On this episode of the Healthy, Wealthy and Smart Podcast, Jenna Kantor guests hosts and interviews Megan Sliski and James Nowak on the New York Physical Therapy Association Student Special Interest Group. Megan is the NYPTA SSIG President, National Student Conclave Project Committee Chair and NYPTA Central District Conclave Committee Chair. James is the NYPTA SSIG Vice President.

In this episode, we discuss:

-The roles and responsibilities of the President and Vice President of the NYPTA SSIG

-A few of the highlights and accomplishments of the SSIG this term

-What Megan and James look forward to in their future leadership roles

-And so much more!



Megan Sliski Twitter

James Nowak Twitter

Outcomes Summit: use the discount code: LITZY

For more information on Megan:

Favorite PT Resource: PT Now

School: Utica College: DPT 2020; Utica College: Health Studies, Healthcare Ethics

“I’m excited to see the team grow & work together to create opportunities for DPT/PTA students around New York.”

For more information on James:

Favorite PT Resource: New Grad PT

School: Utica College: DPT 2021; Utica College: Health Studies

“I’m so excited to be a part of a growing team that has the opportunity to truly enhance the student physical therapy experience in New York State.”

For more information on Jenna:

Jenna Kantor (co-founder) is a bubbly and energetic girl who was born and raised in Petaluma, California. Growing up, she trained and performed ballet throughout the United States. After earning a BA in Dance and Drama at the University of California, Irvine, she worked professionally in musical theatre for 15+ years with tours, regional theatres, & overseas (www.jennakantor.com) until she found herself ready to move onto a new chapter in her life – a career in Physical Therapy. Jenna is currently in her 3rd year at Columbia University’s Physical Therapy Program. She is also a co-founder of the podcast, “Physiotherapy Performance Perspectives,” has an evidence-based monthly youtube series titled “Injury Prevention for Dancers,” is a NY SSIG Co-Founder, NYPTA Student Conclave 2017 Development Team, works with the NYPTA Greater New York Legislative Task Force and is the NYPTA Public Policy Committee Student Liaison. Jenna aspires to be a physical therapist for amateur and professional performers to help ensure long, healthy careers. To learn more, please check out her website: www.jennafkantor.wixsite.com/jkpt

Read the full transcript below:

Jenna Kantor:                00:00                Hello, this is Jenna Kantor here with healthy, wealthy and smart. And I’m here to interview Megan Sliski and James Nowak. First of all, thank you so much for coming on and agreeing to speak about drum roll please. The student’s special interest group. You’re here in New York and you two are a power duo and Megan here is the president and James is the vice president and you’re halfway through now. Is that where you’re at? About halfway through. So I would love for those who don’t know, when people say, what does this SSIG do? That’s the student special interest group. Could you start from the elections? Don’t worry about taking me through the whole year. I’ll ask you questions as we go through. So you got elected. What happens next? I’m going to hand it to Megan and then when you need help you can pass it over to James.

Megan Sliski:                00:57                So when we first got elected, Jenna, a lot of it was just trying to figure out what the dynamic of the new team was going to be and how we were going to encompass the goals of the SSIG into the individuals that we were introducing into the SSIG. And so the beginning of the term involved a lot of transitioning and a lot of, of trying to make sense of, you know, what we were going to do and how we were going to progress forward. And the SSIG being just only in its infancy, only two years old at this point. You know, we had a lot to consider. We had to, to figure out, you know, what had worked the previous year, what hadn’t worked, how are we going to move forward? How are we going to make this organization successful? How are we going to pair with the NYPTA and, and really make this an organization that was going to succeed.

Megan Sliski:                01:44                And so at the beginning we really focused on trying to get to know each officer individually as well as trying to get to know the positions individually. And so the nominating committee chair from last year did a wonderful job slating candidates. And we were very fortunate that the candidates that we had were so wonderful and that all of the individuals who are elected were just so great for their positions. And you know, we’re really lucky for that. And so what we did was move forward. We got to know the individuals on an individual basis and we figured out how we were going to make the organization work for us. That being said, you know, there were times where there were hurdles, but when aren’t there hurdles will a new organization, especially when the organizations only in it’s second year. And we were fortunate enough that, you know, James and I actually go to the same school.

