Apr 21 2014

Tighe, Michael

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Professional Goal Statement

To obtain an advanced understanding of physical therapy concepts, evaluations, applications, and considerations, and to learn how to provide a tailored education on these same topics to multiple audiences including lay persons, patients, physicians, and clinicians.


Career Trajectory and Plan

  • Complete the required coursework and graduate from Clarkson University with a BS degree in Technical Communications. (1989)
  • Drift aimlessly for several years.
  • Move home to take care of a sick relative, am exposed to PT for the first time.
  • Complete the required coursework and graduate from the University of Buffalo with a BS degree in Physical Therapy, the last UB class to get one, as they upgrade to a Master’s degree. Complete 3 highly fractured 6 week affiliations, and somehow pass the license exam that a third of my classmates do not. (1996)
  • Drift aimlessly through practice for 16 years, rotating through all phases of PT except home health.  Great majority spent in critical care. Become an APTA credentialed clinical instructor.
  • Am invited to guest lecture on cardiopulmonary PT for the PTA program at Fayetteville Technical Community College.
  • Gradually expand to lecturing on Cardiopulm, Spinal Cord Injury management, and rehabilitation following Lower Limb amputation inc prosthetic training.  Start to provide evening and weekend inservices on PT and Critical Care issues.  Become interested in starting education programs, but realize that there is no way to advance in the field without an advanced degree.
  • Am forwarded an e-mail that UNC-CH is accepting bachelor’s candidates into the DPT program for the first time.
  • UNC-CH apparently mis-reads my application, accepts me into the program.  Foolish.
  • Complete the required coursework, hopeful to graduate from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a tDPT degree.  (May, 2014).
  • From here….?

The plan is hopefully not to drift aimlessly again!  To be honest, I am not sure where I expect to go from here.  But the time for change is fast approaching.  My ultimate goal is to get involved in the education aspect of this field, either at a university level, or in clinical education.  Whether that is in the clinic itself (the CI methods used at the Mayo Clinic seems intriguing) or traveling education…that’s the next question.  But I certainly feel better prepared to take this next step, after my time here at UNC-CH.


Before you shudder at the idea of me teaching something, anything…consider this segue into my self-assessment…



There have been times over the past two years that I have felt very, VERY overwhelmed.  Under prepared, or at least under educated, compared to those around me.  Outclassed, if not in completely over my head.  The knowledge base that today’s students bring to the table, whether it was the micro-understanding of the circuitry of the central nervous system (as I encountered in the 885 Neuro course), or the access to technology and electronic research tools (as I was exposed to in the summer 800 course).  It made me feel as if I had been standing still over the past 18 years. I am sure that all the classmates I encountered know so much more than I did when I graduated, all those years ago.

But maybe, that is what I can offer as I consider the transition to teaching.

The people I met here are brilliant, highly intelligent, naturally-gifted students.

I am not that way.  I have had to work very hard to learn what I have.  During my time in the field, I let some of those academic muscles get very out of shape!  But my courses here at UNC-CH had forced me to exercise those muscles again.  And maybe it is that “gift in the struggle”, that will allow me to fulfill a goal of teaching.

To use an analogy (a method I love to use in teaching), consider Michael Jordon, UNC alum.  Perhaps the most naturally-gifted basketball player ever, he had a freakishly high “basketball IQ”.  Many consider him to be the greatest basketball player of all time.  Yet as a coach, he has a losing record.

Phil Jackson was an undersized, under-talented, but gritty little player who managed to teach himself all the tiny little details of the game that allowed him to hang onto a marginal career as a professional player for several years.  But he is considered perhaps the greatest professional head coach the game as ever seen.

The very thing that made Michael Jordon exceptional as a player, his natural acumen for the game, was the very thing that made him a sub-par coach (read:  educator of the game).  Because it came so easily to him, he never had to learn how to learn the game.  He never had to teach himself, and without that skill, it was very difficult for him to teach others.  For Jackson, the learning skills he developed dovetailed naturally into the teaching aspect of the game.  It allowed him to teach others the skills needed to support the superstar Jordan, and allowed the Bulls to win 6 NBA titles.

I am hopeful that I cultivated similar skills here at UNC-CH.  I had to learn to navigate the electronic research systems, learn how to effectively support a treatment choice with scientific research, find ways to understand the theoretical constructs of the latest research.  I am hopeful that I can use the way that I learned HOW to learn this material, to in turn present this to my fellow clinicians in the field, to my patients in the clinic, in a meaningful, pragmatic way.

