Rebecca "Becky” Rebitski worked 30 years as a physical therapist before finding her way to UC.
Now she says she belongs here, with the students in the College of Allied Health Science’s doctorate of physical therapy (DPT) program.
As an adjunct clinical laboratory instructor, Rebitski works daily with DPT students to translate their classroom learning to patient practice.
In their labs, she instructs them in performing physical assessments, explains specific interventions and evaluates their performance in one-on-one "skill checks.”
These skills are what students will apply when working as therapists, and Rebitski takes their development as a personal challenge.
"We’re building our future colleagues in this program, so we want these students to be better than OK. We want them to be excellent,” she says. "My goal is to get them off on the right foot with their career right after graduation—to be ready to be a therapist and make good decisions for their patients.”
She should know how to make those good decisions, having practiced physical therapy in both inpatient and outpatient facilities and, most recently, in home health care settings.
For 20 years, she served as president of Bogner and Carr, an outpatient orthopedic physical therapy practice, specializing in patients with musculoskeletal dysfunction.
Since joining UC in 2007, Rebitski has already shaped the department: Her insights have shaped the structure of student assessments and led to a greater integration of clinical simulations into the course framework.
According to department head Tina Whalen, DPT, Rebitski went above and beyond when she started at UC, attending every lecture in the courses with which she was assisting, even though her responsibility was just for the lab portion.
"She quickly learned that the instructors…each had their own style of teaching and expectations of the students,” says Whalen. "She adapted to these differences and has been extremely effective in helping students reach the expected level of competence.”
Rebitski says interacting with the department’s faculty has been one of the best parts of being an adjunct.
"It’s allowed me to serve as a liaison between the students and professors,” she says. "I have contact with pretty much the whole musculoskeletal curriculum and, in doing so, I can see an overview of what the students encounter.”
That allows her to get a sense of upcoming busy periods and help students manage their classes.
"As first-year DPT students, we are fed knowledge as if it were from a fire hose,” write DPT students in a group letter of recommendation for the faculty award. "The volume and complexity of the material, coupled with the time demands of the program and stress of a new environment make for a challenging curriculum…a challenge that would seem immeasurably more daunting without instructors like Becky Rebitski.”
Rebitski acknowledges that the curriculum is "very robust” for DPT students.
"It’s difficult and it’s very time-consuming,” she says. "But it’s amazing how well it’s designed and how it flows. The students can’t see it sometimes. Up until this point in their education, they’ve been able to learn it and forget it. But here, they have to learn and remember it, because we’re going to use it again and again and again.”
Rebitski is often the one repeating the lessons again and again with students. In group and individual sessions, she works tirelessly to ensure that each student understands and excels at the given lesson, even if it takes them time to get there.
In a letter co-signed by the DPT class of 2014, student Tom Powers wrote: "Becky is an instructor who puts her students’ needs first. She hears our questions, our complaints, our reasoning and our doubts and she responds with honesty and encouragement, as any great physical therapist should.”
She also serves as a link to the real world of physical therapy, always ready with an example from her clinical career to illustrate a new exercise or technique.
More importantly, says Elizabeth King, PhD, dean of the College of Allied Health Sciences, Rebitski serves as a role model for students.
"It’s clear that Becky has solidly instilled in students the academic knowledge and skills they need to know to be good physical therapists,” says King. "But it’s even more clear that she has gone beyond that and taught them the skills that will make them great physical therapists—treating others with empathy and dignity, the importance of leading by example and the value of life-long learning.”
While Rebitski attributes her enthusiasm to her personality ("I’m not a sit-still kind of person. I like to be out and about,” she says), she credits her parents with instilling in her a strong work ethic.
"They both were part of big families who grew up in the Depression,” she says. "My mom taught me to be content and do well. My dad taught me to laugh at myself—and that got me a lot farther in life.”