FEBRUARY 10, 2016 – AN INTERVIEW WITH DR. LEAHY
As a part of our mission to be the first choice in soft tissue healthcare, we are excited to be starting our Active Release Techniques® blog for our providers, our corporate partners, and, of course, our patients. We’re creating this blog with weekly installments to keep you all updated on the latest ART® news and developments, keep you informed about soft-tissue injuries, prevention, and treatment, and to help you get to know us as an organization and as people.
It seems only fitting that for our first post, we sit down with ART® founder Dr. P. Michael Leahy to ask him about his 30 year journey with ART, his recent Super Bowl experience as ART® provider for the Denver Broncos, and where he hopes to take the future of soft tissue healthcare.
ART: It’s a pleasure getting to sit down with you. Thank you for making the time.
Dr. Leahy: No problem, thank you.
ART: First, since I’m sure it’s on everyone’s mind, I have to ask what’s it like being the ART® doctor for the Broncos at the Super Bowl?
DL: Incredible. That defense last night was unbelievable. I don’t have a voice anymore. When you work with a team you’re a part of it, and the players treat you that way. It’s all heightened at the Super Bowl since the stakes and emotions are so high, but it’s an incredible feeling getting to help players stay in the game and solve an injury that they thought maybe wouldn’t get solved.
ART: What do you do as an ART® provider at big games like this?
DL: I usually see 35-40 players for treatment before the game and then anywhere from zero to around 12 players during the game. Sometimes I’ll watch a particular player to see how they move if I know they have a certain issue. Half the time, though, I get to be a fan.
ART: Has ART® always worked with elite athletes?
DL: Yes. When I started out as a chiropractor I worked with track and field athletes, and I realized that doing the things that were common then, like giving ultrasound, etc., might help them to some degree and eventually, but not usually in time to help them compete in an upcoming competition. I needed to come up with a faster and more effective way solve their soft tissue injuries. That’s when I started applying what I knew about engineering to my chiropractic work.
ART: You were a pilot and engineer in the Air Force; why did you decide to leave that and become a Chiropractor?
DL: I was a pilot in the Air Force for 7 years, but I had always been interested in medicine, so after I was done with the Air Force I decided to go into medicine. My twin brother was in chiropractic school, and I thought that was something I never, never wanted to do, but then I went to visit him, and I saw what he was doing and I thought that really was what I wanted to do.
ART: And how did you go from working with track and field athletes to building ART®?
DL: Well, three guys in New York and New Jersey hounded me for about a year to do a seminar. I didn’t even know if anyone would show up, but I decided to do it. Anyway, we sold out the room we held it in and I realized there was a market for teaching ART® After that first seminar, though, I also realized that I needed more than just some cursory notes that I had prepared, and that it was going to need to be a much larger course. When we first started seminars I was really demanding, even more than I think I am now, about how much information people needed to know.
ART: What kind of people do you think make the best providers?
DL: What’s great about our providers is that because of the nature of ART®, it takes time and it’s hard, we tend to attract really great people. What they care about most is caring for their patients. Most ART® providers are unbelievably dedicated.
ART: How do you motivate providers?
DL: I think that passing the knowledge is the biggest motivator. At seminars, the whole time they’re learning protocols they are realizing how they can use what they’re learning on patients that they have on Monday. Sometimes at seminars the doctors will bring me a live case that they haven’t been able to solve, and I work with everybody to show them how I can solve it. I think it’s motivating to see what can be done with ART, and that you can learn to do it too. It is also motivating to be a part of something bigger than yourself. When they realize ART® isn’t just learning all the protocols, it’s a movement.
ART: ART® isn’t easy. What advice do you have for providers who are struggling to learn the ART® protocols?
DL: Some of our best providers are the ones who fail at ART® at first. That’s because the ones who ‘get it’ consider the skill learned and move on, and sometimes they don’t keep working as hard. But the providers who fail at first, they work even harder to improve. I think all ART® providers should work like that.
ART: How did you start teaching ART® internationally?
DL: If you count Texas and Canada as different countries, the growth was just natural, but Europe was an experiment. We had some European providers that were coming to the US for seminars, so I just said ‘let’s have one in Rome.’ I didn’t know if even one person would show up. We started in Florence and we rode bikes from town to town for ten days. There were five instructors, and it was just like a vacation in Italy. I told them whatever comes in from the seminar, we’ll divide it among the instructors, but it might be nothing, and then you have to pay your own expenses for the trip. Fortunately, the seminar made enough to cover everyone’s expenses and a little extra. That’s how we started in Europe.
ART: Moving forward, what do you hope for the future of ART®?
DL: I think about the changes we’ve made already. The whole chiropractic profession has changed. No one used to do soft tissue and now almost everyone does. We’ve made a significant difference in the lives of about 50 million people already. ART® also has the potential to have huge economic ramifications. Half of the problems we deal with are neuromusculoskeletal. If even half of those could be treated with ART® instead of other therapies and surgeries, that would be a huge savings in healthcare.That is potential for big change. When I think about what ART® could do, my hope is that a whole lot of people will not lose their jobs, work in pain, or quit their sport because of soft-tissue problems.
ART: That sounds like a great mission. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today.
DL: Of course, thank you.