonomics, sleep hygiene, dietary needs, pain experience and pain science… The more your therapist knows about you and your lifestyle, the more they can help you to heal. It’s also important to understand what the patient’s goal and expectation is – how we can work together to achieve the patient’s therapy goal. Think of your therapist as a teammate – someone with whom you can work with, together to achieve a pain-free lifestyle.