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Am I crazy or what?

Physical therapist heads profession’s Md. board
Originally published August 07, 2011

By Ed Waters Jr.
Frederick News-Post Staff

A Frederick physical therapist has been elected to the prestigious position of chairman of the Maryland Physical Therapy Board of Examiners.

John Baker, CEO of Baker Rehab Group, formerly HomeCare Rehab and Nursing, was elected by the other seven members of the board to serve a one-year term as chairman.

The board oversees the physical therapy profession in Maryland, including licensing, regulation and disciplining in the case of problems.

Baker, who balances his new position with his full-time business, holds professional degrees including a doctorate of science in physical therapy. A physical therapist for more than 20 years, he has been advocate for the profession and was named to the eight-member board of examiners 2 1/2 years ago. That appointment, by the governor, is for four years and can be extended another four years.

The board, made up of five physical therapists, a physical therapist assistant and consumers, is dedicated to making sure the public is protected, Baker said.

“I was a bit surprised at being elected as chairman,” Baker said, noting that most of the chairmen in the past have been from the larger metropolitan hospitals or health care systems.

“Maryland has historically taken a lead in the nation for its PT board,” Baker said during an interview at Edenton, a retirement and assisted living community in Frederick. Edenton has a senior-focused outpatient rehabilitation clinic that serves not only Edenton residents but also anyone in the county who needs physical therapy and wellness care.

“Maryland was the first board to authorize direct access, in 1987, that said a patient does not need a physician’s order to get physical therapy,” Baker said. “We are the first state to allow ‘dry needling,'” Baker said, which is used to reduce pain in muscles, but has a different approach than acupuncture.

The board has investigators, attorneys and an assistant attorney general to provide services and counsel.

Complaints, Baker said, include a patient who claims “crossing boundaries,” such as a physical therapist who makes sexual or other inappropriate contact, fraud or other issues.

Many times, the complaint can be settled with a letter from the board, Baker said. But if it warrants investigation and a potential problem is seen, several steps are taken, Baker said.

“The first step is an informal talk with the physical therapist,” Baker said. If that doesn’t work, the next move is a case resolution conference. That is something that could go to trial, but also could be settled among those involved and legal counsel.

“Aggressive issues that are serious to public protection would go to court,” Baker said.

That could result in the potential revocation of a license.

Physical therapy is evolving, Baker said. Although the physical therapy board has an excellent reputation for working with other boards in the state, Baker said there can be potential conflicts. Allowing a physical therapist to check the blood sugar of a diabetic while at their home or other location might upset the home care nursing profession, but it better serves patients in the long run, Baker said.

Baker speaks to the doctoral graduates at area colleges in physical therapy. “I tell them how to make sure they don’t come before our board” with problems, Baker said.

His goals are to ensure access to the board by the public, resolve issues quickly and look at residents of Maryland as “customers” who needed to be served in the most cost-efficient, professional and correct way.

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