On this episode of the Healthy, Wealthy and Smart Podcast, Jenna Kantor guests hosts and interviews Sneha Gazi and Maria Muto on Physical Therapy International Service. Dr. Sneha Gazi is a physical therapist based in Manhattan who specializes in orthopedics and pelvic health. Sneha’s desire to bring her skills beyond her immediate reach drove her to start PTIS in the hopes of bringing PT services to underserved populations. Dr. Maria Muto is a physical therapist based in Manhattan who specializes in orthopedics.

In this episode, we discuss:

-How Sneha and Maria started Physical Therapy International Service as students

-The logistics around organizing a volunteer event abroad

-Roadblocks Sneha and Maria encountered along the way

-Advice for those interested in following in Sneha and Maria’s footsteps

-And so much more!


#PTIS #PTInternationalService #CerveraDelMaestre #Spain

PT International Service Website

Email: pt.internationalservice@gmail.com


For more information on Sneha:

Dr. Sneha Gazi, DPT earned her Doctorate of Physical Therapy from Columbia University with a focus on orthopedics and pediatrics. She holds a BA in Honors Developmental Psychology from New York University where she completed a Concentration in Dance and published a scientific article on infant motor learning and development.

Dr. Gazi worked at clinical rotations in both outpatient orthopedic practices and acute care hospitals, gaining knowledge on high-level manual therapies and evidence based exercises to help her patients return to the activities they loved. She’s treated pelvic pain in pre/post-partum women, rugby players in New Zealand’s sports training facility and helped many NY’s Broadway and Off-Broadway dancers, actors, vocalists, and instrumentalists to get back on stage.

She combines her knowledge of how to rehabilitate lower back pain, neck pain, TMJ dysfunction, sports and dance injuries along with a compassionate energy. Sneha is also a certified yoga instructor and professional Indian classical dancer. She integrates yoga asanas, breathing techniques, guided mediation, and mindfulness exercises into her treatment sessions to enhance her patient’s recovery process. Sneha has a strong passion for service overseas and pioneered the first ever Physical Therapy International Service trip to Spain with Dr. Maria Muto.

For more information on Maria:

Dr. Maria Muto is a physical therapist based in Manhattan who specializes in orthopedics. Maria received her Doctorate of Physical Therapy at Columbia University where she began to analyze runner’s running mechanics. In recent years, Maria has worked with the athletic population as a personal trainer. She hopes in the near future to obtain her certified strength and conditioning specialist certification (CSCS) to practice both training and rehab with high level athletes. As a physical therapist, Maria’s treatment approach is team-based between her and her patients. She believes that getting to know and involve her patients as much as possible within his or her care is the best way to optimize function and maximize movement mechanics for a true recovery. This belief of involving patients within his or her care at this level persuaded Maria to expand herself to this world and discover how to truly connect with others of varying conditions, cultures and fortunes. Maria has now practiced in Italy and Spain. Overall, Maria is excited and eager to continue to learn more about the world and her profession by these experiences.

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:                00:04                Hello. This is Jenna Kantor. I am partnering as a host with healthy, wealthy and smart. And today I get to interview Sneha Gazi and Maria Muto. And they are the creators of physical therapy international service, which is PTIS, where they led the first ever international service trip in Spain, which is incredible. So I’m extremely excited to be interviewing these two. One they’re good friends of mine, two their big goal getters. Literally this wasn’t any teacher or any mentor telling them to create this service trip. This is something they just found a real hardcore desire to create from scratch. So this podcast is extremely valuable because they are going to be sharing exactly how they did it, maybe a little bit of obstacles, and then hopefully put a fire in your flame if you’re considering doing something like this yourself. So the topic for today is very simple. It’s just creating a service trip. All right, so first Sneha, would you just mind just saying hello one more time so people can really hear your voice. And Maria, would you do the same? Perfect. Alright, so first question, why did you decide to create a service trip?

Sneha Gazi:                   01:31                So we had multiple reasons to create a service trip, but two of the main reasons were, one, we wanted to provide physical therapy services to a group of people in a different country who didn’t have that opportunity already. So we chose a small town in Spain. They have no physical therapy services in that town and the closest medical services they have to travel quite far to obtain even basic medical services. So physical therapy is sort of a luxury treatment for them in that town. And these are also people who work high levels of labor, their agriculture workers, they do a lot of physical demanding work, so they end up having a lot of physical stressors. So, that’s one main reason we wanted to provide a service to people who didn’t have it. And then the second reason, our main reason to join with two folds.

