Healthy, Wealthy, & Smart Episode 323: Fairytale PT w/ Jenna Kantor & Katie Schmitt, SPTs
Karen Litzy guest stars Katie Schmitt, SPT and Jenna Kantor, SPT from Columbia University to discuss their movement-based musical program for kids. Their program, Fairytale PT, was developed to get kids exercising and engaged using popular fairy tales. Learn more about Jenna and Katie’s therapeutic inspiration for the program and what the vision they have for it is.
Listen to Podcast View Podcast Transcript
Welcome to the Healthy, Wealthy, and Smart podcast. Each week we interview the best and brightest in physical therapy, wellness, and entrepreneurship. We give you cutting edge information you need to live your best life healthy, wealthy, and smart. The information in this podcast is for entertainment purposes only, and should not be used as personalized medical advice. And now, here’s your host, Dr. Karen Litzy.
Hey everybody, welcome back to the podcast. Today’s episode is brought to you by Net Health. So what do you want to accomplish in 2018 if you’re a physical therapist? I bet providing even better patient care and increasing revenue on tops of the list. The good news is you’re not doing this on your own. There’s one solution that brings it all to the table. ReDoc, powered by xfit, is a cloud-based, fully integrated EMR and billing solution. To learn more about ReDoc and complete revenue cycle management services, check them out at nethealth.com/healthy. So a huge thanks to Net Health for sponsoring the podcast. And in today’s episode, it’s kind of a special episode. I’m joined today by the founders of Fairytale PT, Jenna Kantor, and Katie Schmitt. They’re both student physical therapist graduating very soon from Columbia University. And what I did was I actually went to one of their productions here in New York City at the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital in uptown Manhattan, uptown New York.
And so what you’re going to hear in this podcast is you’re going to hear them singing. You’re going to hear parts of the production kind of sprinkled in throughout the episode today. So a big thanks to Jenna, and a big thanks to Katie, and to all of the actors and actresses that are part of Fairytale PT. I went to see Beauty and the Beast, so you’re going to hear a little bit of music interspersed in between here, as we talk about why they decided to create Fairytale PT, what they’d like to see happen with it in the future, and all the fun they’re having with it right now. So a huge thanks to Jenna and Katie for coming on the podcast, and also for letting me come and watch them perform. So everybody, enjoy this special episode with Fairytale PT.
Hey Jenna, hey Katie, welcome to the podcast. I’m so happy to have both of you on, and because there are two of you. So as not to cause confusion with the listeners of who’s talking when, I’m just going to have you guys talk a little bit more about yourself now. So Jenna, why don’t you start and tell us a little bit more about you, where you are in school and in your journey, and then Katie, I’ll have you follow up.
Okay. So great to be on here. First of all, thank you so much for having us. This is a pleasure to spread the word about Fairytale Physical Therapy always, because we really do want to get it to other schools. That being said, so I’m Jenna Kantor. I am a third year PT student with Katie at Columbia University, about to graduate and take that really fun exam that everybody just wishes they could just take annually because it’s so fun. And right now, in my second to last clinical, which is a dance focused clinical, working with dancers who are in high school, which is an incredible place to intervene. And that is my future goal, is to work with dancers in physical therapy.
Awesome. And Katie, go ahead.
Hi, I am Katie. I am also a third year student with Jenna. Thank you Karen, for having us. Thank you for talking about FTPT. We love to talk about it, which is great. I am in my second to last clinical at an outpatient PT practice just outside of Charleston, which is fantastic. Little colder than I thought it would be, but very, very nice, and the patients are amazing, and I get to see lots of different body parts, and my CI has all sorts of great tools to help protect the PT’s hands and their bodies, and so that’s really fun to get to play with. And then I’m off to my last clinical in L.A. for dance medicine. And then that test that Jenna mentioned, we’ll take that, and then off to real life. And I hope to work with possibly cardiopulm and oncology patients, as well as dancers, and we’ll see where it goes. Kind of let the universe take me where it goes.
Fantastic. And now, as people obviously heard before I introduced you guys, they heard a little snippet of Beauty and the Beast. So I was at your performance at the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital in New York city, the performance of Fairytale PT. So why don’t we talk about the origin of it? How did this all start?
Okay, so I’ll take it, Katie. And then Katie, you do the corrections as I go. No, because then she’s like, “No, it didn’t happen that way.” So it was during first semester, and we were waiting to go in for our anatomy class. It may have been even the second, it was so early in the semester. And Katie looks at me and she says, very complimentary, “I think you would be a good Elsa in Frozen.” And I had asked her, I said, “Are you an Anna type?” She said, “Oh yeah.” I said, “Oh, then you’d be great.” And Katie, you were the one, right, that said, “We should do this.” She was like, “We should really do this.” And I was like, “I’m in.” And then there was this mutual back and forth, “I’m serious. I’m serious.” And what I love about this is we’re both so new, we didn’t know that each of us is a major doer. So it ended up being this uncommunicated race.