Objectives and Support of Success

One of my objectives was to gain a better understanding of the central nervous system in general, but an understanding of the vestibular system, in specific.  During the PHYT 885 Advanced Neuro course, I had the opportunity to really delve into the sometimes contradictory and confusing terminology used to describe vestibular dysfunction, as well as to learn about treatment methods including canalith repositioning techniques.  I think these papers, flaws and all, are fairly representative of what I was able to accomplish here, and areas that I hope to continue to work on in the post-graduate phase of my career.:  BPPV and PT Implications


A second objective was to learn more about some of the administrative processes of physical therapy.  For example, I had never developed an understanding of the nuts-and-bolts of preparing a project proposal in all the years I had been practicing.  Further, I had never really delved into the demographics of my clients and community in more than a cursory way.  The PHYT 824 Health and Wellness Course offered me a way to take what I thought to be intuitively obvious clinical issues, and translate them into language for a variety of audiences, including lay persons, administrators, and marketing personnel.  So please find here my proposal for “The Moving Van”, a balance-clinic-on-wheels:  The Moving Van

A third objective was to learn more about the technology of teaching, in a way that was different from the face-to-face way I had gotten used to.  The summer PHYT 800 Education course allowed me to get into a topic that is extremely intimidating for therapy clinicians:  deep vein thrombosis.  As well, it afforded me an opportunity to gain experience with advanced power point, the addition of clinical notes (wow, an actual script versus the extemporaneous way I had previously taught with ppt!), and learn how to add video technology to these presentations.  I also wanted something similar to what I later found in the PHYT 785 Advanced Ortho course, which is a modality that you learn additional material from on a repeated viewing.  So hear, minus a voice thread overview, is my presentation on DVT and PT Implications, a version of which I hope to offer to a continuing education company in the near future:

PT and Clotting Implications:


And finally, I needed to get out of my “old school” comfort zone, and get an understanding of web-based technology, and the process of putting together educational materials for a variety of audiences. What started out as an intimidating task to me turned out to be one of the most enjoyable things I have done during my entire time in the field of physical therapy.  I hope my capstone project is truly illustrative of what I have learned while I completed my coursework here:  http://mtigamputeecapstone.weebly.com




This may be an odd analogy, but I have to compare my time in the tDPT program to the role I still find most challenging:  parent.  Growing up, even thru my 20s, I never imagined myself good enough, smart enough, strong enough, to ever attain something akin to a doctorate degree.  In this same vein, this same time frame, I never imagined myself getting married, or God help us all, reproducing!

But now here I am, married, a father of two, and within range of obtaining a doctorate degree in a medical field!

One of my core beliefs is that the only truly bad experience is one we learn nothing from. Along those lines, truly great experiences offer us chances to learn things about the world and about ourselves that surprise us.  That may be the reason we are allowed to have children:  because of what we learn about ourselves.

My son, Hunter, has always been my “mini-me”.  Even when he was very little, the facial expressions he would assume when solving a problem or focusing on a task, were exactly like mine.  My wife often pointed and said to me:  “There, do you see?  That’s you!”  It was funny, in a self-ironic way.  She spoke truer than she realized.

My son has autism.  He struggles daily with focus on his studies, on understanding context, on trying to contain thoughts that sometimes seem to fly through his head at a thousand miles an hour.  The way his mind works can be frustratingly random.  He has memorized all the state and world capitals with almost no effort, but it will sometimes take he and I two hours to be able to focus enough to complete a basic math homework sheet.

As I look back on my experiences growing up, my up-and-down academic performances, the frustratingly random way MY mind works at times, I recognize myself.  He has provided me insight and understanding of myself that I would never have obtained alone.

The tDPT program here has similarly provided me an opportunity for self-reflection, to identify my strengths and weaknesses as a clinician and as a person.  As I outlined above, I have felt overwhelmed at times, unfocused, unsure if I truly have what it takes to meaningfully function in this field.  But I think I have learned how to accept and overcome the challenges instead of be fearful of them (you all as my instructors and graders will help me be the judge of that!).  I have certainly improved by ability to research properly, and gained an appreciation of how it is important for me to be involved in the governing role of APTA and NC PT Board of Examiners, instead of just throwing up my hands and complaining about the powers-that-be.

I look forward now, to being able to spend more time with my wife and kids, and to not being up until 2 in the morning typing term papers!  But I want to thank you for the opportunity to be included in the first group of clinicians with bachelor’s degrees to upgrade to the DPT.  I hope my contributions proved worthy of the honor!

One response so far

One Response to “Tighe, Michael”

  1.   Michelle Greenon 16 May 2014 at 2:00 pm

    Fantastic Michael! I am glad and sorry at the same time that I forwarded you that email about UNC:) But, I figure, I didn’t want to do it alone! Your self-reflection, though harsh, is the type of character you have always displayed in the clinic and with your patients. Your struggles have benefited them in the depth and breadth of your ability to educate and care!


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