Megan Sliski:                02:32                And so we were able to meet almost weekly to talk about some of the challenges we were having in some of the successes and how we were going to make sure that the successes continued. But at the same time, how are we going to approach the challenges that we were having? Again, with it being a new organization. And I happen to think that we’re very lucky that James and I went to the same school because in the second year of this organization, we were able to work through some things that were a bit challenging that we hadn’t maybe thought about before, that maybe weren’t issues the year before. And I think that we’ve been very lucky so far with the caliber of people that we’ve had and the team that we’ve had. And I think that the rest of the year it’s going to be so wonderful. I love that.

Jenna Kantor:                                        So, James, for you, when you got elected, what happened? Was there a meeting? Was there, I mean, you already knew Megan, I’m assuming. I would love to know.

James Nowak:               03:26                It’s actually a really funny story. So I’m wrapping up in my first year of DPT school and I remember, It’s the fall with heavy musculoskeletal stuff. And then this girl by the name of Megan comes in and does a little introduction on this state organization, state student special interest group called the NYPTA SSIG. And immediately within, probably within a couple of minutes of her presenting it, I said, oh my God, this like, like this is for me, this is what I want to be a part of. And at the time, I probably saw Megan around a little bit, but I had never talked to her. And I gathered up the courage and I introduced myself and I said, you know, this right here is something I want to be a part of.

James Nowak:               04:13                I want to make a difference, not only at my school, but on the state level I want to interact with students and professionals both throughout the state, you know. And so I said, I went up to her and I said, how do I get involved? And then she kind of talked me through the election process and how that was gonna be coming up. She did a little presentation right before elections ran. And so from there I decided to apply. And thankfully I got slated. Luckily, luckily enough, I got elected as the vice president. And I was very, very thankful for that. And I think my process after that really my first initial thought was, okay, so now I’m a part of the state organizations, such a phenomenal opportunity. I wanna be able to work with students throughout the state.

James Nowak:               04:58                I’m here in central New York. You know, if you think of a map of New York state, you put a dot right in the middle. That’s where I am. And I’m going to get to work with people who are all the way down south in the city and all the way up towards Canada. And getting to being able to really get the wealth of knowledge and experience from them. It was very exciting to me. I hadn’t had the opportunity to interact with the students yet. So I think my first thing was really getting to know my team, you know, getting to know the people who were elected. So initially it was phone calls, just to get to know them. Eventually as the year turned to the start of our term.

James Nowak:               05:41                We had a nice transitional meeting, so we had a transitional meaning from our board from the previous year and the people who are elected for this year that we’re currently in. And that it wasn’t just a phone call on the phone, it was face to face through the computer. Really, it’s almost like Skype, but they use, it’s a platform called goto meetings that we use. And I got to see the past president of the SSIG and I got to see all the people that I was working with throughout the year and it was such a unique opportunity to be able to interact on that level. Even though I’m sitting in my apartment in Utica, New York, I got to talk with students who were from, you know, places like Columbia all the way down in the city. And that was such a unique opportunity.

Jenna Kantor:                06:25                I love that. So for you, James, what have you been doing? Cause you look over all the regional reps. So for those who don’t know, I was part of the SSIG, so I’ll educate you guys on this. So there are regions within New York in which there is a student that represents several schools and we’ll handle the communications with several schools because New York is huge and we have a lot of schools here. So when you’re working with the regional reps, how often do you meet and how do you run those meetings?

James Nowak:               07:00                So I think that’s a great question Jenna. As of right now, we try and meet on a monthly basis. And with that being said, coming up towards our midterm here where, you know, something we really put at the forefront is getting immediate feedback on things and we’re going to get feedback from students and see is that something that’s working? Is this something that’s not working? You know? So that’s something we’re going to see. But as of right now, that’s kinda how we do things and enables us to really, on a monthly basis be able to say, okay, so these are the things we’re working on. How can we contribute? How can the representatives throughout the state really add various ideas to your advocacy dinner? Let’s say for example, that you’re planning, you know, how can we bolster this? How can we support you to make this a reality?

