The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires. — William Arthur Ward, American scholar
Heather Leigh Hettrick, PT, PhD, CWS, CLT, CLWT got hooked on wound care as the result of a 3-hour lecture at Chapman University in Orange, CA, presented as part of her physical therapy course. That lecture by adjunct instructor Tracey Mullan inspired her, partly because of the content and partly because of Tracey’s obvious passion for her patients. By the end of the presentation, Heather had decided to do her acute care rotation in a burn center (Harborview, Seattle, WA), where her life and career path were forever changed.
Upon graduation, Heather was hired by Torrance Memorial Medical Center (Torrance, CA) as a staff PT to work in the burn unit and subsequently cross-trained in wound care. Since then, she has dedicated her entire professional career to skin dysfunction and has been fortunate to work in different capacities and in various settings.
Heather earned her Master of Physical Therapy from Chapman University in 1995 and her PhD in Physical Therapy from Nova Southeastern University (Fort Lauderdale, FL) in 2003. She has been a licensed PT for 19 years with expertise in integumentary function and dysfunction. She is also a Certified Wound Specialist (ABWM), Certified Lymphedema Therapist (ACOLS), and internationally dual certified in Lymphedema and Wound Care (ILWTI).
Currently, Heather is an Associate Professor at Nova Southeastern University in the Department of Physical Therapy. “As an academician, my passion and scholarly interests primarily involve the integumentary system,” she says. “As an Associate Professor, my time is spent teaching future Doctors of Physical Therapy (DPT) about the integumentary system and the PT’s role in wound, burn, and lymphedema management.” Heather is also the Program Director for the Lymphatic Filariasis Clinic at Hospital St. Croix in Leogane, Haiti. Along with numerous colleagues and collaborators, Heather is relaunching Complete Decongestive Therapy Services with modified protocols for successful management of lymphedema in resource-poor areas.
Heather’s work history also includes Assistant Professor and Director of Clinical Education at the University of New Mexico (Albuquerque, NM) in the Division of Physical Therapy, and Vice President of Academic Affairs and Education for American Medical Technologies (Rosemont, IL), a durable medical equipment company specializing in long-term care. During that time, Heather was also the Chief Creative Officer for Applied Computer Education Services Inc (Irving, CA), an educational company that creates didactic and interactive learning modules in a unique virtual environment through advances in technology. She also was a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Therapy at New York University (New York, NY) and adjunct faculty at Drexel University (Philadelphia, PA). “I am very interested in exploring and creating new ways to teach and learn through emerging technologies,” she says. “My teaching philosophy reflects my belief that learning should be fun and engaging. Knowledge transfer is improved through a multimodal approach that supports all aspects of adult learning. Interactive, immersive environments enhance the learning experience. My goal is to provide unique learning opportunities and formats for students to embrace content areas they may not have considered important or relevant. I also foster a collaborative work environment to support creativity and free-thinking.”
Today’s entry-level PT students are prepared to be generalists. Clinical doctorate (DPT) graduates focus on the function and dysfunction of the body systems; such programs create restorative practitioners with skills in health and wellness, prevention, functional intervention, exercise, and education. Skin, the largest organ system of the body, is a vital component within PT education, and PTs are uniquely trained to address impairments associated with skin dysfunction as well as the skin dysfunction directly associated with many diseases, conditions, and trauma. Heather believes PTs can be valuable wound care team members and a great resource for prevention and intervention strategies.
Some people may be surprised by the PT’s role in wound treatment; duties include performing sharp debridement of nonviable tissue, managing functional impairments associated with the wound, and helping hasten wound healing by applying various biophysical agents and creating individualized exercise programs for patients with wounds, burns, and lymphedema. Heather likes to quote Carrie Sussman, PT, DPT, when describing the PT’s role in wound management: “We treat the whole patient, not just the hole in the patient.”
Just as Tracey Mullan ignited her interest, Heather hopes to inspire her students to explore options in providing wound care. Her continued passion for teaching the next generation of PTs the ins and outs of tissue healing, mobility, and skin dysfunction, allows Heather to view her responsibilities not as work but as a calling to her scope of practice.
This article was not subject to the Ostomy Wound Management peer-review process.