Sneha Gazi:                   02:23                The second one was to provide an opportunity for students to learn in a different setting. So this provides cultural awareness. This provides an opportunity for students to bring things outside of a classroom setting, even outside of a clinical affiliation setting where they have, you know, very structured environment into sort of the blue and an environment where they won’t have a chance to, you know, readily look something up on the Internet, but they have to think on their toes. They have to know how to modify a treatment. They have a licensed physical therapist there to guide them throughout to make sure everything is safe and everything is moving forward very well for the patient to have the patients’ interests in mind. But it’s to provide these students an opportunity where they’re kind of thrown out of their comfort zone.

Jenna Kantor:                03:05                That’s excellent. So, okay, you started from scratch. How did you guys fundraise for this trip?

Maria Muto:                 03:14                Yeah, so we had three separate events. These were a happy hour events, that we advertised to people that we knew in the local area to come hang out with us downtown, come out and support this service trip. We had great turnout the first two times. It was so much fun to just gather with these people to help promote this amazing trip. Super supportive. It was a true gift, honestly. So, you know, we hope to continue doing this.

Jenna Kantor:                03:49                That’s great. Yeah. Sounds so simple that you guys were just able to create these social nights and you’re able to just make money from that. Was it difficult just to follow up a little bit more money? Yeah. So was it difficult putting together these fundraising events or was it rather simple?

Maria Muto:                 04:04                Well, the simple fact that we are housed in Manhattan kind of make it easy because there’s so many opportunities to go out and explore the city. So, you know, between Sneha and I, and a third member, we kind of were just thinking about, you know, where do we want to be? Thinking about the audience that we were targeting, like young 20s, let’s think about the area and location. So we did our research, we contacted, the coordinators of these local areas that we were interested in and things, you know, led to another. And we were talking about deals and we got really great offers and apparently our audience loved it too. So, it wasn’t really that difficult. You just have to kind of reach out and speak to the right person.

Jenna Kantor:                04:50                That’s great. I like how you say it. It almost sounds like boom, Bada Bang. It happens.

Maria Muto:                 04:56                New York is a land of opportunities so it is put yourself out there and you never know what you’re going to get.

Jenna Kantor:                05:03                Yeah. So we learned right here, moved to New York is a good suggestion. Did you choose a location then for your actual service trip? Sneha you start to go into this a little bit saying all the benefits of Spain, but I’m sure you must have explored other locations as well. So would you mind telling me that journey?

Sneha Gazi:                   05:24                So, I actually had the wonderful opportunity before joining PT school to do a Yoga Shiatsu program where I got my yoga teacher certification in this very town. So the way I found that was I just looked up yoga teacher certifications in Europe because that’s where I wanted to do it. And I know a little bit of Spanish. So I knew that that would be a little bit easier for me to mingle in with the folks in the town and have a good time and get to know different cultures. So I chose Spain, I ended up going there, made some amazing connections, you know, the smaller the town, the lovelier the people in a lot of ways. Everyone is so humble in that town. Everyone is so open and warm and you know, willing to let you into their homes and their town in their community, which is already so small to begin with.

Sneha Gazi:                   06:11                So I made some really good friends there and when I was thinking about places, Maria and I were discussing, that was one of our many options. And it also was the one that flew the quickest for us because of that connection that I already had there. So it wasn’t easy to do the communication and you know, do the long distance back and forth, emails, thousands of emails, thousands of things to coordinate. But at the end of the day, that was the best route for us to go to because I already had been there before and I had known that it was a safe place. The people were wonderful and I knew that this would benefit both the town in the students and the licensed therapists who are coming along with it to make it a safe working environment and a safe learning environments. And that’s why we chose that.