And that’s how we were able to get our first production of the Frozen show all together, and it was the beginning of January, Katie?
Yeah. So we got to do our first Frozen show. Then Katie, would you mind bumping into more of the different steps we took leading into January?
Yeah, so I thought it would be great to do a children’s show. I saw a commercial for Frozen on TV, I had never watched it before, but Idina Menzel reminds me of Jenna, or vice versa. And Columbia, the med school, is right next to Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital. So I thought, what a great idea, let’s take our theater backgrounds, and let’s build off of it and see what happens. So I approached Jenna, and she was game for it, and we approached our professors, and they were like, “Yeah, go for it.”
They were very good at backing us up and helping us get started. And we reached out to Morgan Stanley, and the PR coordinator of child life over there is amazing. She’s so great, and she really helped us figure out how we wanted the flow to go, and what we wanted the show to be. And then we reached out to other people in our class, some great singers, some great artistic people, some great costume people. We were very lucky. We are very lucky to have such a great class. There’s 82 of us, but everyone’s super… I don’t know the right word. They’re really-
Yeah, they’re gung ho, and they’re very talented in their own ways. So we came up with our first show at Morgan Stanley, and then we kind of took it from there, and we’ve done 20 shows, I think a little over 20 shows at Morgan Stanley Weill Cornell Medical Center over on the East side, we’ve done a show at a school in New Jersey, we’ve done a show at Columbia, and Jenna has actually worked with a school out in California to do a show as well.
Nice. And I have to add, you guys do have theater backgrounds. So would you mind talking a little bit about what your theater background is, because when I went to see the show, I was like, “What? This is Broadway caliber voices.” It’s amazing. And just so people know, we’ll be interspersing some scenes from the show throughout this interview, but the teapot?
Yes. I was like, “What is happening here? What is up?” Wait, what is her name again?
Yeah, Ashika, she was, you were all amazing. And I think when people think of, oh, like a school production, I think they have in their mind, like it’s going to be a school production, but it’s not. It was the voices and the talent, Like you said, I don’t think you should underplay the talent that you guys have in every single role. So did everyone there have a theater background?
No, but there’s people who like to perform, for instance, our friend, Seth, who you saw in the production. He isn’t a regular performer, but he loves working with kids. So for him, it comes out of his heart, really. But then also, he does have a voice. He can hold a tune and everything, and he’s actually sung with us in a group of us in our class, got together and sang at our white coat ceremony. And he knows how to find his pitch, and where he sings. Kevin also who was, what was that character? It’s been a while. LeFou. Yeah. He used to sing in an acapella group. We just happened to have these people in our class. Now, by all means, I just want to say that if you are a PT student and you are thinking about bringing Fairytale Physical Therapy, it’s not about talent. It’s not. It’s about the enthusiasm that you bring to these kids who are stuck in hospitals. And then you’re teaching them these healthy movements in the choreography. So don’t worry, don’t compare to what we are saying. We just happen to be very, very lucky.
Would you mind talking about Ashika and some other people, some of the girls?
Sure, yeah. Ashika has a background in music. Actually, there’s a group of, I think there are the Bard Hall players at Columbia, plus they have a chorda tympani group that she sings with, and she’s the musical director for them. She’s brilliant. Her voice is so beautiful. We also had Ashley and Jackie who were with us, and they do not sing, but they are fans of Disney. So they went home and they watched the movie, and they figured out the songs, and the joy they bring to it is really the whole point. And I think that even in rehearsal, sometimes you’re like, “Oh, I don’t know, and do I sound okay?” And then you get there, and there’s these kids, and they’re in front of you and Karen, you were there.
There was one little girl, and she had a wagon, and she was coming around, and she was joining the show, and you see her there and you’re like, “That’s it. I have to create the magic, and I have to stay in character, and I want this to be amazing.” So it kind of takes over.
Yeah. And there was one little girl in the beginning, before you even started. I think she saw you, Katie, dressed as Belle. And she was like, “Oh my goodness,” and she give you a big hug. And I was like, I’m in tears. I’m like, “Hold it back, keep it together. Don’t start crying.” But these are sick kids. These are kids who are in the hospital full time. They are not there on an outpatient basis. There were some pretty sick kids there, and I just feel like they were loving it.
Yeah. That was part of it. It was, how do we give these kids a break, and how do we give their parents a little bit of a break, and kind of take them out of the beeping and the sounds and the doctors coming in and out and rushing around, and for a few moments, how do we make it a bit better for them?
And let them just be a kid again. Let them just enjoy something that has nothing to do with their sickness, and they can just be. We even had that day, there was this one young boy there. After the show, we go out and they’re doing craft activities, the characters, we do it with them. And there was this one little boy who was super happy and excited and everything. He actually later found out was not a patient.
