Dr. Michael Fink Shares His PT Passion in Taiwan

Physical Therapy professor Dr. Michael Fink poses for a picture in Taiwan

Traveling to the other side of the world from central Pennsylvania takes about 21 hours by airplane without any stops. Dr. Michael Fink, associate professor of physical therapy (PT), is all too familiar with this trip as he spent almost two days flying to and from northern Taiwan to share his vision for physical therapy. 

Dr. Fink arrived in Taipei, Taiwan, after being invited to provide the keynote address at the Taiwan Physical Therapy Association Annual Conference. In addition, Dr. Fink gave a manual therapy presentation on first rib dysfunction to students and faculty at the National Taiwan University, and taught a two-day Differential Diagnosis course, his specialty, at the National Yang-Ming University. 

At the Taiwan Physical Therapy Association Annual Conference, Dr. Fink presented his keynote speech to more than 300 attendees. Faculty from the country’s 14 PT programs were present as well as physical therapists from throughout Taiwan, PT students, physicians, and legislators working on healthcare reform. Dr. Fink was honored and humbled by the recognition and opportunities presented to him during his time in Taiwan. 

“The most rewarding aspect of my trip was speaking with the conference attendees after the keynote speech. I realized that my passion for and experience working in direct access environments could be a catalyst for change in Taiwan because so many legislators and high-level decision-makers were in the audience,” noted Dr. Fink. “I was able to show these legislators and government officials the numerous benefits to both patients and the overall healthcare system when PTs are empowered with greater autonomy, especially when PTs are given the ability to work in a direct access or primary care role.”

Dr. Fink’s keynote speech was titled, “Opening the Gates: Maximizing Patient Advocacy through Increased Autonomy.” During this talk, he discussed how physical therapy services could be effectively expanded and the rationale for doing so. 

“I endeavored to explain a physical therapist’s potential future role as an ideal patient advocate,” explained Dr. Fink. “This is accomplished through autonomous practice regarding reduced professional supervision, direct access, such as evaluating patients without a physician referral, and positioning ourselves in primary care, which include being embedded in emergency departments to treat patients with acute musculoskeletal pathologies immediately. I also discussed how widening the scope of physical therapy practice can yield better patient outcomes, enhance the current healthcare system, and strengthen the patient-physical therapist relationship.” Dr. Fink’s thoughts parallel those published in a report by the American Physical Therapy Association titled Vision 2020, as well as with the results of an international survey conducted by the World Confederation of Physical Therapy earlier this year. 

“As an educator, this trip gave me the opportunity to share knowledge in areas that I’m passionate about and have devoted my professional career studying, specifically manual therapy, differential diagnosis, and expanding the role of PTs”, pointed out Dr. Fink. “It was satisfying to know that I may play a significant role in helping to drive change in Taiwan by providing the key stakeholders with information showcasing the value of physical therapy and the positive impacts of expanding the current scope of practice.” 

While the conference lasted three days, Dr. Fink was able to spend some time traveling and sightseeing after the event. He visited multiple historic landmarks, including the National Palace Museum, which contains approximately 700,000 pieces of ancient Chinese art and artifacts covering 10,000 years of Chinese history making it one of the largest of its type in the world. He also hiked into the Yangmingshan National Park where he saw Taiwan’s tallest dormant sulfur volcano. While in Taipei, Dr. Fink explored the food culture and ate many local dishes while walking through the Shilin Night Market including iron eggs, pig's blood cake, “stinky” tofu, green tea ice cream, and many other dishes that had no easy English translation! “I absolutely loved the food in Taiwan! I must have some unknown connection with that country. Not only was the cuisine phenomenal, but it was plentiful too. I was served an eight-course lunch in the Landis Hotel restaurant and could barely finish it!”

When asked if he would do it again, Dr. Fink said “Absolutely…without a doubt!” Excitingly enough, he may have the opportunity to return to Taiwan next year. “While at the conference, I was invited to teach a course by a PT faculty member from one of the PT schools in the southern part of Taiwan. She asked me to teach Differential Diagnosis and related topics to the PTs local to that area as well as PT faculty and students from her university.” Since the city of Taipei, where the Annual Conference was held, is in the northern part of the country, this potential second trip would afford Dr. Fink the chance to visit an entirely different part of the country. 

In addition to a return visit invitation, Dr. Fink received another offer related to his children’s book, “Sammy’s Physical Therapy Adventure,” which was written for pediatric patients requiring physical therapy. The story was created by Dr. Fink, and with the help of four LVC departments, it has been translated into four foreign languages. “I had a faculty member and recent PT graduate from the National Taiwan University offer to translate the book into Mandarin for me,” stated Dr. Fink. “I’m super excited to have this publication become available to the Chinese and Taiwanese cultures.” 

Dr. Fink was overjoyed and impressed with the amount of interaction and gratitude that he received while in Taiwan. Everyone was very welcoming and engaging during his travels. “I was amazed at the PT students’ desire to learn,” said Dr. Fink. “Personally, it was great to connect with so many PTs and PT students who are actively pushing the profession forward from afar. I really appreciate diverse cultures and have enjoyed traveling to other countries ever since my days as a military PT. This trip gave me a renewed inspiration to visit other areas of the world and to appreciate the similarities and differences that exist culturally, professionally, and personally."