Scott Burns - 2020 Rising Star Alumni AwardCU Physical Therapy Mar 25, 2021
Get to know more about Scott Burns, DPT the 2020 Rising Star Alumni Award. Dr. Scott Burns graduated with his Masters from University of Colorado in 2005 and then complete the transitional DPT. Since that time he has wholeheartedly embodied the mission of the CU PT Program by demonstrating excellence in education, research and clinical practice. Nominated by Professor Paul Mintken, Scott previously served as the CU Physical Therapy Alumni Association President, pursued an accomplished career in academia and is in pursuit of his PhD.
What was you student experience at CU?
My time at CU PT Program was some of the best years of my life. I was a Colorado native and grew up outside in Louisville. I went to CU-Boulder for undergraduate then was accepted into CU PT program which was my #1 choice for physical therapy education. I was a member of the last Masters class for CU PT (prior to transition to the DPT degree), but was fortunate enough that the program was able offer a transitional DPT following completion of the Masters.
During my time at CU PT, I was able to have wonderful experiences that have stuck with me throughout my life. The relationships with faculty were something I remember fondly. The openness and willingness of the faculty and staff to assist each of us on our educational journey was astounding. That kindness and willingness has stuck with me throughout my career working with patients/clients, and students.
What inspired you to pursue physical therapy?
I have a common method to the profession of physical therapy. Participating in sports during my youth often left me with a variety of injuries which exposed me to rehabilitation (although not specifically physical therapy). During my undergraduate career, I was set on being in healthcare and investigated multiple professions. During that time, I was working in a variety of settings to gain experience, but my choice wasn’t clear until I experienced healthcare as a patient. I had shoulder surgery and obtained a first-hand experience with the patient side of healthcare. During my surgery, follow-up, and rehabilitation process, I highly coveted my time with the physical therapist. I valued the time spent with me and the individually-tailored care that was provided. I also was fortunate enough to be able to interact with current CU PT faculty member, Dr. Paul Mintken, while at CU-Boulder. Those interactions really help cement my interest in physical therapy as my career path.
You previously served as the President of the Alumni Association. What led you to that role and can you describe your time involved with the PTAA?
While in the CU PT program, we had class officers and liaisons. I was nominated to be the representative for my class to the CU PT alumni association. I was able to attend the meetings and work with the association. At that time, the Association was going through some changes and activity was lower. As I neared graduation, the faculty liaison for the CU PT Alumni Association, Linda Hannen, and I discussed how to move the Association forward and try to revitalize it. From there, ideas blossomed and momentum started to build. One thing led to another and I was asked to consider taking the role of President. Looking back, that was one of the best decisions I made in the early portion of my career. Linda and I were able to identify a small group of motivated individuals to start to recreate the infrastructure, work with Alumni relations personnel and create an association that contributed meaningfully to the alumni base and program. Several of the initial initiatives we started at that point have persisted and remain intact today which is amazing. Many of the group of people that were participating in the Association at that time, continued to serve after my departure and many of the student liaisons (like myself) went on to serve roles in the Association after graduation. Today, the Association has become so much more than what was imagined at that time.
What led to your interest in pursuing a career in academia?
I tend to like to do a variety of things at any point in time. I am not usually one to do one thing at a time. So, after PT school, I was working in the clinic and loving my job. I would take CU PT students for each clinical experience and remained committed to the program in many capacities including President of the Association. Soon thereafter, I was asked to assist in the laboratory classes for the orthopaedic courses. I really loved being back in the academic environment and being able to interact with students. My love of teaching and mentoring really started to take shape and I wanted to provide a greater impact. Discussing with a variety of my mentors, I felt the greatest impact would be at the academic level.
Can you talk about your current role and what led you there?
Currently, I am the Director of the DPT program at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. I am also the interim chair for the Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences that encompasses programs in physical therapy, occupational therapy, recreational therapy, athletic training, neuromotor science (MS and PhD) and an undergraduate major in Health Professions. I have been very fortunate in my faculty role at Temple and have many opportunities for growth and development. I have had excellent leaders that believed in me and my abilities and have been afforded many opportunities.
I was initially hired primarily as a faculty with clinical expertise to instruct in musculoskeletal curriculum and the post-professional orthopaedic residency in physical therapy. I was also able to contribute to a budding faculty practice. Eventually, I was tapped to serve as the Assistant Chairperson with the PT program and direct the faculty practice. As time went on, I was then afforded the opportunity to become the Director of Admission and Director of the DPT program.
Your nomination noted that you are pursuing a PhD, can you talk about that?
I have always believed in growth and development in all phases of life and that belief led me to pursue a PhD with the University of Newcastle in Australia. I realized that I had been able to develop my skills as a clinician and educator, but continued to feel that I needed to grow more in the area of research and scholarship.
Being involved with CU PT program as a lab assistant, I was always eager to help teach be involved and luckily one day an opportunity to participate in a research project from Paul Mintken and Josh Cleland arrived. I jumped at the chance to help with the project that was my initial and that sparked my interest. Thanks to those mentors, they afforded me additional opportunities to be involved in a variety of projects and helped develop my abilities in this domain. I have been contemplating a PhD for a few years, but couldn’t find the right fit that would allow me to continue with my position and target an area that interested me.
One day, the opportunity at University of Newcastle arose and I jumped at that chance. It has allowed me to develop my skills and abilities in the area of research and scholarship. I have been able to continue the line of research that I started many years prior to Drs. Minkten and Cleland.
You completed a fellowship in manual therapy – what led to your passion behind that specialty?
At the time, manual therapy was becoming increasingly popular in the profession. Drs. Mintken and Cleland either completed or were enrolled in the program. I was able to hear about what they were learning and it compelled me to apply and complete the program. I was able to do both the fellowship in manual therapy and complete my board-certification in orthopaedics simultaneously. The fellowship in manual therapy allowed me to think critically and bring expertise in that area to my teaching role at Temple and my clinician role.
In hindsight, the hands-on skills definitely expanded and improved with fellowship training, but more so was the ability to think critically, make sound decisions and engage individuals in thoughtful discussions surrounding their health. At Temple, our program is housed within a College of Public Health which has further developed my thoughts and abilities to have those discussions with students, faculty and patients/clients regarding factors that influence their health. I feel that my fellowship training in manual therapy provided the technical and cognitive foundation to allow me to incorporate other areas into my practice.
What do you enjoy doing in your personal time?
In my personal time, I am usually quite busy with my wife (Jill – also a CU PT graduate) and my 3 daughters, Addison, Harper and Payton. My daughters are into a variety of activities, but most notable gymnastics, so that keeps me busy.