News & Press: Member Spotlight

Member Spotlight on Adam Rufa, PT, DPT

Wednesday, May 1, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Gloria Baker
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Adam Rufa, PT, DPT

Board Certified Clinical Specialist in Orthopaedic Physical Therapy

Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

Assistant Professor, SUNY Upstate Medical University




May 2019

Adam has been an NYPTA member for 19 years.  Based on his past job experiences, Adam was considering being a private practice owner, when he got a call from his alma mater SUNY Upstate Medical University looking to fill a teaching position.  Seven years later he is excited to go to work (just about every day.  One of the aspects Adam enjoys about academics is research.  He has the best of both worlds in teaching the next generation of PTs and producing research to enhance the understanding of pain and treating patients.


Take a few minutes and get to know this month's member spotlight with us! Enjoy the Q&A with Adam below.

How long have you been a member of the NYPTA? What is your best experience thus far?


I have been a member of the NYPTA for about 19 years. I didn’t get involved with professional advocacy for the first 7 years of my career. I was caught up with trying to figure out how to be a good PT and I didn’t give professional involvement much thought. Then I went to my first delegate assembly and I was amazed at all the great work members were doing for the profession. A few years later I attended my first House of Delegates which solidified my commitment to stay involved in the profession.  


Tell us a little about your background, and how your path led you to where you are in your career today. What’s your favorite moment of your career so far?


When I graduated PT school in 2002 I saw myself being a private practice owner. My first job was in a small outpatient private practice owned by two great PTs who were very involved in the profession. Over the next several years I worked for 2 other private practices and was fortunate to have strong clinical and business mentors.


I was still strongly considering being a business owner when I got a call from my alma mater, SUNY Upstate Medical University. One of their faculty members was retiring and they needed someone to teach their Orthopedics course. I had not thought much about academics but figured I would give teaching the course a try. I can still remember driving in on the first day with a sinking feeling and wondering what made me think I could actually teach a class.


After teaching that class I realized that academics would be a great fit for me. It would give me the opportunity to teach, perform research, be of service to the profession, and continue with patient care. It wasn’t until 3-4 years after teaching that first class that I was hired as a fulltime faculty member at SUNY Upstate.


I have now been a faculty member for 7 years and I am excited to go to work (just about) every day. I get to spend time with motivated students and colleagues, and I am constantly challenged to learn more and be a more effective professor.


One aspect of academics I have really enjoyed is research. It is fun to come up with an idea, design a project and work with a team to make it happen. I wasn’t expecting to go back to school for a third time but to help improve my skills as a researcher I started a PhD program at NOVA Southeastern University. This has been a great experience and I will hopefully be finished in the next year.     


What are some of the key opportunities and challenges facing the physical therapy profession?


I think one of the biggest challenges for the profession is staying responsive to the literature. There is so much good literature being produced and it is essential that we continue to change based on the best available evidence. We also need to work hard on creating a strong brand for our profession. Consumers and policymakers need to see us as the highly educated professionals that we are.  


What advice would you give NYPTA members who are new to the profession? 


Stay humble, take a skeptical approach to analyzing your clinical experience (confirmation bias is difficult to spot), and learn how to be a strong critical thinker.


What is a favorite tip you have that you could share with others in our industry?

Learn how to think, not what to think. This is not easy, but improving my critical thinking skills has been extremely valuable in all aspects of my life. 


What are you passionate about? 


I am passionate about empowering patients with chronic pain to live the best life they can. I get to do that by teaching the next generation of PTs, producing research to enhance our understanding of pain, and by treating patients.  


What else would you like your fellow NYPTA Members to know about you?


I have three great kids (Amelia 13, Oliver 11, and Will 11), a wife who is very supportive, a dog who likes to sleep, and three leopard geckos who don’t do much but eat mealworms. I like to take on building projects around the house (working on finishing the basement right now) and I have a disassembled 1953 Ford F-100 in my garage that I plan on putting back together someday. I also get out on the ice and play hockey when I get a chance.    


What is your favorite app or social media outlet?


My students all talk about Snapchat and Instagram but I am old fashioned and stay on Facebook and Twitter. Social media has its problems, but interacting with brilliant physical therapists online has been a big influence on my development as a critical thinker and professional. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter! @arufa  


What is your guilty pleasure?


I really like eclairs. Delicious flaky crust, sweet chocolate on top and creamy custard in the middle. How could you not like that?



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