From LSVT BIG Clinician to Director of Clinical Education for DPT Students

Kimberly Willis, PT, DPT, EdD, shares her experience with LSVT BIG® as a treating clinician and now as Director of Clinical Education at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

Tell us about your early career path and how it led to LSVT BIG.

I graduated from the University of Mississippi Medical Center School of Health Related Professions, Department of Physical Therapy in 1995 and immediately started working in an inpatient rehabilitation center with patients who had been diagnosed with neurological conditions.  I continued in that setting for nine years and then transitioned to an outpatient setting, specific to neurological diagnoses. It was during this time in my career that I began hearing about a different way to treat people diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, LSVT BIG. The more I learned about it, then more I knew that LSVT BIG was the next great tool to add to my toolbox of treatment ideas. In 2012, I became one of the first two physical therapists in Mississippi to become LSVT BIG certified. What a game-changer it was for the treatment of my patients who were diagnosed with PD! My OT colleague and I went out “on the circuit” and met with several PD support groups and hosted screening days. What a huge difference it made in my patients’ lives!

Describe your current career and how LSVT BIG continues to be a part of it.

In 2014, I transitioned into the academic side of physical therapy with my alma mater.  I teach the progressive neurologic disorders content and am the Director of Clinical Education (DCE), which is a perfect marriage of academia and clinical for me. In 2016, I added LSVT BIG to my course content in an effort to provide options to our 2nd-year students and to tell them about my experiences I had with it while in the clinical environment.  Later that year, several of those same students approached me on how they could become LSVT BIG certified. From there it was history! I reached out to LSVT Global and was told that I could help facilitate their online LSVT BIG Training and Certification course, which I was happy to do.

Since that year, I have helped students from four different cohorts become LSVT BIG certified. These students are excited about the option of a great treatment tool to add to their toolbox prior to starting their final clinical experiences! Being the DCE of our program has allowed me to hear about some of those students’ experiences when working with a clinical instructor who is LSVT BIG certified. I love to hear the excitement in their voices when they tell me stories of how they have been able to make a difference in their patients’ lives!

What do you love about LSVT BIG?

I think for me, I have enjoyed the additional treatment option for my patients with PD. It is a treatment that I have seen successful outcomes over and over in my clinical practice, and now I’m able to help educate our PT students about those benefits. Not all students ask about becoming LSVT BIG certified, but for those who do, they always come back with their own stories of success! It makes me feel that I have had a small part in those success stories, too! Lastly, I love the support that LSVT Global provides practitioners. They are always there to answer questions, to collaborate with me when I need them, and to offer continuing education opportunities.

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“It has been our utmost pleasure to assist Dr. Willis and many other university faculty in offering the LSVT BIG Training and Certification Course to their PT and OT students. Just as it has been rewarding for her to contribute to her students’ future success in this way, it has been equally gratifying for us to consider the future impact these students will make on the lives of patients with PD and other conditions over the course of their careers. For many universities, facilitating access to LSVT BIG training has become an important component of their program. Faculty and students appreciate the evidence supporting LSVT BIG, how it is based upon principles of neural plasticity and motor learning which the students learn in the classroom, and then how to integrate these concepts to positively impact patient outcomes.”

– Laura Guse, Chief Clinical Officer-LSVT BIG