He was there for his sibling. And I was told, well, we were told by the director at Morgan Stanley that he was miserable that whole week, and having a really hard time. And this was the first time he was seen being even close to happy. And he was beyond happy jumping around, talking about how his art thing that he made was pizza, although I think it was supposed to be, was it supposed to be a Turkey?
Maybe. I know he was making lasagna pizza.
It’s not what it was supposed to be.
Fabulous. It was great.
And those differences, that’s what it’s about.
And I think what’s important here for people to is it’s not that you guys just go out and you do a sort of shortened version of the musical, but that during the musical, you have people like Ashley and one of the other girls, they come out, and they take the kids through choreography. So why was that part important to you guys?
Oh, that’s the main part. That’s the meat and potatoes. Everything else, you’re thinking, “Oh, am I going to sell them, guys?” All these things, these concerns, but that right there is what it’s about, because the choreography is actually secretly composed of therapeutic exercises. So the movements that kids are doing are extremely healthy for them, and they can always regress it or progress it as they want to. We have one person sitting up there as we teach the choreography, so they don’t have to think, “Oh, I can’t really move much.” And so they can just move their arms.
I remember there was this one girl hooked up to so many lines at Cornell, and all she could kind of move was her hand, but she was moving it. And it was a huge win. We could see it, we were like, “Yes, look at her dance.” So all those movements, that’s really what it comes down to, where it has that physical therapy component that makes this truly special.
Yeah. When we first started, we had just taken our first therapeutic exercise class, and we got very lucky because Jenna’s mentor was a class above us, and she was in the pediatric track, and she actually took the time to sit down with us and go through what are the different diagnoses that you might see? How do you treat them? What do you do for exercises so that we could, even though we weren’t that far along yet, we could figure out what movements to work into the choreography to make it beneficial for the kids.
Oh yes. That’s Monica. She’s now Dr. Monica Laconte. She’s the one who helped us out with that. That was incredible.
Yeah. And like you said, that’s what separates this from being a lovely production to adding the PT to Fairytale PT. And then at the end, you sort of alluded to it a couple of minutes ago that the kids kind of do a little arts and crafts kind of thing, and do you do that at the end of each one?
We do. Yeah. When we first met with Anna from Morgan Stanley, she suggested we do some sort of tactile craft activity afterwards. And we had originally partnered with a toy store down in Chelsea, and they gave us a hundred foam crowns with little jewels to stick on them. So we had that for about 15 shows, we had those crowns, because we just had so many, which was great. And then running out of crowns, we thought, “Well, let’s partner with the OT program at school.” Because we’re in the same building, and they do that more hands on stuff. So we partnered with them, and they’re the ones who’ve been coming up with our recent craft activities to work on with the kids. So you get to go PT side, you get to go OT side, and the child gets to lead. We have pamphlets that we give out of the dances that we hope they take home and dance with. Plus they also get to leave with something special to remember the event by.
I have to add that, and I noticed this at our last show that we did, this interprofessional thing with the OT is so selfishly spectacular because watching how the OTs interact and their methods and their creativity when working with the kids is great to learn from. I don’t know if they feel the same, but for me, just seeing how they interacted, the way they’re on it with coming up with ideas, to get them to use their hands is really cool to see.
And I’m sure that they feel the same way about the PT students. And that’s a great way to kind of get that interprofessional connection as a student so that you can then bring that into your professional life. Because oftentimes, we hear PTs, we’re all in our own little silos and there’s not a lot of collaboration with others, but if it can start early with fun projects like this, now you guys, like you said, you know what OTs do, you have a better idea and they have a better idea of what you guys do. So when you’re out in your first jobs, and you’re more likely to collaborate and bring in a full team around your patient or client, or whatever you want to call it. So I give you guys a lot of credit for that. I think that’s a great idea.
And on that note, we are going to take a quick break to hear from our sponsor, Net Health and a little bit more of Fairytale PT. PTs, what do you hope to accomplish in 2018? I bet providing even better patient care and increasing revenue are top on the list. First, expand your visit capacity, then get paid for your services, ramp up patient engagement and eliminate worries about documentation and compliance. The good news is there’s one solution that brings it all to the table. ReDoc, powered by xfit, is a cloud-based, fully integrated EMR and billing solution. Imagine PT, billing, coding, compliance experts taking the back office work off your hands and reporting to you. Learn more about ReDoc and complete revenue cycle management services at nethealth.com/healthy.
How do you do this financially? What’s the story?
There’s got to be a slight expense to this.
Yeah, so do not listen to this part, mom and dad. So I put it on my credit card. There’s no budget. We tried reaching out. We reached out to Disney, we reached out within the school, we reached out to several places to get funding, and I’m inpatient. And I was just like, “I’m just going to put it on my card, add up my debt.” And I did that so we could get better costumes. Otherwise, nothing else is an expense.
