~Resolving muscular issues one patient at a time~
Helping patients recover from difficult and usually painful muscular, joint and nerve issues and injuries makes St. Maarten-born and raised physical therapist Michael Benjamin tick.
Benjamin has been a Physical Therapist at Integrated Health and Rehab at A.Th. Illidge Road since 2005. In addition to his daily job, he also uses his expertise as an aqua jogging coach at the Carib Swim Team pool, is a Lecturer and Physical Education instructor at University of St. Martin and is a board member of the Windward Islands Physical Therapist Association (WIPTA).
The 34-year-old, "happily married," father of two speaks about his tasks in this week's Health and Beauty.
Who is Michael Benjamin?
"I am an island-man, husband, father, brother, son, friend, physical therapist, coach and lecturer who loves life! I am definitely an optimist and generally a humble and soft-spoken person."
When did you discover your love for the health care field and specifically for physical therapy?
"I always wanted to do something in healthcare. When I was much younger I considered studying to become a veterinarian, but it wasn't until I really had to make a choice during my last year in high school that I discovered physical therapy. Before then, I never even knew it existed, much less in St. Maarten. But it was the combination of the medical field and sports/rehabilitation (and not wanting to stay in school forever) that led me to physical therapy."
What is it about being a Physical Therapist that you like?
"Helping people is very rewarding to me. Seeing someone who came into my clinic in a wheelchair end up walking and resuming normal daily life, or people who have had pain for years and tried many different remedies finally get relief is what I love about my job!"
Where were you educated; what did you study and when?
"I received my Bachelor's of Science Degree in Leiden in The Netherlands in 2005. Before that I did many different courses in personal training and group fitness classes, also in The Netherlands. After 2005, I took different courses, including aquatic therapy, dry-needling and manual therapy in Curaçao, Florida and New York."
"I worked at Sport City Leiden and The Hague as a fitness instructor, personal trainer, aerobics and spinning instructor from 2000 to 2004. From 2005 to now I have been a Physical Therapist at Integrated Health and Rehab Centre at A.Th. Illidge Road. I have also been the aqua jogging coach at the Carib Swim Team pool from 2008 to today. I have also been a Lecturer and Physical Education instructor at University of St. Martin (USM) from 2012 to the present."
How long have you been a physical therapist in St. Maarten?
"This year marks 10 years that I have been a physical therapist in St. Maarten. Time surely flies when you're having fun."
What do your tasks entail?
"In a nutshell is entails evaluating, diagnosing and treating patients with muscle, joint and/or nerve complaints. As well as the whole administrative part of making appointments and keeping track of the progress of each patient."
What differentiates you from other physical therapists in the field?
"I'm not sure actually! I guess only my patients who have also been treated by someone else can really answer that. But I have been told by doctors who refer their patients to us that I'm very patient with some of the more difficult cases."
Best aspects of being in a physical therapist?
"Seeing people recover from difficult and usually painful situations and injuries."
How do you think you contribute to a better society via your position?
"I never really thought of myself as someone who really contributes to society. I just try to help each individual who comes to our clinic as best I can. I try to help my aqua joggers lead healthier lives. As a board member of the Windward Islands Physical Therapist Association WIPTA, I try to give my input and represent our profession in a positive way (of course this benefits me as well, though). I also try to enlighten and educate the USM students besides just giving gym class. So if any of this leads to a better society that's great!"
How do you think the field of physical therapy can be improved in St. Maarten?
"I think that quality of care is a term that is used a lot in health care. To improve, we need to continue to upgrade ourselves with courses and seminars. These are hardly ever available on the island."
What's the craziest/funniest/scariest thing that has happened in your line of work?
"I've had a scary moment with a neurological patient having a seizure during a treatment, and a crazy experience with someone who was so convinced she would fall if she went anywhere without her walker, that she would literally throw herself down if I took it from her to practise. Luckily she was quite tiny, so I could catch her every time she did."
As a board member of the Windward Islands Physical Therapy Association, what issues do you think the association should focus on and why?
"The Association has come a long way when it comes to unifying all the therapists on the Dutch side of the island, informing the public and improving relationships with insurance companies and other health care professionals. I would like to see us continue to improve on all of these points."
Why did you decide to join the association board?
"Initially we wanted each clinic to have a representative on the board. I'm happy to represent my clinic and give my input when I can for my profession. It was kind of a no-brainer."
What are some of the major issues affecting physical therapists in St. Maarten and in the Windward Islands?
"If we want to keep our quality up, we need to continue upgrading ourselves. The cost of this is only increasing. Improving communication and correspondence with insurance companies and other disciplines are some of the more important issues in my opinion."
"Professionally I would like to see our clinic continue to grow and provide quality care in even more ways. Personally I want to be the best father to my kids and husband to my wife."
"Basketball, music, movies and sneakers."
"Letting people down... and spiders."