Molly Lechtenberg, D.P.T.’08, CMTPT, and Libby Trausch, D.P.T.’08, combined their training and expertise, passion for patient care and personal experiences to establish Breathe. Physical Therapy and Wellness in Des Moines’ Beaverdale neighborhood in 2016. Now with three locations, a fourth in the works and a team of physical therapists, including several DMU graduates, the two friends are proud of a practice that their patients say feels like “coming over to a friend’s house.”
On their last day as physical therapy students, Lechtenberg told Trausch her goal was to start her own business. First, she practiced in Independence, IA, and Des Moines after working as a traveling physical therapist for five years. Meanwhile, Trausch worked at MercyOne in Des Moines and then joined the DMU Physical Therapy Clinic. There, she gained knowledge and skills relating to women’s health, including pregnancy and postpartum conditions. Today, Breathe. serves women, men and families, but the majority of their practice serves women with such issues.
She and Lechtenberg can relate beyond their clinical skills; both experienced discomfort during their own pregnancies. They and their colleagues understand that too many women consider back and pelvic pain, headaches, breastfeeding discomfort and other issues to be unavoidable aspects of pregnancy and postpartum life.
“Our clients turn into clients for life. We take a holistic approach in our practice that’s truly patient-oriented.”Libby Trausch, D.P.T.’08
“Many women think they have to suffer through pregnancy and that it’s normal to have problems postpartum,” says Kaylee Carroll, D.P.T.’17, a member of the Breathe. team. “But these are issues that often can be treated.”
The expertise and empathy of Breathe’s physical therapists foster trust among patients and generate word-of-mouth referrals. The practice was voted “best physical therapist” by readers of Cityview, a central Iowa publication.
“Our patients don’t say, ‘You made me feel better.’ They say, ‘You guys changed my life!’” says Liz Lahr, D.P.T.’19, a Breathe. physical therapist.
That makes it all worth it for the practice’s staff. “Having a business can be hard. Molly and I could have chosen not to grow, but we knew there are so many people who need this,” Trausch says. “It’s rewarding to see the number of people we can impact.”
She praises the practice’s physical therapists, “especially the new grads,” for fully embracing Breathe’s holistic approach. “They can see the big picture and aren’t afraid to do something unique. Breathe. wouldn’t have 75 percent of the community impact it’s able to have without them. They push us to be better all the time,” she says.
Trausch also expresses “massive gratitude” to DMU for her training and the mentorship of Shane McClinton, M.S.P.T.’01, D.P.T.’07, Ph.D., OCS, FAAOMPT, CSCS, associate professor of physical therapy (“he showed me that each visit can be unique and how to think creatively”); the leadership of Kari Smith, M.S.P.T.’98, D.P.T.’04, BCB-PMD, manager of the DMU Physical Therapy Clinic (“if Kari hadn’t been on my side, probably none of the women’s health stuff we’re doing would have happened”); and the support of Traci Bush, M.S.P.T.’95, D.P.T., OTR/L, D.H.S., chair and director of the DMU physical therapy program (who allowed Trausch classroom hours to teach students women’s health, “which was so forward-looking a decade ago”). Breathe. sometimes refers patients to the DMU Physical Therapy Clinic.
“We’re always super-confident in sending those clients to the DMU Clinic,” Trausch says. “Breathe. owes a lot to DMU.”