Ep. 129 – How to make a difference for every patient you encounter – Dan Steventon, PT, DPT

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Dan Steventon, PT, DPT – “PT Dan,” The Kids Cancer PT

Cancer is already a cataclysmic event in a person’s life. But what about when it happens during childhood?

As movement professionals, we know that human development & growth is rapid during these formative years. Cancer & its treatments have profound effects on a young person’s physical, mental, & emotional health now & potentially for the rest of their life.

Enter PT Dan.

PT Dan, also known as Dan Steventon, PT, DPT (Board Certified Specialist in Oncology Physical Therapy too!) is The Kids Cancer PT.

In our interview, we chatted about what pediatric oncology looks like, how PT Dan found his way to this amazing specialty, & what we MUST know about working with young people after a cancer diagnosis (even if you work with mainly adults, you’ll want to know about the long-term effects these patients experience & likely don’t get treatment for).

Y’all. We got deep on this interview – I was in awe of the breadth & depth we covered in this interview. These feelings, these experiences are so crucial to working with young people with cancer – sometimes we get disconnected from these experiences as we age & don’t remember what it’s like to be a kid.

Thankfully, we’ve got people like PT Dan to teach us how.

Connect with PT Dan:

TheKidsCancerPT on YouTube

TheKidsCancerPT on Instagram

TheKidsCancerPT on Twitter

TheKidsCancerPT on Facebook

PT Dan’s Life:

“PT Dan” Steventon is a pediatric cancer rehabilitation physical therapist, YouTuber, and as well as a board-certified clinical specialist in oncologic physical therapy. He serves as Clinical Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine and lectures around the midwest on topics related to pediatric oncology rehab. His YouTube channel, The Kids Cancer PT, has almost 3 viewers.

  • I started college as an Aviation Science Major… thought I was going to be an airline pilot. I soon discovered that no one wanted to fly with me… especially me. I was close to kissing the ground on every landing. Fred Rogers said that “Discovering the truth about ourselves is a lifetime’s work, but it’s worth the effort.” And as a kid raised on Fred Roger’s (the guy taught me not to be afraid of the potty, for crying outloud) I decided to start that work of discovering. I believe in praying and knocking on doors, so to speak, to see what might open up.  And, very simply, that kind of terror and lack of human interaction of piloting airplanes was not what I wanted for the rest of my life.
  • Medicine was another area of interest thanks to a childhood full of watching Dr. McCoy on Star Trek, Dr. Huxtable on the Cosby show, and Patch Adam’s with Robin Williams. So I eventually settled on pre-med/psych major in college. Graduated and started working for a children’s hospital in south dakota while applying to med schools. I’ve always had a love for that doctor persona that was portrayed on TV. Someone who is invested and in-contact with their patient. TV docs embody trustworthiness and communicate value to the patients they see. They also spend an inordinate and, apparently, unrealistic amount of time with their patients. One of those subtle differences between idealic TV and thick-crusted reality.
  • This is what started my search for a career that allowed that investment in individuals– which is also a Fred Rogers thing. While searching, I began interacting with kids with cancer. Even as a non-PT I noticed movement problems and changes in their bodies as they progressed through treatment.
  • Curiosity and library access drove me toward research on physical impairments affecting kids during and after cancer treatment… and to physical therapy as a career choice. All of this research was being done by physical therapists and exercise physiologists. 
  • I read articles from people who are now my heroes– people like Lynn Tanner, Kiri Ness, Victoria Marchese. All of this literature was pointing to the same key factors:
    • Kids with cancer have musculoskeletal and cardiopulmonary impairments stemming from their disease and their cancer treatment
    • The dangers and problems don’t disappear just because the patient reaches the end of their chemo regimen
  • I shadowed some folks and really liked the way you get to interact with and build relationships with patients in this field.
  • So, going into PT school, I was looking toward working with those kids… I was overjoyed when the door opened to be able to return to my beloved children’s hospital and work with kids with cancer.

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