Casting + Directed + Shot + Edited by Carolina Aguirre
Dr. Sophia Fong is a 34-year-old Chinese American who finds joy in improving peoples’ lives. She's been practicing physical therapy for the past 10 years and absolutely love it. So many opportunities to meet a new face every day, to listen and understand their injury, and then teach them the knowledge needed to return to sport.
"I grew up being very active in sports. I don’t think I was ever good at doing anything, like math or any of the sciences. I showed no interest in excelling in those subjects. All I wanted to do was play outside and use my athletic body’s capabilities to the max. I have always been interested in how the human body operates and then figuring out how to navigate through injuries to become the best athlete one can be.
Admittedly, I am a very shy person, but the 6 years of PT school and clinical rotations helped me realize that Physical Therapy is just really connecting with another human being.
Talking to patients, that’s the easy part. "
- Dr. Sophia Fong
They come to you in a vulnerable state and are looking up to you for help. I’m there to piece together their symptoms and figure out the source of pain and dysfunction.
Being a physical therapist is such a rewarding profession. There is so much joy in knowing that I had a role in improving a person’s quality of life.
Right before shelter-in-place took place, I had scheduled surgery for my knee and didn't know what it would be like or how safe it was to have it done during that time.
I had already planned to take time off from the clinic, so there was a bit of a relief to know that I would not have to go in during the start of the pandemic.
At the beginning of the pandemic, I was worried about the status of the clinic. As the number of COVID cases/deaths got worse, the future for us was uncertain. The number of patients slowed down dramatically. One by one, patients canceled their appointments; other days, the clinic shut down early because no one was scheduled.
While I was at home recovering from my knee surgery, the clinic was struggling to stay afloat. We got lucky in the second round of the Paycheck Protection Program, which supported all the employees of the clinic and another few months of rent.
We were also fortunate that we had already ordered all our supplies (i.e. alcohol, jugs of sanitizer and disinfectants, face sheets, and toilet paper) one month before lockdowns. All employees wore N95 facemasks by end of January and took extra cleaning precautions.
I was worried about the safety of my colleagues while I was on disability at home, for the next three months. When I was able to walk, I visited the clinic to get physical therapy rehabilitation for my knee. It felt like a foreign place walking in there - felt so sterile, empty treatment tables, no patients on the gym floor.
In my mind, I kept thinking: how we would bring patients in again, how do we make them feel safe enough within the clinic?
Just for my sanity, I would take a covid test every 2 weeks. But also, we had a sense of relief knowing that our patients were compliant to the masks and were willing to also get tested for everyone’s safety.
As the vaccines started to roll out for health care professionals, we were less stressed and scared about possibly contracting the virus every single day we were at work.
One year later…
We continue to wear masks at work even though the staff is fully vaccinated. I feel safe treating patients all day. The sense of normalcy has semi returned as new and returning patients come in. Masks are still required for patients, but everyone seems to be used to it and don't mind wearing them.
My current schedule is now back to back throughout the day, as well as my colleagues.
One thing I've taken from this past year is that people need human connection. When patients came in, I would be the only person they interacted or talked to that was outside their pod. Not only was I the person treating them, but I would also be their physical outlet. It was nice being that for them knowing that a lot of people did not have that ability or access during the pandemic. Not only was I able to help people as their physiotherapists through this rough year, but I felt fortunate enough to also be able to be there as someone they could talk to and connect with.
Find Dr. Sophia Fong, DPT
@ SOMA Sport & Physio in San Francisco