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Longevity, graduate studies in Ireland, and cooking with Joseph Rector

We spoke with one of the Westshore Clinic’s newest physios on why he chose Ireland for his graduate studies and how longevity and cooking play major roles in his life.

How has your first month at Arbutus been?

It’s been a nice, gradual start! We have a great crew of physios and admin staff at Westshore; it’s tight-knit. I’ve found it helpful to bounce ideas off of other clinicians, and Sandy has set up a good mentor program for new grads. Most of us (myself included) come out of school feeling overwhelmed, so having mentorship with a senior leadership team member has been amazing.

Why did you choose Ireland for your graduate studies?

Ireland came up through word of mouth, and that led me and my partner to look into it more. She’s also a physio and we wanted to pursue it together. It was appealing from a travel and adventure perspective, but also the educational opportunities were excellent, from what I’d heard. There are a lot of options abroad! We had our eyes on Australia too, but it would have been way more expensive, so we chose Ireland.

We were there for a total of two years, and we decided to stay there for the duration, instead of travelling back and forth to Canada (I’m not a fan of long-haul flights!). COVID restrictions allowed us to do more traveling in Ireland, especially in that first year, and we did an extensive job! We bought a car and went up the whole west coast, and then we squeezed in a couple of months of travel to Europe at the end.

Joseph Rector and his partner stand on the grassy plains of Ireland, looking out at a body of water with mountains in the distance.

What are your favourite memories of Ireland?

The people were really nice! All of our classmates who were Irish were really lovely. One of my favourite discoveries was the cheese! It’s so good, unbelievably cheap and it’s all local. You can get a block of brie cheese for one euro!

The scenery over there was beautiful and the hiking was amazing. We didn’t think we’d be doing a bunch of hiking in Ireland, but it kind of worked out. Local hikes are very accessible and aren’t challenging (in terms of height). The stereotype is definitely true: green rolling hills!

There’s a deep history in Ireland that goes back so far, to medieval times. It’s another world. Even going to the pub is an experience. One evening while we were there, we went out to a pub nearby and the entire place erupted in sing-song. That doesn’t happen much over here! The best part is that it was a mix of younger and older people, just drinking Guinness and singing Irish songs.

Joseph Rector hikes a grassy hillside along the shore of Ireland's coastline with the ocean in the distance.

What was one thing that surprised you about it?

One thing I didn’t realize about Ireland is that its beaches are unbelievable! Some of them are white sand and clear water, just gorgeous. But because it’s gray and rainy most of the time, you don’t always notice them. There was one week of weather that I’d consider “summer,” and Ireland turned into a tropical paradise.

We also learned a new term while there: “weather anxiety.” When it was nice outside, people would feel this urge to go outside and do everything they could before the weather turned.

A view from the top of a mountain in Ireland, taken by Joseph Rector, overlooking rolling green hills, with clouds and a double rainbow in the distance.

Would you go back?

My partner and I talk about it a lot and we definitely want to go back and visit classmates. It feels like a second home, now. We lived in two cities while we were there: Limerick and Kilkenny (many people recognize that place because of the beer!). We did our graduate studies in Limerick, so for the first year, we were in student housing off-campus, a 10-minute bike ride away. Limerick is similar to Victoria’s population, but Kilkenny is half that size.

For the second half of our time in Ireland, we were on work placement in Kilkenny and we fell in love with it. It’s probably there that we’d want to go back to. It’s a classic Irish town with small roads, a castle, and a river running through it.

A photo taken by Joseph Rector, of Kilkenny, Ireland with castles, bridges, and a river running through the village.

What do you do to stay active?

I like to play recreational basketball and squash, and even spike ball! Outside of organized sports, I’m into regular strength-training, for longevity. As a physio, I try to practice what I preach. Even someone in my line of work though, I still have to motivate myself to exercise.

Why are you interested in longevity?

I think it encompasses health and wellness as a whole. Not just living longer but living a healthy, quality life. I think those two things that get confused with each other: our “life” span versus our “health” span.

Another big thing for me has been watching my parents as they get older. They’re pretty lucky, they’re in their 70s and in good shape. I’m doing what I can to inspire them to stay in shape and age with grace. They definitely let me share advice, but whether they act on it is another story!

How do you prefer to educate your clients?

First and foremost, it’s important to me that I have a working diagnosis or a good idea of what’s going on, so I can help educate about what the condition is and what that means for the person. Education is such a powerful tool, it can offer reassurance, and it can help change someone’s perspective on their own injury. I really want my clients to feel empowered with their own care; that sense of agency goes a long way. The most sustainable path forward for anyone on the road to recovery is one where they’re able to manage on their own, and they don’t rely on us physios for too long. 

Where do you turn to for new research in physio? 

I definitely like to listen to podcasts for my own knowledge. Physio Tutors, a podcast based in the Netherlands, is excellent. So is Physio Edge. And, The Drive (hosted by Dr. Peter Attia) covers all things longevity. I’ve found that one invaluable.

What’s your favourite type of client?

I came in with a lot of experience working with older adults. That’s my comfort zone! Before Arbutus, I ran a cardiac rehab program out of Henderson Rec Centre in the Oak Bay area, working with people who had cardiac history. In Ireland, I worked in hospitals with mostly older adults.

Since starting here at Westshore, I’ve had a few younger clients, even kids, which I didn’t get at all in Ireland. I remember receiving physio as a teenager and young adult, and my physiotherapist was awesome. We still keep in touch to this day! That experience as a teenager was when I first realized I might want to pursue physio as a career, so it’s neat to be on the other side now. I hope I can make that same positive impact on my younger clients that was made on me when I was their age.

Any favourite spots on Vancouver Island?

Mount Finlayson is a great place to hike! And the Sooke Potholes are amazing, the water is freezing so I usually just go in the summer. Sombrio and Mystic Beach along the Juan de Fuca trail are beautiful. And sometimes my partner and I go paddleboarding on Thetis Lake. But Tofino has to be my favourite spot. I try to go up at least once a year to enjoy the beaches and the surf!

Why is it important that we keep our bodies moving?

I think it’s good for both physical and mental longevity. There’s a lot of research linking movement and physical activity to the prevention of many chronic diseases, as well as cognitive and psychological benefits. Most people are pretty aware that movement is good for them, but it’s a matter of finding the “why” and being motivated to keep moving. 

You love to cook!

Yes! I find it relaxing, it’s one way I like to unwind. I treat it as a meditative experience that’s also very rewarding at the end. I went to culinary school, and it was very French-style (lots of meat). Now, I’m mostly cooking vegetarian food these days. My partner is fully vegetarian, and I’ve adopted about 90% of that way of eating. I cook a lot of stir-fries! But fried rice is probably one of my favourite foods to cook. A trip to Southeast Asia inspired my passion for Thai and Vietnamese cuisines.

A green bowl full of southeast Asian-style noodle soup full of red chilies, cilantro, and limes.