by Dr. Konstantinos Mavropoulos, PT, DPT
People ask me all the time “Why did you become a Physical Therapist?” The truth is, from an early age I knew I wanted to work in the healthcare field. It seemed natural to me as I’ve been blessed to grow up with an amazing support group of family, friends, and professionals whom I’ve learned a wealth of knowledge from. I’ve always enjoyed helping people, I’ve been fascinated with how the body works, and I grew up playing all kinds of sports. I’d see people get injured, rehab and come back better than they were before.
Originally, I aspired to be a Medical Doctor, a career path I pursued until early into my time at Rutgers University. It was then my pursuits changed as I learned more about the medical field. Doctors were spending less time with their patients, people were rushed through care, and it didn’t seem like they looked happy. I knew I wanted to have an active role in helping people improve and it was around that time that a familiar mentor opened me up to a career change.
As I said, I’ve always had the ideals of helping people, and being a good person instilled in me, and I can thank St. Anthony’s for being the foundation to help bring that. Growing up as a member of the Teen SOYO we were blessed to have great mentors to help mold and guide us through lifes challenges. One of these mentors, Robert Scarpa was the one who approached me when I was doubting my path in life. At the time, he was just beginning his career as a Physical Therapist, and he invited me to shadow him and learn more about the profession.
Over the next couple of weeks I shadowed him while he worked on his patients. The facility mainly saw older patients who were unable to be independent. I remember watching Rob and how caring and attentive he was with his patients. He truly was invested in improving their quality of life and independence. I saw compassion, drive and genuine happiness in what he was doing.
I remember being excited to learn more about what he did, and came ready with questions and thoughts. I remember feeding off his focus while I watched him make noticable changes in patients I did not think could improve the way they did. This aided in building my critical thinking processes as we talked about his thinking and why he chose certain interventions. These skills are ones I still use today.
With more experience and research, I quickly fell in love with the profession. That same semester I changed my major and in 2012 I graduated with a Doctorate in Physical Therapy. Every day I get to have great conversations with my patients, help them recover/return to the lifestyle they want, as well as educate them about how their body works. Every day I have the chance to help someone be better than they were the day before.
Often, I draw on the teachings of Orthodoxy while working with patients. Ideals such as Altruism, Compassion, Professional Duty and Integrity are integral for estabilishing great outcomes with my patients, and align quite
well with the ideals of Stewardship, Faith and Outreach. I’ve found a way to relate the ideals of the church into my life which allows me to be aware of them every day. Leading an Orthodox lifestyle is not an easy path in life. In this way I meld my professional path and spiritual path which has helped me “stay the course”.
Over the years I’ve seen friends and families leave St Anthony’s and I’ve always wondered what changed to lead them on another path. Even when I’ve doubted my path I’ve always found a way back, and it troubled me that they didn’t. I wished I could have seen some signs sooner and reached out to help guide and mentor them, just as I was mentored by others in the church.
I challenge you all reading this to always reflect on your thoughts and experiences because they all bring something you can learn from. I know some of you may be struggling in your spiritual journey, and may be looking for answers as to why. Try looking at an aspect of your career, or hobby, or activity and reflect on how the teachings of the church can be applied. I guarantee you’ll find the answers you’re looking for, and delving further into those thoughts, may find it easier to stay on the path towards Christ. We all need help in this journey, and developing your own unique strategies will go a long way to making it easier.