Alumnus Embarks on Year-Long Critical Care Fellowship

Peter Herbst Feature

Imagine helping a person with a dual heart and kidney transplant walk again. That’s what motivates Peter Herbst, DPT ’16, as a physical therapist in the critical care environment.

In September, Herbst started a year-long program as a physical therapy (PT) critical care fellow at the University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC). One of only three schools in the country offering this type of advanced post-professional training, the UCMC 52-week fellowship involves clinical mentorship, research, and clinical practice.

“I wanted to be able to take on a leadership role in an up and coming part of the physical therapy field,” Herbst said of his interest in the fellowship. “While there are few critical care fellowships, there is increased demand for PT due to increasing evidence for the importance of mobilizing patients as soon as possible, especially in the hospital’s intensive care unit.”

Herbst’s first exposure to the intensive care unit (ICU) was as a student in the PT program at the George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS). “The program offered us unique experiences, both in the classroom and beyond, to find our place in the profession,” he said. One such acute care experience was with a state-of-the-art, high fidelity mannequin simulator in the SMHS CLASS Center. Another was shadowing in the GW Hospital ICU during his cardiopulmonary course.

After graduating from GW, Herbst worked at a level 1 trauma center and pursued teaching opportunities at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). His experiences and passion for working with critically ill patients solidified his decision to apply for the UCMC fellowship. “Choosing to do the fellowship really closed the door on going back to working in an outpatient setting, but it also opened the door to new specializations and working with a high-risk population where PT is so needed,” Herbst said.

The program’s goal is for fellows to better understand how to treat people who have experienced or survived critical illness. Each fellow conducts a case study that allows the researchers to perform in-depth and detailed examinations on a single case.

Herbst loves getting to view critical care from multiple perspectives and engaging with the individuals that make up this population. “My driving force about critical care is being able to give people back what they thought they had lost forever and having them rediscover functional life in the most devastating of health emergencies,” he said. Herbst truly feels that there is no patient population that benefits more from physical therapy.