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Two Summit Physical Therapists Honored as Outstanding Clinical Instructor of the Year

Congratulations to two of Summit Orthopedics’ amazing physical therapists, Michelle (“Chelley”) Ecklund, PT, DPT, OCS, and Heide Baker, DPT, for being honored with the Outstanding Clinical Instructor of the Year award from Concordia University St. Paul’s Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program.

The award recognizes clinical instructors in the university’s DPT program who have demonstrated innovative and engaging clinical instruction, knowledge, commitment to lifelong learning,

professionalism, flexibility, and work that aligns with the core values of the American Physical Therapy Association. To be selected for the award, clinical instructors must first be nominated by their students from that year. Then, finalists are evaluated by the university’s DPT program faculty. Three or fewer award winners are selected each year.

Michelle (Chelley) Ecklund

Here’s what one of Chelley’s students had to say about her teaching and leadership qualities as a clinical instructor:

Chelley has gone above and beyond as a clinical instructor. She actively altered her teaching methods based on my preferred learning style and would provide both verbal and hands-on instruction whenever possible. After spending eight weeks with Chelley, I can honestly say that I have never seen the kind of therapeutic alliance that she establishes with her patients. Each patient feels safe and supported, and has no shame or embarrassment when discussing their home exercise program, symptoms, or feelings about their condition.

Chelley makes you feel like you’ve known her for years, even in the first appointment, and she used that therapeutic alliance to help her patients consistently improve and have excellent outcomes. She loves to learn and stressed the importance of continuing to read new research, discuss new techniques with peers, and to reach out to field experts on new practices whenever possible. I feel truly blessed to have had the opportunity to learn from and with Chelley, and I am certain that she will continue to be a gift to her patients, coworkers, future students, and the field of PT.

Heide Baker

Here is an excerpt from one of Heide’s students’ glowing recommendations, highlighting her mentorship and commitment to lifelong learning:

Heide consistently demonstrated what it means to be a great clinical instructor and clinician. As a clinical instructor, she created an environment where I felt challenged, but also supported and trusted. She was there when I needed guidance and shared her expertise to help me grow, but she also encouraged me to apply my own background and interests to evidence-based interventions. In some cases, this meant getting creative to modify exercises based on the patient’s abilities and equipment available or taking helpful cues that coaches have given me and applying them to the physical therapy context.

Heide celebrated successes and helped me problem solve if things didn’t work. In any case, feedback was always constructive and facilitated a growth mindset. As a clinician, Heide demonstrated many of the same characteristics, leading to strong therapeutic alliance with patients. Her ability to recognize others’ strengths, opportunities, and concerns created an environment of trust and empowerment.

Heide’s expertise shines through in her ability to modify, progress, and adjust interventions based on patient needs and preferences, and her outcomes speak for themselves. Heide’s positive attitude and humor made the experience fun on top of being the most fruitful clinical experience I’ve had so far.

Chelley and Heide received their awards in a ceremony on April 21 at Concordia University St. Paul. We are so proud of you both!