Jenna Kantor:                06:52                Yeah. Yeah. That’s great. Oh so good that you knew that it was a safe area to cause I know for people traveling overseas that would be a concern. So having that background with Yoga, by the way, power to you being a physical therapist and knowing yoga. Wow, that’s definitely given you a leg up for sure. But being able to have that experience before that, that’s great. What a great way, how your life and kind of led you to creating something more in this area that you fell in love with through yoga.

Jenna Kantor:                07:53                So we talked a little bit about fundraising. Now my mind’s going to how much would this cost if I was a student now I wanted to participate. How much did it cost for a student to go and be part of this service trip?

Maria Muto:                 08:17                So, because this was the first event, we kind of hope that the next following will be similar into what the expenses were for this one. But you know, as a student, finances can be very difficult. So, you know, trying to keep that within our minds. We calculated a fair of 450 euros, that would be per students. So kind of just thinking of the numbers, we were, you know, that’s why we had those three fundraising events to try to cover for those costs. So, you know, we were planning accordingly. We did tell the students, which we have three students with us and two licensed PTs, we did tell them that their airfare would be on them. Because we wouldn’t be able to cover that. Hopefully as we grow as an organization, we will be able to, you know, create larger fundraising events and have, you know, even more money to, you know, help us move this opportunity along and help you know, out the students, or whoever’s participating more. But for the first time, that was pretty much what we had the students pay. So, you know, we’ll see what happens in the future. But, it wasn’t really that expensive. When you look at a larger scale of what it actually could potentially be per person.

Sneha Gazi:                   09:46                We have to say what the fundraising money went to. So we have to say that we covered the entire cost for the licensed therapists. 450 euros for two people.

Maria Muto:                 09:56                The 450 was covered like we provided coverage for the PTs and then everything, the airfares and all that stuff was on their own.

Jenna Kantor:                10:17                Selecting students and selecting mentors, I feel like this is almost like a raffle, you know, like who gets it? How did you do this? Was there some sort of like people wrote in letters and mentors. I mean, you were students at this time. So how many professionals did you know at this point to be able to pull in the ideal people to guide you over in Spain?

Sneha Gazi:                   10:40                Yeah, so the licensed PTs who came on this trip, the way we approached that was we emailed, texted, Facebook message called, kind of in any way, a form of communication to every license PT that we knew and our contacts list, and then ask our friends to give us more context. We had many people show interest, but we knew that we were asking a lot from them because they weren’t getting paid to go on the trip. All we were able to do was completely cover they’re living, food, transportation in Spain, which was the 450 euros that Maria mentioned, but we weren’t going to be able to cover their airfare. So what these therapists had to do, and we are forever grateful for you, Patty and Michelle for doing this. They actually took off of work and paid their airfare to come to be a part of this trip.

Sneha Gazi:                   11:32                And the two therapists who came in were the ones who were able to give us a commitment as soon as, and we knew that everybody who we reached out to was a reliable, intelligent and wonderful therapist who we knew would be an amazing form of guidance for the students and for ourselves because we were students while we went on the trip. So we knew whoever came in and whoever signed our contract and said they were on board. And you know, there were many who are very enthusiastic about this. But whoever came in first were those. And then in terms of the students, we reached out to several schools. We did not want this to be a school trip. You know, never really was a school trip. This is an independent project. So we reached out to several schools outside of our own school.

Sneha Gazi:                   12:18                Maria and I go to the same school but reached out to other students to make sure that we get a diverse group of people so we can learn from other schools as well. And we wanted everything to be a sort of from different pockets of the states. So we were able to get three students from three different schools who joined in.  A lot of people sent in their applications and we sort of chose based on, you know, their essay of why they wanted to do it and sort of their background on the classes that they had taken just to make sure that we had a diverse group of people but single minded in terms of what we wanted to accomplish, which was service and learning because it’s physical therapy international service trip. So yeah, that’s how we chose everyone. And you know, that was initially we thought that this was a struggle but we found very quickly moving forward that that was the least of our worries. It was easy to get those.

Jenna Kantor:                                        Oh that’s so good to hear. Cause I mean putting everything together from scratch is already enough on its own. So that’s great that that ended up being a smooth journey for you both. Now, what was your biggest obstacle, because I’m sure you’ve had many obstacles as you were putting this together, but what would you say is your biggest obstacle that you encountered and how did you overcome it?

