This month’s PT of the month is Itamar Stern, owner and therapist at our Central Phoenix physical therapy location. Autographed jerseys adorn the walls of Itamar’s Foothills Central Phoenix location. The receptionists and therapists greet the morning’s customers by name as the day begins, but Itamar’s day started hours ago.
“I usually start with a workout – that’s meditation for me – kind of get myself ready for the day,” he says. After weight lifting, Itamar begins his day with administrative work; anything from reviewing numbers and stats or meeting with referral sources. After the paper work, Itamar treats patients at the Phoenix physical therapy location. “Eight hours a day, straight. There’s no breaks for me.” At the end of the day he spends time reviewing what the team needs to improve on, planning treatments for the next day, and doing his documentation of each day. “It makes for a long day,” Itamar says, “Usually it starts around seven AM with a workout and usually ends around 10 PM when my head hits the pillow.”
Itamar is no stranger to long days, beginning his path to physical therapy as a professional basketball player in his hometown of Tel Aviv, Israel. After a string of injuries saw him spending hours in physical therapy, Itamar says he felt he could do the job himself. “After a while I thought, ‘I can do this. I actually enjoy doing this.” He decided to go to school during his last four years of playing professionally with Maccabi Tel Aviv, earning his degree in Physical Therapy from the University of Tel Aviv School of Medicine. “It’s definitely helped,” Itamar says, “Experiencing some of these injuries on yourself and then entering into the field where you’re treating people with the same injuries.” Following his graduation from medical school in 1998, Itamar worked in the military at a rehab facility for three months but had already served his time in the military and chose to leave Israel for the United States.
He settled in California where he worked at Centinela Hospital before moving to a private setting at Santa Monica Orthopedic and Sports Medicine, where he started as a staff therapist and later become the director. But after an earthquake “shook up” Itamar and his wife, they transplanted to Phoenix, where he worked for nine years at a different downtown phoenix physical therapy clinic.
After his initial plans to purchase that clinic fell through, Itamar decided to look elsewhere to open his own clinic. His friend and colleague, Mike Basten owned Foothills Physical Therapy in Ahwatukee and was looking to open a location in Phoenix. He and Michael partnered and together opened the second Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy location in 2004.
Outside of the office, Itamar is kept busy spending time traveling with his wife, often to visit his sons in California and Ohio. He enjoys watching basketball, specifically the Suns and local college and high school teams. Although he no longer plays the sport professionally, he stays fit lifting weights and mountain biking.
Itamar loves providing Phoenix physical therapy and although he says the least enjoyable part of his job are the two or more hours a day spent on administrative work, it is all worth it to see the patient improve. On what he likes most about his job, Itamar says he and his staff give everything they can to make their patients better.
“There’s no time limitation. They’re coming here for you to help them, so you’re going to help them. Every time they leave they’re leaving with something they didn’t have before. Whether it’s an instruction, an exercise, or an idea. They feel like they’ve accomplished something and a big part of managing pain is the feeling of accomplishment. You are able to do something that you weren’t able to do before. Maybe it’s one pushup, maybe it’s lifting a two pound weight, maybe it’s reaching behind your head to brush your hair; every little thing is an improvement and when you achieve an improvement you feel a lot better about yourself. That’s very rewarding.”
To schedule an appointment with Itamar and his staff at their phoenix physical therapy location or to learn more about the rest of the Foothills team, contact us today!