Dr. Danielle Struble Fitzsimmons, PT, DPT, PhD appointed as the Assistant Director of Clinical Education

The Columbia University Programs in Physical Therapy is excited to announce the newest member of our team, Danielle Struble-Fitzsimmons. Dr. Struble has been appointed as the Assistant Director of Clinical Education and an Assistant Professor of Rehabilitation and Regenerative Medicine (Physical Therapy). Dr. Struble always wanted to be a full-time faculty member in a DPT program. The journey that she has had thus far and prior to her joining us at Columbia has been riveting. Dr. Struble used a systematic approach to develop her clinical, academic, and leadership skills, and this helped lead her to Columbia. While maintaining full time clinical roles, she consistently held part time faculty positions. In her most recent faculty roles, she was fortunate to have worked with and been mentored by the Directors of Clinical Education of two different DPT programs in New York. Dr. Struble was extremely excited when this position became available because she yearned for a role that would connect her love with the clinic as well as the academic component of education. 

Dr. Struble hopes to continue to contribute a strong empathetic response to students by listening to their concerns and understanding what their goals are during their own clinical experiences. She hopes to utilize all of her mentoring experience to assist them in developing decision making and rationale in order to be responsive and reactive in the clinic. Dr. Struble strives to help students feel comfortable and prepared in all the situations that they will face as future PT’s. 

Dr. Struble wants our students to know that she loves being a PT, and feels deep gratitude for all of the experiences the profession has afforded her. Her aim is for students to feel comfortable coming to her knowing that she will be supportive of them. Dr. Struble would like to enhance the inter-professional opportunities during clinical experiences, by providing more ways to engage and learn from other members of the patient care team. Dr. Struble believes that it is critical that PTs understand the role of our interdisciplinary colleagues in order to enhance communication and delivery of care. During clinical experiences, students have the guidance and mentorship of clinical instructors to develop critical communication and team building strategies. Dr. Struble believes that having strong relationships with other providers is important, and this skill should be developed as much as possible during clinical education experiences. Interprofessional practice allows students to embrace the role of other providers, strengthens their understanding of physical therapist practice, and is key driver for the delivery of high-quality patient-centered care.

About Dr. Danielle Struble-Fitzsimmons

Danielle Struble-Fitzsimmons began her journey as a PT with an injury. She went on a ski trip, and it ended with tearing her ACL. Her reconstructive surgery happened the summer before her senior year of high school. While Dr. Struble was going through this, she found herself thinking about what career path she would follow with her first year of college on the horizon. Dr. Struble was having her own experience with physical therapy and learning about what it could do for a person to help restore function and live an active life after a traumatic injury. Her injury drove her into the field of Physical Therapy. While being a patient, she also learned about what being a great PT meant from her experiences with PTs at this time. 

Dr. Struble knew that this is what she wanted to do and immediately applied to PT school at the University of Scranton, where she received her MPT, and later, DPT. She was hired by her final clinical affiliation site and began work immediately after graduation. Dr. Struble’s first job included clinical work in outpatient orthopedics, as well as lymphedema therapy. Dr. Struble’s passion for lymphedema therapy was related to a personal connection to the condition. Her grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer while she was in high school, and she developed lymphedema in her arm. This drove Dr Struble to learn more about lymphedema while she was completing the graduate component of PT school. She published a research article as a student about the benefits of physical therapy interventions for patients with lymphedema, and during her first months of employment, she attended the specialized lymphedema training course needed for clinical practice.  This first job really served as a catapult for launching her career as a lymphedema therapist. 

“Life happened,” as Dr. Struble discussed the second stage of her career, where she got married, had kids, and moved to New York. Dr. Struble began working for Burke Rehabilitation Hospital where she held a dual role as a lymphedema therapist part time, and then at New York Presbyterian where she worked in the behavioral health and psychiatric hospital in Westchester. Dr. Struble worked primarily in mental health and psychiatry for an extended period of time. After doing this for a while, she decided she’d focus primarily on the psychiatric area that she had been working in, as she enjoyed it. This was a real interdisciplinary team and there was a lot of opportunity as a PT to contribute to patient care. At this point Dr. Struble was finishing her PhD at Seton Hall University and did her dissertation in the psychiatric area at New York Presbyterian Westchester. She utilized a core physical therapy assessment, the Timed Up and Go test, to measure fall risk for geriatric patients with psychiatric illness. It was the first time that this PT test was applied to this special patient population. She felt that her research helped contribute to enhanced patient care at the hospital as well as the knowledge gap within the PT literature.

Dr. Struble moved on after completing her PhD because she wanted to assume a clinical leadership position. As a result, she found herself back at Burke Rehab where she was hired as the Cardiopulmonary Program Director. Her role was to grow the program and mentor the therapists and clinicians. Simultaneously while doing this, Dr. Struble was also teaching. She was a part time PT instructor at both Mercy College and New York Medical College. At New York Medical College, she taught a more advanced class called “Clinical Decision Making for Complex Patients.” This class focused heavily on psychosocial elements of care, which is something that she is very passionate about. It also incorporated a large part of her lymphedema content. This course pulled all of her specialty areas of practice together and helped her work directly with students to foster decision making beyond a bio-medical focus. 

Dr. Struble is a true PT through and through. Outside of the hospital, she loves to work out and stay healthy. Her favorite activity is running. She isn’t the only sports enthusiast; Dr. Struble is a sports mom to the core. She has two daughters that play a wide range of sports and currently spends most of her free time driving her younger daughter to practices and games. Her older daughter plays lacrosse at the University of Arizona. She and her husband love to watch their daughters play sports, and they rarely miss a game. Beyond her athletic past times, she is also an avid reader.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” -Helen Keller