When Department of Physical Therapy alum Dr. Brittney Mims was a student beginning a clinical rotation with a physical therapist for the Miami City Ballet, she knew almost immediately that she wanted to specialize in performance medicine.
Fast forward to today where Brittney has treated a variety of injuries and conditions as a physical therapist working backstage on Broadway shows like Beetlejuice: The Musical, Chicago: The Musical, Mean Girls, To Kill A Mockingbird, and A Bronx Tale – and has opened her own practice specializing in the treatment of performers.
Read on to learn more about how Brittney combined her love of art and movement into a career she is passionate about.
What inspired you to become a physical therapist (PT)?
As a teen involved in gymnastics and cheerleading, I was a patient in physical therapy multiple times but felt like it didn’t help me at all. When I needed to go back to PT as an undergraduate in college, I realized how beneficial physical therapy could be when I was paired with a knowledgeable and caring physical therapist who helped me realize I didn’t need to live with pain. After a few months in treatment and a bit of soul searching, I changed all of my courses for the next semester and never looked back!
Could you tell us more about the work you’re doing now?
I opened my own practice specializing in performing arts medicine and sports rehabilitation about eight months before COVID-19 hit New York. Before the shutdown, I was working in my clinic during the day and would treat backstage on Broadway at night. In the summer and fall of 2019, I was also a PT for Madonna’s Madame X concert tour. After Broadway shut down last March, life began to look very different. I began offering telehealth services in April and led donation-based virtual Pilates classes with all proceeds going toward a charitable cause of the month. I felt the need to connect with my current patients and also give back to individuals and organizations that were being hit the hardest (like the Actors Fund, NYC Health + Hospitals, Nick Cordero’s GoFundMe, and Color for Change). I returned to the clinic in August and since then I’ve been so grateful to have been able to open up a beautiful clinic space, hire a wonderful pelvic floor physical therapist, and begin offering mentoring services for other PTs looking to open up their own clinics.
That all sounds amazing! What drew you to performing arts medicine specifically?
I grew up playing the drums and doing gymnastics, so I’ve always had a love of art and movement and Broadway was always the highlight of a trip to New York. While I was at NYU, I applied for my last clinical rotation through Polestar Physical Therapy which matched me with the physical therapist at Miami City Ballet. I knew almost immediately that this was what I wanted to specialize in. Now that I’m working with performers of all types, I love treating musicians, singers, dancers, actors, and all of the backstage crew that makes sure the show goes on!
What is your favorite part about treating dancers and performers?
Treating dancers is so rewarding and so much fun. I truly love what I do and look forward to going to work each day. I love the excitement backstage. I love the responsibility I have in helping my patients get back to doing what they love. Dancers and performers tend to be so in tune with their bodies that it helps so much throughout the treatment process. As a whole, performers are more willing to try new treatments, incorporate Pilates into their workouts, and do the work at home to get better faster. I have so much respect for what my patients do each day and feel really grateful to be a part of their team.
I love the responsibility I have in helping my patients get back to doing what they love.
What was the most influential part of your time in the NYU DPT program?
This is a tough one because I felt like NYU was such a comprehensive program. One of the most influential parts of NYU’s program for me was the opportunity to obtain Pilates certification through the program. My Pilates mat certification led me to ultimately get fully certified and helped me find my niche within PT. NYU also has such a thorough observation program that it showed me so much of what I did and didn’t want to do (which is just as important).
Now that I’ve started my own company, I’ve also realized the significance of having a business class within our curriculum. So many of my colleagues have said that the therapists they know who have opened up their own practices have gone to NYU. NYU students seem to feel more prepared with balancing their “business hand” and their “healing hand.”
I'd also say an influential part of my time at NYU is the mentoring I’ve received even after graduating. I have multiple professors I’m still in contact with who have been so important in helping me get to where I am today.
What advice would you give to an aspiring PT?
I went into PT school with a psychology degree and a mass communication minor and I feel like both have really helped me as a physical therapist. I would want an aspiring PT to make sure to recognize the value of their own life experience and undergraduate degree, even if it doesn’t “relate” to PT. In terms of those PTs who are about to graduate, I would remind them how important it is to take care of their own bodies. You'll be surrounded by incredible practitioners. Trading services and learning from each other is so useful!
I’d also emphasize the importance of authenticity and connection with your patients. Remember that they live in their body and really listen to what they’re saying. It’s okay not to know something – physical therapy is a profession that is constantly evolving and you’re entering a profession of lifelong learning. Take advantage of all the information that’s out there!