By Wendy Campbell:
Laura Cook wanted to see the world and shortly after graduating with a BScPT in 1995, she travelled as a volunteer to Kiribati, a small island republic of 100,000 inhabitants in the Central Pacific. There were no physiotherapists and resources were limited, so she and Marie Jose Bergs, a Dutch physio, had an open field and many challenges. Working at a grass roots level, they explored and documented the need for and potential role of physiotherapy. It was an exciting time that was a turning point in defining Laura’s future career.
In the early 2000’s, after returning to Canada, Laura enrolled in a two year course at St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and qualified as an Advanced Clinician/ Practitioner in Arthritis Care. (ACPAC). (I discovered Laura and the concept of an advanced level of training available to PT’s and OT’s through her mother, one of my classmates.)
Working once again at a grass roots level, she developed a strong sense of the importance of researching and documenting specific needs of general populations as well as individual patients. Being both a researcher and clinician, she became committed to the importance of closely linking the two, with results of studies being transmitted to people who could implement them…sounds simple and obvious, but sometimes doesn’t happen.
Armed with her ACPAC qualification, Laura embarked on a journey that has been both satisfying and productive, leading her to her present position as Advanced Practice Physiotherapist with the Arthritis Program at the Toronto Western Hospital. Along the way, she completed a Master’s degree in Epidemiology and Community Health, acquiring tools to more effectively conduct research and relate results. She is now a Clinical Investigator with the Krembil Research Institute at the Toronto Western hospital.
As a clinician at TWH, she works mainly with patients with Ankylosing Spondylitis, an inflammatory arthritis that predominately affects the spine but can also affect peripheral joints, bowels, skin and eyes. She finds working on a team particularly satisfying, as well as sharing her approach and findings with others in the field. She has presented at many conferences, published widely and is a lecturer in the Department of Physical Therapy at UofT.
Laura Passalent – yes, she’s married with three small children – is a trailblazer in the field of Advanced Clinical Practice. With physiotherapy training being offered at a Master’s level since the year 2000, the profession has taken its place along with other medical specialties, moving into areas of research and specialization. Fascinating times for the profession – from the standpoint of practitioners and those of us observing from the sidelines.