By Wendy Campbell:
Welcoming immigrants has long been an important part of the Canadian landscape – their contributions to our culture and our lives help make our country the rich and varied place we love. Helping foreign trained professionals adjust to life and work here is an ongoing and important part of the process. With the Ontario Internationally Educated Physical Therapy Bridging Program, physiotherapy plays its part, offering educational and practical opportunities for internationally trained PT’s to integrate their skills, knowledge and experience into the Canadian health care context.
The programs exist in several provinces. The Ontario version began in 2011 and was the brainchild of Sharon Switzer-Mcintyre, who continues to be its Director and driving force, in addition to her many other responsibilities.
I’m always fascinated by the trajectory taken by lives and careers. Both PT’s and OT’s offer rich material in this realm and Sharon is a no exception. Her professional life began with a BPE at McMaster in 1982, followed by BScPT in 1985 at UofT, an MEd in Organizational Development and Adult Education at OISE in 1995 and, in 2004, a PhD in Occupational Health at the Institute of Medical Science at UofT.
Her involvements during her career have been as varied and intersected as her areas of study. Her first position, in the early 80’s, was with the Sports Injury Clinic in the Department of Athletics at UofT. Over the years Sharon has played a valuable role as a volunteer at the Pan Am Games, the Special Olympics and in the Invictus games that we all followed avidly in Toronto in 2017. Her skills and experience in physical therapy and her commitment to physical fitness and adult education make her an ideal resource to plan and manage venues and provide support to athletes.
As a clinician, Sharon entered industry in the early 90’s and was involved in workplace issues at Northern Telecom, Ontario Hydro and FIT For Work Centres. From 1993 to 2015 she was President of Health Transforms, where, as sole proprietor/consultant, she provided assistance to workplaces with issues related to occupational health and return to work strategies. She is an active member of the Orthopaedic Division of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association.
As well as leading to the Bridging Program, her interest in education brought her to the Department of Physical Therapy at UofT where she has taught in the musculoskeletal area for the past quarter century and is currently Vice Chair of Education. In 2018 she became an Associate Professor and in 2019 was appointed Program Director of the MScPT program.
She was recognized and honoured by students in the Program when they named her a Rising Star in the profession for 10 consecutive years from 2007 – 2017. So, in fields of education, clinical practice and sport, Sharon has owned the podium in physiotherapy. Her zest for our profession and for life continues to inspire all of us.