Chatting with Dr. Patty Solomon

I had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Patty Solomon at McMaster University - her interview is littered with Pearls of Wisdom. This is Part 1 of a 2 part series of my interview with Patty.

Dr. Patty Solomon is the Associate Dean of Health Sciences and Director of the School of Rehabilitation Science. Patty is also the past Assistance Dean of the Physiotherapy Program. She is interested in educational research and development and has published and consulted extensively in the areas of problem-based learning, educational innovation, interprofessional education and curriculum design. Patty's area of research is in HIV, disability and rehabilitation, and educational innovation as it related to problem-based learning and interprofessional education.


What's your area of work?

I'm the associate dean of the School of Rehabilitation Science. I have been a faculty member here at McMaster University for a long time - I was one of the original founding faculty members in the Physiotherapy program. I've been very involved in education innovation but I'm currently more involved in administrative roles. I also maintain my research interests related to HIV and disability, which I find very enjoyable. My research takes place primarily in Canada and I collaborate with colleagues in Sub-Saharan Africa. It's important to maintain my contacts in Sub-Saharan Africa because I can't travel there often. Maintaining relationships and feeling connected through different means has been very important, for example using Skype as well as connecting through the WCPT in Singapore this past year.

What does the next year of your professional life look like?

The SLP program will take a lot of time to develop, especially since we're building it as a problem based learning (PBL) program.

I'm also finishing off a number of studies related to HIV and rehabilitation. One in particular is about the access of rehabilitation for those with HIV. We asked ourselves: "How can we help people get access to the rehabilitation services they need?"

The solution has been the development of a manual and accompanying educational program to be delivered in community setting with an AIDS service organization worker and a peer leader. Most people with HIV have access to an AIDS service organization, but they don't know they could benefit from rehabilitation. You don't know what you don't - If people don't know that services like physiotherapy and occupational therapy can provide great benefit, they won't know to ask for them. So we will train the peer leader and AIDS service organization worker to implement these health promotion modules to help people learn about rehabilitation as well as how to advocate for themselves. The workshops will use an e-module as a resource but the workshops will focus on small group problem solving and interaction. Importantly people will learn what rehabilitation is and how to advocate for themselves. If we arm people with the appropriate skills and knowledge, they will have greater access to care and as a result their quality of life will improve.

What's one course or event that you’re planning to attend in the next year that you’re really looking forward to?

I have an exciting event coming up in October in Barcelona. We're doing a panel discussion at a European Medical Conference related to HIV where they have limited knowledge about rehabilitation. We are the leaders in HIV and rehabilitation research in Canada. The UK has tremendous clinical expertise in models of care for people living with HIV. So we're joining clinicians from the UK and some people from Europe who are living with HIV and will create a discussion that will hopefully benefit all of those who attend.

What I've Learned

What has been one big 'Aha' moment that has helped shape your professional life?

This goes back a really long way and this is an 'Aha' moment that really shaped my professional life. Early in my career there weren't a lot of opportunities to do graduate degrees for physiotherapists, so many physiotherapists would go into medicine. I was considering medicine while I was doing my masters because I wasn't completely sure what direction I should take. There weren't a lot of options or opportunities as a physiotherapist.

One of my professors said to me that most physiotherapists take the easy way out and they don't stay to fight for their own profession - they go into medicine. In that moment I knew - this is what I need to do. I need to stay in physiotherapy and fight for my profession to ensure that it grows and gets the stature that it deserves.

What's something that you learned the hard way that you would like to share with others?

Be aware that there's always another story. So remember that what you observe and what you see is from your perspective - be careful not to make assumptions. If you are trying to learn about a difficult or complex situation, take the time to learn about the other person and understand their perspective. I think sometimes in this very busy world in which we live, we want to react, we want to make a decision and we want to move on. But, we can't always do that quickly.

What's the most valuable piece of advice you've ever received?

What's something you've recently learned that you're really excited to implement into your work?

I'm very excited about the Speech Language Pathology (SLP) program that we will be starting here at McMaster University. I've been working closely with speech language pathologists to develop the curriculum and get the program off the ground by 2017. Interprofessional collaboration is an important component to the Rehabilitation Science programs at McMaster so it will be really exciting to add SLP to the mix.

Look for part 2 of this interview next #TechTuesday when Patty and I talk Tech in PT.