Dean Smith

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Sc Physiotherapy

How I came to be a Physio:

Most of us were drawn to our profession by one or a series of personal experiences. My first encounter with physiotherapy occurred while in high school. It was a relationship with my high school friend Fran’s little sister Betsy that drew me toward physio. Betsy was a bright, funny delightful girl who had the misfortune to be born with severe cerebral palsy. Through that contact I ended up working with a physiotherapist and an occupational therapist at a day camp for disabled children for the summer between grade 12 and 13. I first thought about pursuing a career in physio at that time but it wasn’t to be…yet.

I didn’t even apply for physio school when I finished high school because (much to my parents dismay) I was afflicted with the theatre bug. I have always had the luxury and good fortune to be able follow my nose (and passions) so applied and was accepted to the theatre performing program at York University. It was there that I had my first experience with mime and dance and my nose began to drag me in a different direction.

Upon graduation I did a cross Canada tour (my first time west of southern Ontario) with a classmate looking for theatre work. We took the train and met with theatre directors in most cities west of Toronto – ending up in Vancouver at the beginning of a glorious Vancouver summer. I knew in a millisecond that this was to become my home. Within weeks I stumbled into the dance studio of one of Vancouver wacky and wonderful dance legends – Paula Ross. As fate would have it this was the beginning of a 10 year career in modern dance.

As is common for dancers, injuries prompted me to seek out personal body work – physio, chiro and massage. I was becoming increasingly interested in how the movement body functioned and was starting to think about what next career wise. Pain and poverty in my early thirties got me thinking once again about a career in physiotherapy. I started the ball rolling toward going to the physio school at UBC.


  • Graduated with my BScPT from UBC in 1996
  • Manual Therapy – I pursued the manual therapy course system – completing my Part A exam in 1998 and my Part B (spinal manipulation) exam in 1999 (with credit – top grade).
  • Muscle Balance and Function – Studied with Shirley Sahrmann and associates, Florence Kendall and the kinetic control group – Mark Comerford – on detailed examination, testing and rehabiliation using detailed exercise.
  • IMS – Took the Intramuscular Stimulation Course with Dr Chan Gunn and associates in 2006.


  • Yoga – I have studied and taught yoga since the mid eighties – trained in the Iyengar style but have done classes with many teachers of different styles over the years. (As an aside – I put myself through physio school teaching yoga.) I now teach workshops on muscle function, posture and pathology for yoga teachers and advanced practitioners.
  • Fitness – I became a group fitness instructor in the mid eighties as well and taught classes till 2001. Since then I have focused on continuing education seminars for fitness instructors and personal trainers – doing seminars on a wide variety of topics here in Vancouver as well as the US and abroad.
  • Personal Pursuits – apart from yoga and fitness I am involved in running, hiking, climbing, kite boarding, kayaking, and walking lovely dog Skai.
  • Animal rehabilitation – because of my love of our four legged furry friends I did the animal rehabiliation course in 2003 and spend part of my time working with dogs and cats.

Areas of interest (professionally speaking):

In my lecturing I often joke that my body is my “laboratory of dysfunction”. Much of what I know I have learned by applying and practicing what I have learned to my own injuries and movement dysfunctions first. I think that the main reason I became a physio was to sort out my own mess (because I couldn’t imagine anyone taking the time to do it). I believe that many people’s bodies are a complex accumulated puzzle resulting from their habits, previous and current sports and activities, their injuries and their attitudes. Sorting out people’s puzzles is for me the fun of my work.

I can’t say that there is one type on client or injury that I prefer working with. Broadly put I guess my favorite clients are those that are interested in being involved in the process of getting better. I find that it is a collaborative process that is ultimately most effective in physiotherapy. When I think about it, it is the variety of clients that keeps this my work constantly interesting. I love working with dancers, yogis, runners, and weekend warriors – people who have had traumatic injuries or nagging insidious onset wear and tear type problems.

Is there a joint or region of the body that I prefer to work on? Not really – necks, back, knees or big toes – It is all part of our wonderful interconnected movement system.

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