An Interview with David Anekwe – MPT-North Academic Site Lead

David Anekwe – MPT-N Academic Site Lead

Q: Tell us about your PT background and how you came to practice in the North?

A: I graduated from a five-year entry-level PT program at the University of Nigeria Nsukka as the best graduating student of the department and faculty for the 2000 graduating sect. After I graduated in 2000, I worked as a physiotherapist at the Nigerian Army Teaching Hospital for one year. Next, I took up the challenge of starting a new physiotherapy department in a tertiary health care facility, Federal Medical Centre in Ido-Ekiti, located in a rural community in Nigeria. This tertiary institution didn’t have a single physiotherapist. I was saddled with the responsibility of designing and writing the proposal that birthed this physiotherapy department.

After about ten years, the department had grown and become home to 16 full-time physiotherapists and 22 support staff. I received several commendations from the hospital within this period for my contribution to the hospital and the community at large. Within these ten years, I became the clinical head and rotated through and served at different times as the unit head for the cardiorespiratory, orthopedics, neurology rehabilitation, and pediatrics. I also started the new obstetrics and gynecology unit of the department. 

In 2011, I left the hospital to the School of Physical and Occupational Therapy of McGill University, where I completed a Masters and PhD program as well as worked as an instructor in the Master of Physical Therapy program.  On completion of my PhD in 2018, I became faculty at McGill University and in 2019, I  began my postdoctoral training at Concordia University in addition to my teaching at McGill. While at McGill University, I learned of the disparity in the availability of health care service in the Rural and Northern regions of British Columbia and the noble idea of starting a fully distributed UBC program in the North. I got the passion to get involved and contribute to the success of this noble vision, and that was the start of the journey that brought me to the North. 

Q: Tell us about your role as the MPT-N Academic Site Lead.

A: I took up the role of the MPT-N Academic Site Lead in June 2020 amidst the COVID pandemic. It was a challenging time when using Zoom was and is still the order of the day. I had to adapt from the experience of being a standing teacher (during classes) and standing PT (during clinical rounds) to seating and looking at the screen all day long in zoom meetings. Unarguably I was the first faculty member at UBC PT Department to complete a full online-only orientation. Nonetheless, I was able to integrate fully into the department, take on the full responsibility as a course coordinator for one of the block A courses in the fall 2020 term and also assume the responsibility for the day-to-day operations of the academic portion of the MPT-N program. 

Within thirty days of arriving in Prince George, as the MPT-N Academic Site Lead, along with the MPT-N team, we were able to recruit eleven PTs from the North as Clinical Skill Assistants for 15 unique positions in the MPT program. With the help and corporation of everyone in the department and the MPT-N team in the North, we have successfully been able to get the program up and running these first six weeks of the Fall term.

Q: What advice would you give to PT’s working in rural settings?

A: The rural setting is a unique and special environment to work in as a health worker, and I must offer my respect and appreciation to these PTs who dedicate their expertise to serving in resource-poor settings. My piece of advice would be for these PTs to seize every opportunity that comes their way to increase their cross-professional knowledge and competency as this will be an asset to every patient that they encounter in an environment with limited access to healthcare. Another advice is to remember that it takes hard work and perseverance to see long time results, so they have to keep at it (just like the concerted efforts of over 30 years have led to the inception of MPT-N).

Q: Who inspires you and why?

A: I am a practicing Christian, and my greatest inspiration comes from Jesus, who lived and gave His life for the sake of humanity. I have learned from Him that the purpose we are alive is to live for and serve humanity, and that is how we can make the world a better place for all.

Q: What are some challenges in getting more Physical Therapists practicing in remote areas?

A: One of the greatest challenges is the lack of exposure of PTs to the needs that exist in these remote areas. Humans are naturally compassionate beings and many will volunteer to offer service when they see the need. But because most PT training schools, as well as other health care professions, are often located in big cities, there is limited exposure of students in training to these remote settings. This reason is one of the reasons I believe that the full distribution of the UBC MPT program to the North will create exposure, which is a first step to getting in more PTs in these areas.

Q: What do you enjoy about working in a remote/rural/northern city?

A: I love nature and the serene environment in BC’s Northern capital. I have seen a moose and a bear, which is exciting for me to see that I  share the same natural environment with these wonderful creatures. I am on the lookout for cougars, deer and other inhabitants of this environment. 

Also, the quietness and the warmth of the people around me has meant less stress for me and a better quality of life in comparison to the fast-paced and noisy life of bigger cities.

Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of teaching students?

A: I see teaching as a multiplier-effect medium to impact the world at large through potential agents of change who, although they work within a small learning environment like the classroom, they are strong and positive forces when they are released to the larger society. This is for me the most rewarding aspect of teaching students. 

Q: How do you like to relax?

A: With my lovely and supportive family. We usually take a walk most evenings to see nature and a breath of fresh air or enjoy dinner together over a movie.

Q: What is your best advice?

A: Give your best to everything that you do. As the wise King Solomon put it in the Christian Holy Book, “Every time you find work to do, do it the best you can. In the grave, there is no work. There is no thinking, no knowledge, and there is no wisdom. And we are all going to the place of death.” Ecclesiastes 9:10