After earning her undergrad degree in Kinesiology at Laurentian University, Erin Thompson knew she wanted to study physiotherapy, she just didn't know where. With only five programs in Ontario, the Sudbury-native figured she'd cover her bases and apply to them all. But it was a chance encounter while scouting schools that helped her decide on Queen's.
Thompson says she was in Kingston to see the Queen's campus, but hadn't taken the time to make an appointment with anyone, choosing instead to wander around the Louise D. Acton building where the physiotherapy program is based. "It was really a last-minute decision to go, so I didn't contact any teachers," laughs Thompson, "and I was really just poking around and being nosy." While in the building, Thompson says she ran into a pleasant woman who offered to show her around. "I thought she was a secretary," says Thompson sheepishly. "She spent an hour with me!"
She later discovered that the "secretary" was the then Graduate Coordinator of the Physiotherapy program, Dr Elsie Culham (now the Associate Dean, Health Sciences & Director School of Rehabilitation Therapy).I was so impressed by how comfortable and at-home she made me feel. It was so nice that she took so much time out of a schedule that I now know is really busy!"
Thompson, who graduated from the two-year physiotherapy program in 2006, says one of its benefits is the chance to do real-world work placements. Her last placement was at Ongwanada, a non-profit organization in Kingston that supports people with developmental disabilities where Thompson now works as a full-time physiotherapist.
"I do so many things," she says of her busy job. "I basically do any rehabilitation that helps (my clients) with their mobility and quality of life." That includes advising on equipment and wheelchairs, devising exercise programs, taking people for hydrotherapy, or training their caregivers.
"My degree from Queen's helped me get exactly where I am today," she says enthusiastically, "and that's the experience of my friends and classmates too. It often happens that way -- you meet contacts, and you show them what you can do... and it very often turns into a job."
Though Thompson admits her plan was to go north again when she had her degree in-hand, she says she's been drawn into the community in Kingston. "It's a place that sucks you in and keeps you here," she laughs. Thompson also credits her love for Queen's for keeping her in the city. "The sign of a good school is one that encourages you to get involved...and then you've invested yourself in the community."
Thompson now works part-time at Queen's as an adjunct professor, where she teaches labs and courses in the physiotherapy program. "In a program like ours it really helps students to learn from people who actually practice," she says. "And besides, I love it!"