Faculty Interview

Paul Mintken



Paul Mintken, PT, DPT, OCS, FAAOMPT is a core faculty member at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. He teaches musculoskeletal conditions along with advanced joint manipulation. In addition to teaching, Paul works as a clinician at Wardenburg Physical Therapy at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Where are you from?

I was born in Lincoln Nebraska, but we moved to Boulder when I was 9 months old.  I consider myself a native.

Where did you go to Undergrad?

I went to the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley and got my degree in exercise physiology and athletic training.

What are your hobbies?

I love to play guitar, ride dirt bikes with my boys, play softball and hike.  When I was younger I was an adrenaline junky and my body has paid the price.  Playing football, rugby, basketball and riding motocross and endurance races left me a wounded warrior.  I have had 3 knee surgeries and a hip resurfacing, more separated shoulders than I can count, a vertebral compression fracture and 3 herniated discs in my low back.  I have a wonderful wife (Stacie) and 3 amazing kids (Frankie and fraternal twins Jacob and Josie), so my hobbies now revolve around helping them grow up.  I am an assistant scoutmaster for the Boy Scout Troop that Frankie and Jacob participate in, so we do a lot of camping.  In 2015 I spent 26 nights in a tent!

Favorite place to eat in Denver area?

We like this small restaurant close to where we live in Wheat Ridge called Tellers.  http://www.tellerstaproom.com

Do you have a favorite quote, and if so what?

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Eleanor Roosevelt

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

If you had to recommend one book to read what would it be?

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

What made you interested in PT?

I played football for 9 years and rugby for 6 years, so I had a lot of injuries and had a lot of PT.  I initially thought I wanted to go to medical school, but after shadowing 3 physicians and 3 PTs I asked them all if you could start all over again from the beginning, would you still pursue the same career?  All the PTs said yes and all the physicians said no.  I applied to both PT school and medical school, got into both, and had to make a decision. My advisor in undergraduate was a retired family practice physician who worked 100+ hours early in his career.  His wife left him and it took him 2 weeks to figure out she was gone! In addition, I liked the aspect of being able to go home without a pager and be with my family.

If you had to do it all over again would you choose PT?

Absolutely. I love my job and have no regrets.

What was your first PT job out of school?

My first job out of PT school was with a contract PT company that would send me for short-term stints to cover for PTs that were taking time off. This varied from 1 day for sick coverage to 3 months for maternity leave.  I don’t recommend it as I got all the new evals, had no mentorship, and the workload was tremendous.  When an opportunity opened at Wardenburg, where I am at now and where I did a clinical rotation as a student, I jumped at the opportunity, and it has been an amazing experience.

Did you ever have an interest in starting your own practice?

I actually did start a small private practice where I worked out of a friend’s clinic 5-10 hours a week making custom orthotics.  I had that company from 1997 until 2004 when I became faculty here.  I found out very quickly that I was not a very good businessman, and I ended up doing a lot of pro-bono work and didn’t make a lot of money. I was almost relieved when I became a faculty member here and they made me sign a non-compete clause and had to close the practice for good.

What is some advice you would give to new graduates in finding a job?

The biggest advice I would give is to not jump at the first job offer.  You really have to make sure that the position fits you and your personality.  Take time to look into the clinic and talk to the therapists that work there. Having spent time in a lot of clinics in my first job, there are some places that your gut tells you to run away from, and some that feel like home. Listen to your gut.  It is rarely wrong.

What do you recommend doing in your first year of work post-graduation (continuing education, etc)

I really recommend to new grads to review your schedule for the next day (if possible) and plan out your examination for your new patients.  Highlight the things you NEED to know, those that are nice to know, and those things that can wait until subsequent visits.  Having standardized forms for each body part or diagnosis can help.  For example, if you are seeing a patient with hip pain, you need to do a lower quarter screen (LQS), clear the lumbar spine, and prove to yourself that the symptoms are originating from the hip rather than somewhere else.

In addition, I am a big fan of residencies. It is a way to really accelerate your knowledge and career. Many residents that I see when they get done with the one year look as though they have been out of school practicing for 3-5 years. My favorite type of residencies are the brick and mortar type with an actual building where you go to both treat patients and receive mentorship. The other tract is more online, where the majority of coursework is done. For online residencies you have to pay for tuition, but you are making a full salary; whereas in the brick in mortar type residencies your tuition is paid for, but you are not making a full salary. Both types have good outcomes and are worth looking into.

Where do you see PT going in the future?

I really envision PT becoming the primary care providers for neuromusculoskeletal conditions.  It seems to me such a colossal waste of time and money to have a patient with low back pain or an ankle sprain see a primary care physician first.  They don’t know how to examine these patients, and they don’t know how to treat them.  PTs have the knowledge and skill to screen, examine, and treat these patients most effectively.  I also see that PT can play a role in being specialists in the movement system.  Just like you see your physician, your dentist or your eye doctor on an annual basis, an annual visit to a PT could prevent many debilitating conditions as we age.

Interview done by: Rachel Troup and David Treichler


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