Maria Muto:                 13:30                I’m really glad that you were asking that question now. Just because the last thing that you said kind of segways into my response in that starting from scratch is pretty difficult. So as students, you know, we’re trying to think of who do we know, what do we know, where do you know we want to go and how do we want to do this ourselves? You know, as very ambitious PT students, we really tried to, you know, Gung Ho and take sail what this in which we did. But that wasn’t really easy to do because of who we are as just students. And with the experience that we had at that given time, which, you know, was a decent amount of experience and, you know, led us to having this project follow through. But I think, you know, we just had to kind of keep on rolling, keep on thinking, make sure that, you know, we had all of our grounds covered. You know, just having the trust in the people that we selected and which we did. So I think that that was hard to kind of try to really piece everything together. But you know, we just kept on powering through. We just really wanted to make this work and we’re so thankful that it did.

Jenna Kantor:                14:52                We’re up to the last question and this is just getting words of wisdom from each of you. What words of wisdom do you have for someone who’s listening to this and goes, that’s it. I want to plan a service trip now. What do you have to say to that person?

Sneha Gazi:                   15:20                So there are many, many things that go into planning this trip. I’m going to tell you that it ends up being sort of a part time job, especially towards when you get to the end of the race, when you’re putting everything together. It took over a year and a half of preparation. We had many obstacles along the way like Maria had mentioned, but even through that, it did take quite a bit of time to put everything together. So I would say number one is make sure that you have a contact in the location that you want to do your service in A to make sure that this place is a safe learning environment and a safe working environment. And secondly, to make sure that logistically that you have a point person to get information from, to coordinate the patient’s there to coordinate the simple things.

Sneha Gazi:                   16:10                And we had a wonderful lady Alaina, who did all of this for us while we were there and Kudos to her because if it wasn’t for her, we wouldn’t have been able to do this trip. But she was a local who volunteered her time to put together plints, towels, pillows, sheets, dividers, coordinate the schedule of the patients, get together the schools when we did our educational workshops to coordinate the location, the projector, everything. So I would definitely say you need somebody like that in this location. If you are not yourself able to travel back and forth throughout the year or however long it takes for you to plan it, to get there, you need to have somebody there. And the second thing is to make sure that you know how the money is going to play out from the beginning.

Sneha Gazi:                   16:56                So making sure you’re very transparent with how much is food, how much is transportation, and how much is living costs, how much your supplies, and then devise a plan of how you’re going to make this feasible. Like Maria and I had planned before we even got the location, we already started fundraising because we knew this was going to be expensive. So we put together the fundraisers, you know, three months before we even nailed the location down. So I would definitely say, make sure that you have a plan financially to get everything together and make sure that the place is a good place to be in and you will do wonders if you just have those two solid.

Maria Muto:                 17:51                So everything that they have said totally feel the exact same way. Wonderful, wonderful advice. But I think when you go abroad into another country, be very accepting and welcoming to the new culture that you’re in. Embrace where you are, feel it, feed it, do everything that you can. Because at least from my experience, these people are so welcoming and just want to know about you as a person. They’re very intrigued that you’re American and there’s so many other ways that you communicate with people other than just words. But I would advise for you to study up on the language in which that you’re going to be treating in because it makes it a little bit easier. But there are other ways to, you know, understand people if you have that language barrier, but for sure, really tried to, you know, embrace the culture that you’re in. And I think that would really make the experience even more fulfilling.

Jenna Kantor:                18:36                That’s great. I actually just thought of something, I’m wondering what Spanish phrase did you use the most there?

Maria Muto:                 18:46                Because I was speaking so broken Spanish, like I was actually speaking more Italian. I think I would say like siéntese, por favor. Hola. Or Ciao. Aquí. Dolor.

Sneha Gazi:                   19:05                I think I used boca arriba the most, which is face up. It literally means upwards. Oh yeah. But it means supine. And I had to say, I had to tell people, can you lay flat or lay on your back? And it was very difficult for people to understand this. So one of my patients who spoke broken English was like Boca arriba.

Jenna Kantor:                                        For anyone who was interested in starting a service trip. Please reach out to Sneha and Maria. They are huge Go getters. I really, really appreciate you guys coming on here. This is extremely valuable. Thank you so much.



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