Over the next while, we’ll be posting some informal interviews with our practitioners. Because Libby Meakin is the most recent therapist to join our team, we thought we would start with her. We sat down on Tuesday morning to talk shop and other things.
Getting to know Libby Meakin
Question: Okay, first of all, is Libby short for Elizabeth?
Libby: My name is actually Mary. Mary Elizabeth. But my dad called me Liblib. So Libby.
Question: You have a rad accent. Is it Irish?
Libby: Ha ha, yeah, I’m from Belfast. But I’ve been living in Scotland for several years.
Question: When did you choose to become a physiotherapist?
Libby: I was kind of a late decider to becoming a physiotherapist. One year before University I decided. There was no a ah-ha moment. It was more like, how can I be creative, and hands on, and work with people, and use my talents? The best answer was physiotherapy.
Question: University in Glasgow, right?
Libby: Yes, Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland. It was a nice campus and it was about a half hour flight away from my home town. Which was about perfect. [laughs] I worked in Glasgow too. I met my husband there.
Question: Challenging, academically?
Libby: Ha! Yes, some things. There’s a lot of anatomy. Memorization does not come naturally to me. I’m not bad at it – I just need to work at it. I’m becoming more organized as a result.
Question: Is your husband a physio?
Libby: He went back for, what you would call a kinesiology degree. I think Strathclyde called it, Sport and Physical Activity Sciences, er, or, something. [laughs] I should know that. I’ll ask him and pass it on! He’s a personal trainer at Good Life Fitness.
Question: Where did you work in Glasgow?
Libby: I worked in hospitals and some private practice work. There were lots of people around. But working within the hospital could be very challenging. We had a very high volume of patients and I couldn’t always spend as much time as I wanted. But I enjoyed working with the patients and the hands on nature.
Question: And you’re happy to be at Arbutus… :)
Libby: I love it here! My work at Arbutus is not routine at all. It’s very stimulating and keeps my brain working.
Question: Do you have a “worst” client?
Libby: Ha! No! Wait, actually, someone did come to mind when you said that. But not because they were a bad person. I had a client back in Glasgow that refused to do their exercises and they weren’t improving. That doesn’t make them a bad client, but I found it personally and professionally very frustrating. But as my relationship with them developed, I realized there were other things going on and some life stress and other challenges and we worked through it. And it worked out. So my “worst client” I guess is someone who’s not recovering, not putting in the work. But my job is to challenge clients, coach them, and inspire them to do the work and recover. So, basically if I do my job right, I don’t have a “worst client.”
Question: You said “prehab” before. What is that?
Libby: It’s a response to the notion of rehab. Before someone gets injured, we want to look at what they do and anticipate possible injuries. So, you know, depending on the context and your body features some injuries are more likely. For example, if someone is a gardener, you want to think about their movements, especially repetitive ones, body positioning, their core stability and knee health. Same if someone is a tennis pro. We can build a plan to help prevent injury. We want to think about how to help people protect themselves from statistically common injuries. Injuries are sometimes the result of accidents. But injuries are also systemic.
Question: Is sitting really the new smoking?
Libby: [Laughs] Yes, it’s huge. There are many negative implications from too much sitting. The World Health Organization views inactivity as one of the top ten risk factors for mortality and there’s a big focus on trying to interrupt and minimize sitting throughout the day. A lot of back problems can be traced back to sitting. Even knee injuries can be related.
Question: Why is physiotherapy and many kinds of physical therapy so gendered? Arbutus is all women, for example.
Libby: Hmm. This is tricky.
Question: I won’t hold you to it. Uncertainty is perfectly reasonable. Want to speculate?
Libby: Well, most people who train in physiotherapy are women. I think 90% women at Glasgow Caledonian, as one example. But it’s interesting. You know guys make great physios. So there’s no rational reason for a gender difference. But, women are definitely more often socialized as, you know, nurturers or caretakers. But I don’t know why that is. It’s funny. When you think about big sports teams, the gender parity is more common.
Question: Is it a status thing?
Libby: I don’t know. One of my inspirations is Dr. Linda Joy Lee. She works worldwide and owns a clinic in Vancouver and I heard her lecture at a physio conference. She is inspirational, and she has a very high status position. Take Sandy, too. She runs an important community business, she does triathlon, she’s a mom. She’s incredible and she’s incredibly fit.
Question: So basically, no comment? :)
Libby: [Laughs] Can we move on?
Question: Are you an athlete?
Libby: Ha ha, no. My husband is. His passion in life is movement and health. I do Pilates. And I teach Pilates. We’re going to put on Pilates here at Arbutus.
Question: What!? Why are you holding out on me?
Libby: Classes will start in September! The classes are going to be small. Probably four people per class – the reason is so that I have the time to give careful instruction and feedback to each person. It’s going to be an early bird class – probably 6:30 to 7:30. There’s going to be two classes a week for six weeks. Pilates is great prehab. I see runners, swimmers and cyclists doing Pilates to help their performance and prevent injury. Cycling especially – so much hunching. But this first class is more beginner oriented and for folks who have suffered from low back pain in the past. We’re starting off with a beginner class to see how it goes but I would also like to do intermediate and advanced classes for other folks.
Question: Cool. Tell us something quirky about you.
Libby: I might be an eccentric cat lady. Like in The Simpsons? I have two cats, Monty and Ron.
Question: Do you have a favourite bone?
Libby: Well, it’s not a bone, but I have a favourite body thing. It’s called the anatomical snuffbox. Do you know it? It’s here on the hand. [points]
Thank you: Wow. Huh. Thanks for your time today. And welcome to Arbutus!