Jenna Kantor:                08:11                I love that. I love that. So they’re not thrown to the wolves. Megan, for you, we went a little bit backwards because I jumped to the interactions with the regional reps. You’re working with the board. So I always forget because there’s the main board and then there’s the extension people. What are the terms? The advisors and the advisory panel. I should know this because I was on the advisory panel but, but so in these meetings with the advocacy chair, somebody who’s in charge of volunteering and somebody who’s in charge of events. What do you guys discuss or what even did you guys discuss and how was it passed along to James to be passed along to the regional reps? I mean just throwing out 5 million ideas.

Megan Sliski:                08:56                So I think that that was something that was a challenge last year. We were trying to work through how do we communicate from the executive board and advisory panel to the Board of Representatives. And that’s something that James and I did not take very lightly this year. We worked very hard to figure out how we were going to communicate with the board representatives. The Board of Representatives and the liaisons are our main contact with the schools. And without them, our structure falls apart. We need them, we need the communication with them. They need to know what’s going on. And so the way that we worked through this was yes, we had our executive board meetings where the executive board talked with the advisory panel and we figured out the plans for everything and we figured out, you know, what we were going to do for the rest of the term or even for just the upcoming months.

Megan Sliski:                09:53                Not even extending until the end of the term and just focusing on the now. So we would talk through that. But what we added this year, Jenna, that I think you’d be very happy to hear is that the board of Representatives were invited to every single executive board meeting. And so not only do they know what’s going on at the executive board meetings, they have active voices in what’s going on at the executive board meetings. So the board of reps have become this voice for us, the voice of we know what’s going on in this region, we understand our schools, we can give you the information that you need to help the SSIG be successful right now in these regions, in these schools. And I think that that was what was crucial and that’s what we added in, that’s really been beneficial to our organization is that we’ve been able to encompass all of our officers and we’ve been able to involve all of those officers in the decisions and we’ve been able to hear all the different perspectives and I think that’s been great.

Jenna Kantor:                10:55                How did you narrow down exactly what you were going to be doing this year, Aka advocacy dinners or even conclaves?

Megan Sliski:                                        We haven’t actually, we haven’t narrowed that down and I think that maybe that’s one of our strengths is that we’re trying to figure things out as we go. I talked earlier in the podcast about how this organization is in its infancy and how we don’t actually know exactly where it’s going. And I think maybe that’s the best part of this organization right now is that we don’t know. You know, so we’ve thrown off ideas, we’ve talked, we figured out what everyone’s strengths are. We figured out where we can go with the ideas that we have. And from that we’ve decided that, you know, we have a very strong advocacy chair who’s really great at working with the student assembly and working with you as the past advocacy chair.

Megan Sliski:                11:47                She’s had wonderful mentorships. Which I can say for a lot of our officers, actually all of our officers, they’ve had wonderful mentorship to be able to guide them to what we’ve done now. I think that talking about the strength and talking about, you know, what succeeded last year, you know, what we can do better from last year. We had such a strong board last year and they left us with such monumentous advice and you guys were so wonderful in guiding us to where we needed to be for the next year. And we’ve taken that and we’ve run with it, you know, and everyday we may not have the answer to what we’re doing tomorrow, but I think that right now the plans that we have in place are wonderful and I think they’re great for enhancing the student experience.

Megan Sliski:                12:36                And I think that as the term continues, we’re just going to keep coming up with more ideas and we’re just going to be able to keep invigorating students to be able to get involved with the special interest group. And personally, that’s what I love about it. I think that every day we just grow more and more as an organization and I love that.

Jenna Kantor:                                        So what have you guys accomplished this year so far? You share some and you share some split the mic.

Megan Sliski:                                        So I’ll start. I don’t want to sell so much of James’ thunder, but I think so far one of the wonderful things that we’ve come up with is that we’ve voted in the establishment of an advocacy task force. And we’ve also voted in the establishment of a service task force.

Megan Sliski:                13:21                The advocacy task force is going to promote legislation nationally and statewide to help students become more informed on the issues that really pertain to us as physical therapists and physical therapist assistants. And the service committee, the service Task Force, I’m sorry I should use the right language, is going to really focus on helping our service chair with implementing a really great day of service project. Something that we really hold to high standards in New York state. And I am so excited to see what they accomplish. So I’ll give the mic to James and I’ll let him talk about more of our successes.

