We’re excited to introduce you to the always interesting and insightful Dr. Sam DuFlo. We hope you’ll enjoy our conversation with Dr. Sam below.
Dr. Sam, looking forward to hearing all of your stories today. Can you share an anecdote or story from your schooling/training that you feel illustrates what the overall experience was like?
When I entered the School of Medicine at University of Maryland Baltimore, I was what was considered an “adult” student: I had left undergrad with a degree in Spanish Education, took a few years to explore different career fields before landing on physical therapy, and had gone back to get an associates equivalent of pre-med to get into the doctorate level of PT programs. This gave me a huge advantage of solidly knowing why I was there; I was extremely motivated and could dedicate my time to my experience, education and success. This extra time also allowed for a layer of maturity that allowed me to look at what I was learning as bigger parts of a whole. I was becoming a physical therapist, but in my particular program at that time, they were trying to mold what I considered a very homogenous group of practitioners. The “khakis and white coat” look didn’t fit me, and in lieu of feeling insecure about it, I leaned into being the authentic person and PT that I was, and that has now evolved into “Dr.Sam” both inward and out. Our patients come from all walks of life and express themselves in so many different ways- so should we as practitioners. It makes my life so rich to be able to just be myself every day.
In a lot of ways, I took the more uncommon road. I was the first person in decades to elect to take a year off of the Doctorate of Physical Therapy program at UMB midway so that I could backpack and travel solo around South America (and later Australia) for a year. I advocated very hard for myself for the program to allow me to do this. And so much good came out of it. I was able to experience a very public health side to travel throughout South America. These experiences led to living and doing research in Malawi in HIV/AIDS in rural healthcare centers and delivery wards- which undoubtedly influenced my path greatly into women’s health. It also allowed me to re-center, experience the world beyond the seams of my own life, build confidence, find my brave. All of these elements are more pieces to my whole. You can see the influence in so elements of Indigo’s brand and experience – from my style and the design of our spaces, to how I speak to and support my staff, to my community involvement.
Dr. Sam, love having you share your insights with us. Before we ask you more questions, maybe you can take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers who might have missed our earlier conversations?
My community knows me as Dr. Sam, but I am a doctor of physical therapy, the founder and Chief Medical Officer of Indigo Physiotherapy, a women’s health and pelvic physical therapist, an author, and an expert in my field. Indigo is this beautiful, inclusive, boutique, client-centered pelvic physical therapy and bodywork practice that blossomed from a tiny seed of knowing that I could do better, and that our patients deserved better. I had been working in outpatient practices which really branched off traditional PT practice settings; it didn’t work for my clients. The bright fluorescent lights, short appointments, insurance demands- people just weren’t getting better at the rate one should expect. At Indigo Physiotherapy, we look to denormalize the common: incontinence, pelvic pain, painful menstrual cycles, prenatal/postpartum care and recovery, return to sport postpartum. There’s nothing canned here: every client is treated by a Doctorate-level practitioner with additional board certifications in pelvic physical therapy. Our clients receive hands-on treatment by skilled manual physical therapists, which means very high level skill in the musculoskeletal and neuromuscular systems. I wanted to create a multi-sensory experience in a boutique setting where the client and the practitioner could set the goals, expectations, and one-on-one care was the standard. I also appreciate the power and responsibility we have as a growing brand. Educating our clients has always been extremely important to me – it’s one of the reasons that one-on-one experience is paramount to our model. And as our influence continues to expand, we never stray from our commitment to use our voice to empower others.
Additionally – and this is kind of an inside joke between my Regional Director and I, who have been colleagues since PT school- but where do the old PT’s go?? In the hustle of big box PT, burnout is so real. I was moved to create a practice where clinicians (including myself) could have work-life balance, grow into their career, and not have anxiety going into their work week. Many of our practitioners go from seeing 100+ patients a week to 38 total at our practice. It creates a system for healthier practitioners which leads to better care for their clients or patients, as well as remarkable employee retention. So we all win. As a woman, single Mom, entrepreneur- I am very proud of the model that I have built.
Any stories or insights that might help us understand how you’ve built such a strong reputation?
Integrity, excellent client care, and coffee. There is nothing shy of hustle in my blood. And that drive and determination led to really dedicating myself to my growth in knowledge and skill set in this field in order to best care for my clients. People got to know me, I sort of became a brand in myself- a relatable resource. By truly trying to give my clients the best care I could and connecting them with other appropriate referrals or modalities of care, the word of mouth to other practitioners and future clients spread. I joke about coffee because the first few years I spent a lot of time buying coffee for other local women business owners and practitioners. I felt like we could support each other- that saying, when the tide rises all boats rise. And it worked.
Are there any books, videos or other content that you feel have meaningfully impacted your thinking?
I wish I could pinpoint something- but honestly, so much of this was via osmosis from my upbringing. My dad was an entrepreneur and worked for himself: by age 12, he had me going around to neighbors’ houses with flyers for Sam’s Lawn Mowing. He vowed to pay for the gas if I got out there and earned some cash. I hated it. I was so embarrassed on that red Snapper mower. But now I totally get why he did that. As soon as I was old enough to get a real job, which was 14 in NY at the time, he helped me get a job at Auntie Annes. It was way more than rolling pretzels; that job gave me my unofficial MBA. That woman is a badass at standard operating procedures, everything had a way, a list, a performance standard, an immaculate level of cleanliness. I learned customer service, money handling, really much of the foundation of the business person I was to become. I went on to wait tables for about 15 years to support myself through college and postgrad, even through parts of my doctorate program. Working in retail or food service, or a likewise industry gives you real humility and customer service skills. We ask anyone who applies to Indigo if they’ve worked at any point in those fields- it’s a skill set I value. Hustle, grind, can get dirty, not above doing the work. All of that being said, I didn’t know what I was learning at the time. Even through PT school I never wanted to own my own business or be an entrepenauer. What I didn’t yet know was the reason that I couldn’t find a good fit for myself in the work force was that a) the type of clinic I envisioned didn’t exist, but also b) I was meant for this role. Once I leaned into it, all the pieces came together.
Fun fact, I listen to Bloomberg Business podcast when I run, and have a voracious appetite for global business and econonic news. I like to know things, nerd out.
When it came time to hire and now manage a much larger team, one of the books that influenced my management style is “No Bad Kids” by Janet Lansbury. It gives great insight into not only how the toddler brain, but how the adult brain works as well – how to talk to people, to solve problems together, to help people feel heard. I don’t say this to infantilize my staff in any way- we have a very intelligent crew- nevertheless, this perspective contributed significantly to my management strategy. I ask people how you can help make their job easier, how we can solve problems together, let them have a voice and be heard, give positive reinforcement, sit on the same level. I recently read “Let My People Go Surfing: the Education of a Reluctant Bussinessman” by Yvon Chouinard, and as I read, there were many moments where I said to myself, ‘YES. YES!’ I felt validated for the way I’ve tried to build Indigo. We can’t all grow multi-billion dollar organizations and give them away, but we can take pieces of sustainability, employee wellness and work/life balance, and create new system if the current one doesn’t work for you – and work damn well hard towards it if we want to.
- Website: https://indigophysio.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/indigophysio/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/indigophysio
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/drsamduflo/
- Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/indigo-physiotherapy-baltimore
Dr. Sam DuFlo
Julie Hove Andersen