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Member Spotlight on Debra Engel, PT, DPT, MS

Tuesday, September 3, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Mariann Kayser
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Debra Engel, PT, DPT, MS


Professor at LaGuardia Community College in the PTA Program


Chairperson of the College Senate Curriculum Committee at LaGuardia Community College



September 2019

This month's member spotlight is on our recently elected NYPTA Secretary Debra Engel.


Debra has been a member of NYPTA for 36 years, joining in 1983 when she was a PT student at SUNY Buffalo.  Although she loves treating patients, her true passion is being in the classroom and working with students.  Debra credits being active in NYPTA with providing her the opportunity to make many lifelong friends and she has grown professionally because of her involvement.


2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the PTA, and Debra believes a key opportunity in the PT profession is to better pair with our PTA team members to improve quality patient care. If you attend the October Conference and see Debra, take a moment to chat with her further about her thoughts on this matter and her vision for the future of NYPTA in her new role as Secretary.


Enjoy the Q & A with Debra below.


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


I have been a member of NYPTA since 1983 when I was a PT student at SUNY Buffalo. It is very difficult to describe my “best” experience so far as a member (there have been many) but certainly one of the greatest honors has been being elected as NYPTA Secretary at this year’s Delegate Assembly.  


Tell us a little about your background and how your path led you to where you are in your career today.


I started my career in Physical Therapy as a Physical Therapist Assistant from Maria College in Albany where I grew up. I graduated with a BS in Physical Therapy from the State University of New York at Buffalo, an MS in Exercise Science from Brooklyn College and a DPT from Creighton University. Having a degree in Exercise Science and years of experience in Cardiopulmonary Rehab gave me the opportunities to teach cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation as an adjunct at SUNY Downstate, Long Island University and the College of Staten Island in the physical therapy programs.


I started teaching as an adjunct in the PTA Program at LaGuardia Community College in 1991 and joined the faculty full-time in 1998. I started as faculty and was the PTA Program Director from 2003-2012. Then, I was offered the honor of being the Chair of the College Senate Curriculum Committee in 2012 and in addition am teaching Functional Gait Training and Neuromuscular Rehabilitation. As a member of the college’s Assessment Leadership Committee, I have been on the team that leads the college-wide assessment process. 


What’s your favorite moment of your career so far?


One of my greatest honors in academia was earning Full Professor and being chosen as the Grand Marshall at graduation in 2016.   


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


Some of the key challenges facing the physical therapy profession are balancing the quantity of patients with the quality of treatment. So much pressure is put on PTs/PTAs to increase productivity yet maintain excellent treatment.


A key opportunity is to better pair with our PTA team members to improve quality patient care.


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


My best advice to a new professional is to get involved in your local NYPTA district and find good mentors. When I first graduated, I got involved in the Brooklyn/Staten Island District and then in the Greater New York District. I have received excellent mentoring over the years, been given incredible opportunities and have made lifelong friends.  Without my NYPTA involvement, I would never have grown as much as I have as a professional, an academic, a presenter, a leader and a mentor.


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


Never stop learning, studying, growing and stepping outside of your comfort zone. Only when you accept new challenges will you truly develop your skills and abilities. In addition, advocate for your profession. Get involved in lobbying efforts at the district level. We all need to get involved. 


What are you passionate about?


I am my happiest in the classroom. Although I love treating patients, I feel that my greatest talent lies in teaching. No matter what is happening in the world and in my life, when I walk into the classroom, I know I have to give 110%. Every day is different and a new challenge but the payback are the students’ smiles at graduation and pinning.


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


My husband is an emergency room physician and my son is a medical student so we have a very active and busy household. We work hard and play hard and I love cooking, traveling, theatre and gardening.


What is your favorite app or social media outlet?


One of my favorite apps is Facebook and since I have lived in different parts of the state and have friends and family out of state and overseas it has been a great way to keep in touch. I also love the travel apps and am constantly looking for bargains.


What is your guilty pleasure?


A piece of chocolate and a glass of wine is my guilty pleasure to end the day.



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