James Nowak:               13:55                Well, without further ado, so I think really two things stand out to me early on. One first is it’s really a continuation of last year and it’s really implementing the advocacy dinners. We’ve really tried to put a focus on students networking not only with themselves but with professionals as well too, to really advocate for our profession out always. PTs with PTAs as well with one common goal of, educating folks, educating just our regular public along with educating our legislators. You know, that’s put a focus on is initially, you know, extending that to things such as lobby day.  And really just letting students know that, hey, this is something, you know, your classroom education has relied on. It’s very important, but you also should be concerned about some of the legislative issues that are going on cause it’s really going to impact your future.

James Nowak:               14:48                So we’ve already had a couple of advocacy dinners. We’ve had some standout speakers such as former NYPTA president, Dr. Patrick VanBeveren. He gave a phenomenal presentation at Utica College. And really I want to say with that is a huge shout out, not only to our advocacy chair Liping Li for, for really making these things happen, but also, our regional representatives, down to the liaisons at each individual school. Really Planning and being our boots on the ground. We’re making these things happen. They did a phenomenal job. And I would say our second accomplishment of this year, which I really feel strongly about is connecting with the NYPTA and specifically the NYPTA districts. Something we’ve really made a push for is to start to really try in and promote similar events, you know, and get students involved in mingling with the professionals in their various regions. We had our regional representatives actually reach out to the district chairs and the NYPTA and really trying to foster that relationship. So then you know, in the future we have that great connection with professionals who are in the field, and that will really provide students with phenomenal networking opportunities that they might not be able to get at their individual programs, but they can receive that from us.

Jenna Kantor:                16:16                I freaking love that. Okay. So I am going to move you both forward into the future. The future of when your term ends. What are you going to miss most?

Megan Sliski:                16:36                I think what I’m going to miss the most is being able to inspire the students in New York from my leadership position as the president. I’m going to miss talking with them on a weekly basis and you know, hearing their thoughts and hearing their opinions on how we’re going to better things for the physical therapy profession in New York state. But I say I’m going to miss that. Although I have a feeling that those relationships aren’t going anywhere and I have a feeling that knowing myself, I’m still going to be reaching out and talking to all of those individuals I think I’m going to miss inspiring the team. I think I’m going to miss the SSIG. This being my second year involved I think the SSIG has really given me an opportunity to grow and I think it’s helped me realize who I am as a person and who I want to be as a professional. And although I’m eternally grateful to the SSIG for what it’s given me in my role as a graduate student, I’m gonna miss that. I think I’m gonna Really Miss Interacting with the people that I’ve met, but I also know that that’s not the end of what I plan to do. And although it’ll be a little bit of a bittersweet ending, I’m excited for what comes after the SSIG for me.

James Nowak:               17:58                Just got to wipe away my tears after that one. I don’t know how I’m going to follow that. What I think really going off what Megan was saying, our organization, one of the things were really true is we try and do is deliver the experiences to students throughout the state. And that I think I would miss a lot is hearing feedback from schools saying, did you know, did you like this? You know, and stuff like that. And really being able to implement things that, you know, and give students the experiences that they might not be necessarily getting in the classroom directly. But I think just Kinda like what Megan was saying, working with the team, you know, when you’re in an organization like this and you’re able to network with students throughout the state, you really do build close bonds, you know, and there’s something about that atmosphere of, you know, coming together, collaborating, sort of to deliver those experiences and really make a difference. You know, what we’re doing here is we are inspiring and we are educating the future professionals of our field and to really be at the forefront of that is something that I think I’d miss greatly.

Megan Sliski:                19:09                I want to comment James on what you just said. So I happen to think that our dynamic duo of leading a team isn’t quite over yet. And so our sounding all somber here and sad about leaving, I have a feeling that James and I are going to continue our little teamwork and leading teams and things are just going to get a little bit better. So look out for the dynamic duo.

Jenna Kantor:                                        I love it. Well, thank you so much dynamic duo for coming on. Take care everyone. Thanks for tuning in.



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©2019 Karen Litzy Physical Therapy PLLC.
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