Can you change someone’s life today?
When you surround yourself with good people who put others first, believe in the idea of a team, and all work towards the same common goal, you set yourself up for success. Northern Physical Therapy is celebrating it’s 25th anniversary this year and co-owners Janis Kemper and Gina Otterbein are taking some time to reflect on the path that brought them here.
“After 30 years of working in this field, I can honestly say I still love this profession,” said Kemper. “I find it so gratifying to see a patient come in on crutches and a few weeks later walk without an assistive device or a limp – physical therapy works!”Kemper and Otterbein became business partners over 15 years ago when they purchased Northern Physical Therapy. What may have seemed like an unlikely partnership, quickly proved to be a recipe for success that would grow the company to it’s current 10 clinics, with the hopes of adding a few more in the future.
“Going into PT I didn’t see myself being a business owner, but some stroke of the universe brought Gina and I together. If I’m the peanut butter she’s the jelly, I’m the yin and she’s the yang… you get the idea,” jokes Kemper. “Our strengths are opposite and while Gina has said she feels lucky to have such a great clinician as a business partner, the truth of the matter is I’m lucky to have a partner that has such a great knowledge of business!”
While the two women may have different strengths when it comes to running a business, they do have one thing in common, and that’s attracting like minded people who share their passion for helping others.
Julie Blodgett is the Clinic Director of the Sparta location, but she’s also Gina’s older sister, and the person who inspired Gina to become a physical therapist. Julie knew early on that she wanted to pursue a career that would allow her to serve others.
“In high school I participated in a career observation day with a physical therapist who was working with a med school student that suffered a traumatic brain injury in an auto accident. The therapists were helping him to regain his ability to sit without support and use his arms again. This experience had a great impact on me, as these therapists were providing hope and help to someone that had just had a catastrophic, life-changing event. At that moment I knew this was exactly what I wanted to do.”
“Northern feels like home to me. I love being part of a team that is universally committed to doing our best work in order to provide excellent care for our clients. It gives me joy to help people become a better version of themselves, and working for a company that supports this and is “all about the people” feels like I am home.” Julie Blodgett
Alongside Julie in Sparta is Cathy DeBerti, who also felt the calling to physical therapy in high school. As a lifeguard at the community recreation center, Cathy was teaching a seven year old girl who had downs syndrome how to swim. Working with the young girl led her to pursue a career in the field of physical therapy. Cathy has been with Northern for 13 years and she values the way the leadership embraces the differences in each team member. She explains, “there are a lot of clinicians working for Gina and Janis and we’re all different, we all have different ways of treating. Those differences are encouraged, we’re never expected to be, act, or treat the same, we’re all led to feel good about what we bring to the table.”
“Gina and Janis have taught me that you will do great work if you’re passionate about what you do. In the end the results will speak for themselves.” Lisa Otterbein-Bolek, Physical Therapist and Clinic Director in Comstock Park/Grand Rapids
As Northern has continued to grow, Otterbein and Kemper have placed special emphasis on mentoring team members to bring out the best in them, and give them the ability to advance in the organization.
Cedar Springs Clinic Director, David Sefton, has learned from Otterbein and Kemper that leadership is about serving others well. He notes that when you look to the interests of others and use empathy, you can accomplish great things with your team.
“I love empowering patients to see their potential. We have immense challenges in life, and there is grace in discovering our bodies’ abilities to heal, overcome, and transform as we move forward.” David Sefton, Physical Therapist and Clinic Director in Cedar Springs
Sefton recalls an experience working with a patient who had overcome cancer and was experiencing severe knee pain. Sefton empathized with the patient, who was discouraged about having to go through another surgery. They worked together before and after the surgery, and the patient showed extreme progress. Recently Sefton received a thank you card from the patient that included a photo of him skiing. This unexpected memento was a reminder of how much joy you get from helping patients live their life to the fullest again.
“I love watching the patient’s transformation inside and out as they struggle and grow through therapy to achieve their physical goals.” Diana Painter, Physical Therapist in Cedar Springs
While patient care has always been the top priority at Northern Physical Therapy, getting out in the community is a close second. Northern has strategically chosen mainly rural settings for most of their clinics. Being in a small community allows them to really get involved, get to know community members, and make a positive difference.
“When I hear a patient’s story I feel honored knowing I get to play a small part in their journey to recovery. It’s so rewarding seeing people on their discharge day, knowing they’re finally able to get back to their normal routine.” Jessica Valiquette, Patient Coordinator in Coopersville
Lisa Otterbein-Bolek, Clinic Director in Comstock Park, says “being committed to your community is key because you have to serve others before thinking about yourself.” This mentality is shared by others and is at the forefront of all that Northern Physical Therapy stands for.
In addition to serving on various school, community, Rotary, and Chamber of Commerce boards, team members are often encouraged to volunteer time with organizations that are meaningful to them. Julie Blodgett adds “I absolutely love that our staff and families volunteer for the Miracle League by buddying up with a youth baseball player to assist and cheer them on during the game. These kids are so fun to be around and I am certain that I get more out of this special event than I actually give.”
As Otterbein reflects on the idea of 25 years she can’t help but think about the reason she comes to work every day. “We have a way of energizing, inspiring and supporting each other in so many ways. I’ve also witnessed countless patients who’s lives have changed because we’ve supported them in an effort to achieve something great. The impact of that combined with knowing how much better I feel personally, because of working with our physical therapists for my sports rehab issues makes me want to share how much physical therapy can help anyone on their path to recovery, health, or greater fitness.”
Northern Physical Therapy excited to announce the opening of their 10th west Michigan clinic in Caledonia on September 4, 2018. If you’re experiencing pain and are looking for exceptional care that’s close to home, schedule a complimentary injury consultation with a physical therapist at any Northern Physical Therapy clinic. More information can be found at www.northernpts.com.
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