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Samantha Schmidt, Alpine Physical Therapy Physical Therapist | Clinic Director recently received the 2023 Community Impact Award from the American Physical Therapy Association. The organization recognizes a single member of the Private Practice Section who demonstrates core value of excellence, integrity, social responsibility, altruism, and professional duty through a unique and sustainable program that positively impacts the community.

Schmidt graduated from the University of Montana in Health and Human Performance and Psychology then the University of Utah Department of Physical Therapy, completed her comprehensive Pilates certification and now co-owns a thriving small business in Missoula, Alpine Physical Therapy.  Alpine PT is a Montana Chamber Member and we caught up with Schmidt to learn more about her career path, her business, the award, and why it’s so important to share positive actions of impact with our professional community.

Tell us how your career path brought you to owning a Montana small business?

After about two years of practicing in a rural hospital setting in Montana after graduation, I moved to Southern California and completed a comprehensive certification in Pilates.  After I’d worked for big hospitals and corporations, I really wanted to able to innovate and direct where I was engaged in the community. I wanted to create a community of other professionals who are seeking how to elevate the PT profession, inspire others through movement, and stay up to date on the most current research.

That was the driver for my partners and I when we began Alpine Physical Therapy. We started with three to four physical therapists and now we have 26, plus five locations.  I think our success is due to the work-life balance culture, being involved in the community, and of course, our passion for what we do. We want to give people hope and change lives through movement.

Tell us more about the Community Impact Award you and your business received?

It’s a peer nominated award, so community members within the PT community and some other folks I work with nominated me. During the pandemic, we made the news because we worked hard to promote the “Cover Up Missoula” initiative. At the time Missoula didn’t have a mask mandate or vaccine and our business serves a lot of people who are immunocompromised. We connected with a lot of other businesses to say that we can stay open and safe if we wear masks—driving it from that sector made it less political. Our local emergency room felt that impact and told our story to a newscaster.

With a pivot to telehealth during the pandemic, we were also working to understand how we would be paid. We had to get a legal opinion and take that to each payer. Through my work in the state chapter, we started to get more engaged, and we realized that policy is closely tied to healthcare and our business’s success. We ended up getting involved with APTA and now I’m the vice president of our state APTA chapter and chair of the legislative committee. We’re trying to work with policymakers and payers to improve access to healthcare across Montana.

Alpine PT also just launched a walk-in clinic—we know there’s a huge amount of value in physical therapy when people can access it. Often there’s a wait period to get into PT so we’re trying to shift to allow this new walk-in model. If they have an urgent concern or they can’t get in to see their regular PT or provider, this is an alternative to get going in the right direction right away whether it is back to work or back to play.  We can really impact pain when a PT can educate patients by giving information about their condition and tools to control pain and improve function. It’s the Starbucks effect too, the more people who are doing good PT, the more people seek it out because of the positive impact.  Finally, from an insurance perspective, we want to help payers understand that we can save them a bunch of money if we can get their members to us, PTs, first, because we reduce healthcare costs through active conservative highly skilled interventions.

I’m humbled and honored to receive this award, but I’m truly just the front person and I have so many people behind me at Alpine PT. I keep coming back to this story of hope—when you don’t have action, hope is wishful thinking. When someone or a business is recognized for their actions to make change, it fuels hope and inspires more action for others to make positive changes in our communities.

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