On this week’s episode of the Healthy Wealthy and Smart podcast, I had the pleasure of welcoming Dr. Emma Stokes onto the show to discuss leadership and advocacy in physical therapy! Emma Stokes BSc (Physio), MSc (research), MSc Mgmt, Phd is an associate professor and a Fellow of Trinity College Dublin. She is the deputy head of the physiotherapy programme and teaches on the entry to practice programmes in Dublin and Singapore. The focus of her research and teaching is professional practice issues that builds on her work with professional, regulatory and charitable organisations. She is the Minister for Health’s nominee for physiotherapy to the Health & Social Care Professions Council & Physiotherapists Registration Board in Ireland. She is currently the President of WCPT.

In this episode, we discuss:

-Practical steps that create leadership opportunities

-Why self-awareness and the Power of No are integral to leadership

-Thoughts on what may impact women on their path to higher goals

-Dr. Stoke’s experiences with failure and building resilience

-A framework for advocacy in physical therapy

-How to get the most from a conference experience

-And so much more!


Dr. Stokes shares great advice for those who want to get involved in higher roles that before you can lead others, you first need to be able to lead yourself. To develop that self awareness you must, “Be clear about what your values are. So learn about your values—where they’ve come from, how they serve you, how you use them in the service of others, what they bring to you as a person. And if you understand them very explicitly then you will understand when they are challenged and whether you’re prepared to have them challenged or whether you need to put your hand up and walk away from a situation.”


We also discuss the importance of looking to a mentor to help cultivate leadership characteristics within ourselves. Dr. Stokes suggests that you, “Identify something that someone does that you admire and have this conversation with them. Find out how they got to where they are. Sometimes it is just looking at a behavior and saying that is a behavior that is a positive behavior that I would like to adopt. It is mimicking.”


Dr. Stokes reminds us that to have an effective therapeutic relationship with the best outcome for our patients, we need to guide them on their journey and that, “The solution is owned by the client. You unpack that solution with them and it is something they own rather than us giving them a fix.”


Being an advocate for physical therapy comes down to, “Understanding what it is you want to achieve and really drill down into that. Once you understand what the outcome is, then you need to look at context. What is the environment in which you want this change to happen, who are the key people that may be the decision makers, understand who the people will be in terms of allies, who are the people who won’t be so positive about this change… Understanding the context then allows you to think about what you want to do, the strategy… find the [evidence] you need in order to [support] this.”

About Dr. Stokes: Emma Stokes by richiestokes.com -29 crop(1)

Education and work experience: Emma Stokes qualified as a physiotherapist in 1990 [BSc Physiotherapy, Trinity College Dublin]. While working as a clinical physiotherapist at St. James’s Hospital, Dublin (1990-1996), she completed a post-graduate Diploma in Statistics in 1993 and MSc (Research) in 1995 both at Trinity College Dublin. She took up an academic position at Trinity College in 1996, completed a PhD in 2005 and a Master’s degree (MSc Mgmt, Business Administration) in the School of Business in 2008. She is an associate professor at the Department of Physiotherapy, Trinity College Dublin [1996 to date]. She was elected as a Fellow of the College in 2012. She commenced a Diploma in Leadership & Professional Coaching in September 2014. Since May 2015 she has been the President of WCPT.

aLeadership: Emma Stokes has played a number of leadership roles over the course of her career. Since the early 1990’s, she has been an active member of the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists (ISCP). As well as acting as a professional adviser, she has chaired the Society’s Standing Committees for International Affairs and for Finance. In 2012, she was appointed as the Director of Professional Development and has led the establishment of the ISCP’s first professional development unit, in preparation for the required organisational transformation of the ISCP when the physiotherapy regulatory board opens. Drawing on key stakeholder and member engagement as well as her international experience, she led the project that has culminated in the establishment of a unit of 3 staff and more than 40 volunteers whose chief function is to position the ISCP as a key provider of continuing professional development in the coming years. In 2010 she completed a 5-year term as a College Dean at Trinity College Dublin [15,000 students] with responsibility for student discipline. She was the first woman to be appointed to this senior academic management position.

Board membership: Her experience of eight board directorships covers the health, education, regulation and charity sectors. She recently completed a term as the chair of the board of a charity for people with Parkinson’s Disease – www.moveforparkinsons.com.

Regulation: She is currently the Minister for Health’s nominee to represent the physiotherapy profession on Ireland’s regulatory authority – the Health & Social Care Professions Council. She has been an invited speaker at the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy Regulators (USA) leadership workshop and annual conference and the International Network of Physical Therapy Regulators. She is a member of the recently established (2014) Physiotherapists Registration Board that will regulate physiotherapy in Ireland.

Research, scholarship and teaching: Dr. Stokes has had two main research interests. The first has been in the area of rehabilitation with a focus on novel ways to mediate exercise intervention and participation post stroke and in people with neurological disabilities. Her current research focus is on national and international professional issues in physiotherapy. She has published widely in these areas in international peer-reviewed journals. She co-leads the teaching modules on professional issues for the entry-level physiotherapy students at Trinity College Dublin and at the TCD Singapore programme. She spent time on sabbatical at the University of Toronto (2010). She was privileged to deliver the 2013 Chartered Society of Physiotherapy Founders’ Lecture in October 2013 – http://www.csp.org.uk/news/2013/10/11/physio13-founders-lecture-calls-physios-think-creatively In 2014, she was in receipt of a government scholarship from Taiwan as a visiting scholar and was invited to the University of Rhode Island as a Distinguished International Visiting Scholar – http://web.uri.edu/physical-therapy/2014/02/14/international-scholar-dr-emma-stokes-to-visit-uri/ She was appointed as an adjunct associate professor at the University of South Australia in August 2014.

 International professional adviser: She has acted as an adviser to physiotherapy organisations advising on organisational development and capacity as well as professional issues. She was recently a member in a task force of the American Physical Therapy Association on scope of practice. She was the chair of a WCPT Working Group tasked with an organisational review of WCPT.


If you would like to hear more from Dr. Stokes, you can follow her on twitter! For more information on the IFOMPT Conference in Glasgow on July 4-8th, 2016, click here and if you’re interested in sharing your research in Cape Town in July 2017, head over to the World Confederation for Physical Therapy Congress 2017!


Make sure to connect with me on twitter to stay updated on all of the latest! If you would like to support the show, be sure to leave a rating and/or a review on iTunes!


Have a great week and as always stay Healthy Wealthy and Smart!


Xo Karen


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©2019 Karen Litzy Physical Therapy PLLC.
©2019 Karen Litzy Physical Therapy PLLC.