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From classroom to clinic: Physical trainer returns to Whidbey roots

By BEN WATANABE
South Whidbey Record Sports, Langley, South Whidbey Fire/EMS
October 10, 2012 · Updated 2:39 PM
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Brittany Marks, like many of her patients, has come full circle. The physical therapist began as a South Whidbey High School student in Jim Christensen’s athletic training class. Now she has a doctorate of physical therapy and manages Freeland FamilyCare. / Ben Watanabe / The Record

FREELAND — The last time Brittany Marks walked the Falcon sideline of Waterman Field, she still had her maiden name.

That was six years and two academic degrees ago. Marks, formerly Wheeler, is the newest physical therapist in the FamilyCare Physical Therapy group.

She works as the main therapist at the Freeland office. After graduating with her doctorate of physical therapy from the University of Southern California in May, Marks and her husband Josh came back to Whidbey Island.

“I love the island,” Marks said, “especially after living in L.A., we appreciated it more. There is just a lot of concrete, not a lot of green.”

Marks added: “One of the best things (about being back) is running into former patients.”

Her return was part of the plan before she left for Los Angeles. Marks return to join the practice was in the works even when she was getting her bachelor’s degree at the University of Washington.

“She’s everything you would want in an employee, she’s honest, she’s smart and she cares about her patients,” said FamilyCare owner Jim Christensen.

Now, Marks is back on the fields where first wrapped sore legs and checked for sprains and fractures. As a therapist for FamilyCare, she’s working for her old boss and mentor. The two can be spotted at least once a week on the Falcon sideline during girls soccer matches or football games, stretching players’ sore legs, stress testing injuries and wrapping sprained ankles.

“It was a little different stepping back onto the field,” Marks said. “With Jim still there, he still runs the show.”

Christensen has taught Marks since she was in high school back in the early 2000s. She was in Christensen’s athletic training class at South Whidbey High School and continued her young career as a student trainer all four years as a Falcon. Marks became the head student trainer, scheduled the other students to work at games and set up the equipment.

“I could rely on her, she was my right hand,” Christensen said. “She’s a real success story of the whole school system on South Whidbey, and she also shows the value of having a vocational training program at the high school.”

Physical therapy has been Marks’ chosen profession since she was a high school freshman in Christensen’s basic athletic training class, that is according to an old Record article.

“I just have a really good relationship with Jim,” Marks said. “I have a lot of respect for him.”

“He made me more comfortable working with different people.”

Relationships are an important part of the therapy process, in Marks’ eyes. Watching patients progress through an injury or affliction is the reason she became a licensed physical therapist. That’s also one of the reasons she doesn’t mind volunteering a few hours each week to work as an athletic trainer for the Falcons. Though, don’t mistake her presence for fan-hood, despite studying some of the most notable schools in college sports, Marks doesn’t set her schedule around College GameDay or Monday Night Football. She’s partial toward soccer and basketball, which Marks admitted is because she better understands those sports.

Working with student athletes, however, has benefits for the Falcons, who are quickly assessed by Christensen or Marks and the student trainers. Patients of FamilyCare also have access to the workout facilities in Clinton, Freeland and Oak Harbor.

“We’re more experienced with some of the injuries,” Marks said. “It’s nice being involved and helping someone right then.”

Eventually, Marks said she was interested in specializing in pediatric or neurological physical therapy. With FamilyCare, Marks has the opportunity to do both when she works with special needs students from South Whidbey.

“We try to be more involved in the community,” Marks said.

 

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