A recent interview with Siobhan Duggan, PT and Julie Moylan, PT shows what makes THE Downtown Sports Clinics unique. And, it demonstrates how long and strong their friendship has been.
Their incredible energy and undying beliefs have driven the creation of a sports medicine clinic like no other.
The patient is the centre of our world.
Why did you want a clinic of your own in 1985?
Julie: Calgary was preparing to host the 1988 Winter Olympics and the city was starting to be sports-mad. There were only seven physiotherapy clinics in the city, and none were focused on sports injuries or the kind of “active” treatments we wanted to offer. I’d been treating athletes including amateurs and professionals –
Siobhan: – and she was doing it voluntarily –
Julie: – and there was nowhere these people were being treated in a way they should be treated. That is, understanding their sports and getting them back to an active lifestyle.
In Calgary, we were at the front of a trend of shifting gears from passive care to really active care. And it wasn’t just for the athletes. Research was showing this was the way all people stayed healthy and mobile. Exercise is medicine.
Siobhan: Our vision was for active treatment, and we needed a gym in our clinic. Nobody had that. I had $5,000 and a car. Julie had a bicycle and good business sense. We could see the opportunity.
How did you know that you were the perfect pair to start a new clinic?
Julie: We just happened to meet in a clinic in downtown Calgary where Siobhan was a top gun orthopaedic physiotherapist. I believed in her abilities and the work we could do together. I come from an entrepreneurial background and had no fear about the risk involved. We worked to get the clinic built and launched in 1985. Within three months we were chock-a-block busy.
Siobhan: When we met, what Julie was doing with a Ski Fitter machine in the middle of the clinic was new. And it made sense to me. We both wanted to offer a dynamic, active approach to treatment and care. And, we’re both very concrete, organized!
Julie: There’s never been any conflict because we both believe in excellence. We both feel the patient is the most important person in the picture. It was about having the space and the team to give the patient the best quality of care – for both of us.
What values do you share that contributed to your long success?
Julie: Quality care. Even when physiotherapy was essentially cut out of the public health system in 2003 and it looked like we would have to do higher volumes of patients to make the business model work, Siobhan wouldn’t let us. We didn’t want to compromise the quality of the care.
Siobhan: I said, “Over my dead body.” And it’s the same today.
Julie: What else … Siobhan and I are eternal optimists.
Siobhan: And we’re not afraid of hard work. That helps the optimism.
Julie: And we’re resilient. We survive.
Siobhan: (laughs) Well, Julie, just don’t take me backcountry skiing again without a map! But if you’re going to get lost and spend a night in the wilderness, do it with Julie. She’ll survive…
Julie: (laughs) That’s about the resilience. No matter what is happening in Calgary, THE Downtown Sports Clinics will survive, as good as we ever were.
What has surprised you most over the years?
Siobhan: How professional and advanced physiotherapy has become as part of health care. It used to be that a physiotherapist was, in some ways, a “tech.” We’re now primary health care providers. Our profession has been hugely validated in the time that I’ve been working.
Sadly, I’m also surprised how difficult it has become to access physiotherapy within our health care system.
Julie: I’m shocked that, as it turns out, sometimes helping people to become active very quickly has negative consequences later on. We thought that reconstructive surgery was prolonging joint health, but it appears that isn’t always the case. Now, those people are having issues with osteoarthritis much earlier in life than they should.
Sometimes surgery is not the best way to prolong joint health, although it can be the fastest way back. When possible, it’s best to let the body heal more slowly and to modify movement and strain on the joint for a longer period.
What is the legacy THE Downtown Sports Clinics will leave on Calgary?
Siobhan and Julie: We were instrumental in changing the model for physiotherapy in Calgary. Early on, we promoted the emphasis on more patient-focused attention, and dynamic and active treatment. It’s just the proper model, now – for everyone.
Also, we’ve never waivered on our uncompromising quality of care, and the people who have worked with us are emulating that. We’re proud.