On a given day, Lauren Mach, P.T., D.P.T., ATC, CCVT, might be working with a member of the Iowa Phoenix, the state’s only female tackle football team, or a Wombat, a member of a Des Moines men’s rugby team. She might be mentoring DMU physical therapy students as she leads an “arm care camp” for softball and baseball players to help them “bullet-proof” their shoulders and elbows and avoid injury. She might be watching from the sidelines of a high school hockey tournament, ready to assist as needed; treating an athlete who suffered a concussion; or guiding adults in exercises designed to maximize their physical performance.
“I love that my days are never the same. I have the flexibility and autonomy to do a lot of different things – patient care, athletic training and building relationships with people in the community,” she says. “My goal is to positively impact people’s lives from a physical therapy standpoint and a motivational standpoint.”
To build on her ability to have that impact, last fall Dr. Mach earned her Certificate of Competency in Vestibular Therapy (CCVT) from 360 Neuro Health. Also held by DMU physical therapist Michelle Brown, P.T., D.P.T., CCVT, the certificate equips clinicians to treat and manage acute concussion, persistent concussion syndrome, benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) and other conditions relating to damage of the vestibular system, which includes the parts of the inner ear and brain involved with controlling balance and eye movements.
“Dr. Brown has been a great colleague to talk with about these treatment approaches,” Dr. Mach says. “That’s part of the collaboration we have at the Physical Therapy Clinic on campus and at the RecPlex. We also have a sports medicine physician, Dr. Shannon Bauman, at the RecPlex. We have a unique environment and team atmosphere where we can literally walk across the hall to collaborate on care and provide the best patient experience.”
Dr. Mach chose to earn her CCVT primarily to serve athletes. “If someone has a direct or indirect head injury, it’s really important they are seen within 72 hours by a medical provider who specializes in concussion management,” she says. “Concussion symptoms may not appear immediately. Athletes may develop symptoms a day or two later.”
The DMU physical therapy department was selected by West Des Moines to be the exclusive provider of physical therapy services at the RecPlex, a nearly 300,000-square-foot facility that features indoor and outdoor athletic spaces, meeting rooms, an Esports center and more. There, the University’s physical therapy providers and athletic trainers provide services to help people of all ages and abilities – individually, in teams and at athletic events – to enhance performance and avoid and recover from injuries.
The facility also creates new opportunities for DMU’s doctor of physical therapy (D.P.T.) students to gain skills. Dr. Mach and Shane McClinton, P.T., D.P.T., Ph.D., OCS, FAAOMPT, CSCS, a DMU physical therapist and associate professor, are advisers to the University’s Sports Medicine Club and frequently invite students to observe and help at athletic camps, baseline concussion testing, in athletic training event coverage and at other activities.
“I can’t say enough about the people involved here, from my colleagues and students to the RecPlex staff, coaches and athletes,” Dr. Mach says. “Our front desk staff members, who are the face of our clinic, are great at putting people at ease if they’re nervous about physical therapy.”
She especially enjoys the entrepreneurial aspects of her work, such as making new connections with athletes and teams in the region. She praises her colleagues, including Kari Smith, P.T., D.P.T., BCB-PMD, associate professor of physical therapy and manager of the DMU Physical Therapy Clinic, for their collaboration and support.
“I feel the sky is the limit here,” Dr. Mach says.