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Time for Fellowship?

May 27, 2022 • Pain Science • Jessie Podolak

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
J.R.R. TolkienThe Fellowship of the Ring

When considering Next Steps in growing as a clinician or other stakeholder interested in people who hurt, health care professionals often ask me, “Why Pain Science Fellowship?”  Of course, I have my canned water-cooler speech, which I believe whole heartedly:

  • Advanced knowledge about pain neuroscience translates into more useful, effective tools for our patients struggling with complex and/or chronic pain states.
  • The more we know, the more we can advocate for those on the fringes, including creatively tackling the opioid crisis, within our scope of practice.
  • Deep, “bottom of the iceberg” knowledge is needed for any of us wishing to take on a teaching role in pain science.

However, there is more to it than those soundbites.  The quote above from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring sums it up beautifully.  We have to decide what it is that we do with the time given us: this time of great need; this time of ground-breaking research and access to information; this time of unprecedented respect and inter-disciplinary collaboration; this time of global readiness for deep healing and meaningful community. This time. Our time.

Critically, as we ponder our personal time and what is important enough for us to invest that precious, nonrenewable resource into, community rises as a priority.  While the pain science fellowship is loaded with amazing content and a stellar process for deep professional growth, it is the fellow-fellows that yield an immeasurable return on investment.

 This past weekend, thirty of EIM’s thirty-five Pain Science Fellows gathered for a time of “Leveling Up” our knowledge and skills.  As our new graduates presented scholarly projects that highlighted research and community impact efforts to “do the something we can do” to make a dent in the pain epidemic, their predecessors cheered them on.  Alumni fellows fine-tuned neurodynamics and manual therapy skills.  We dug deep and role-played with one another in clinical psychologist Dr. A.J. Steele’s amazing workshop in Motivational Interviewing. We had a live conversation with Dr. Anna Lembke out of Stanford regarding many of the pearls from her latest book, Dopamine Nation (which the pain fellows collectively highly recommend!).  We truly did “Level Up!”

But above all, we laughed!  A lot. We ate!  A lot. We drank!  No comment.  We breathed.  We moved mindfully.  We shared. We listened. We encouraged. We brainstormed. We problem solved. We hugged and fist-bumped (don’t worry—there was hand sanitizer).  We re-connected.  We remembered why we are all #painnerds, and we celebrated life in the trenches.  We leaned on each other and loaned one another some strength to get back to the grind Monday morning.  I had forgotten how much we all need that professionally until it was happening all around me, quenching a long-neglected thirst.

PTs, OTs, and other health care providers passionate enough about pain to take an 18-22-month fellowship journey are a unique and beautiful bunch.  Giant-hearted, wicked-smart, a bit quirky, personable, warm and full of love.  With the time given me, I am greatly satisfied and uplifted by sharing it with those who are moved by the things that move me.  While that doesn’t fit easily into a bullet point for the water cooler, I hope it rings true to anyone who has had the joy of true, deep “fellowship” at its finest!  And to my fellow fellows, as always, thank you for being #ironsharpensiron in my life.



Jessie Podolak

Jessie Podolak received her Master’s Degree in Physical Therapy from the College of St. Catherine, Minneapolis, in 1998. She completed her transitional Doctorate of Physical Therapy from Regis University, Denver, in 2011. She has been teaching pain neuroscience education and manual therapy techniques at continuing education courses since 2013 and now serves as the Program...

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