Everything else was free.
Yeah. Everything else we were able to, we did have access initially to the costumes, through our school with, it’s called the Bard Hall Players, and they were good and stuff. Just me personally, if we’re going to have Belle, I want it to look like Belle. And we still are able to get away with our initial costumes for Anna and Elsa. We had a jackpot with them from their costume room, and so we’ve been able to stick with those. But for the other characters, I think it really makes that magical escape come alive so much more when the characters we are playing, when they actually look like the characters. You don’t have to do this. If you’re bringing this at your school, you can literally get a t-shirt and write the name of the character. They’ll still love it. It’s just something I just personally wanted to just really step it up for with the kids.
Yeah, which makes sense. And when I went to see Beauty and the Beast, I thought the costumes were all very, very good. They’re very cute.
Yeah, it was great. It was really great. And what’s next? So you guys graduate, what happens to Fairytale PT?
Continues. It continues.
We have our second year and first year class doing shows right now, our first years are working their way through The Lion King and tailoring it to them. And our second years, correct me if I’m wrong, are working their way through Aladdin and getting that ready to bring out as a show. And the nice thing is we have scripts, but then depending on how many people want to be involved, we can edit the scripts down. All you really need is two people. So we can edit it from two people up to 15 people, depending on how many people we have. And then we have videotaped all the choreography. We have a PowerPoint and YouTube videos about how to do everything. So once we find two people who are game to take it on, we help them run with it.
Yeah, and Katie and I are there as advisors. We’re still figuring out how to communicate it. What we did during our final semester is we created a PowerPoint as well as how-to videos for anybody who wants to take on Fairytale Physical Therapy. We have everything in Google Docs with scripts and everything. Everything is there. The things they would need to get on their own is connect with the hospital and costumes. And they’re responsible for creating the rehearsal schedule. However, we have outlined how many rehearsals they need, and how many of this they need, and about how long it takes. And so everything is really there for not only Columbia, but for any school to take on.
We put it all into home exercise program form, so it’s ready.
Yeah, it’s home exercise. Funny. So what are going to be your roles moving forward then? Where do you see this? Do you see this expanding into other colleges outside of Columbia or outside of, I don’t know where you were in California, but what is your… I’m doing this program with Todd Herman called The 90 Day Year. And part of the program is writing goals. And part of those goals, you write a good goal, a better goal and a best goal. So your good goal is something that you’re like, “Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’m going to hit this. As a matter of fact, I’m 100% sure I can hit this good goal.” The better goal is like if I work really hard, I’m probably going to hit this better goal. And best is like throwing his stuff up at the wall. See what’s going to stick. Todd Herman says he usually gets that best goal, maybe 12 to 15% of the time. So if you were to think about your goals for Fairytale PT, and how you foresee yourself interacting with that, what would be a good goal, a better goal and a best goal?
Katie, do you want to go separately so that we can see how we align on this?
Sure. Would you like to go first?
All right. So I’m seeking the good goal, which we’re pretty much doing is them at the school, continuing on at Columbia specifically. And I would say, and then continuing on a good also includes the continuing on in California where… Long Beach state? I want to make sure I’m saying it right.
Cal State, Long Beach.
Thank you. Cal State, Long Beach. It’s like Cal Skate, but Cal… Anyway. So for them to be continuing on, and I would see the middle ground would be, and this is where Katie and I might differ on where we place these. I think the middle one is getting it to all schools. And I think the last goal is Katie and I not having to advise at all, and everything just continues on without us. That would be amazing. What do you think, Katie?
I think the good goal would be to have our first year and our second year students pull off a professional show on their own, not only in the spring semester, but then once they’ve done it in the spring semester, come to us and say, “Here’s what we’re doing in the fall, we got this,” and having them feel comfortable with it so they can run with it now. The better goal, I think, would be to have also the schools in California. We have a school in Wisconsin that we’ve been talking to. We have schools in Florida. So if they were all to do shows as well, that would be great. With the better goal, I think it would be really cool just to get the schools in the New York area. The New York city conclave was a great opportunity for us to talk about FTPT and what we do.
And so to bring that to all the other schools in New York would be a better goal. And then the best goal of course, would be to somehow get this to CSM, or to get this to the pediatric section, and really show this to all the schools and show how they can do it with just a student-run program. So it’s not something the faculty has to take on. It’s not something the school has to undertake. It’s something the students and a great hospital coordinator could take and run with.
Ladies, I can see all of those goals being met, certainly the best. Girl, you want to get this to CSM, just put it in. They’re accepting, put it in for 2019. They’re accepting submissions. Get to the pediatric section and put a submission in and get it in there.
For presentation or-
Yeah, do a presentation. And you know something, your presentation could be a little snippet of a Fairytale PT production.
We got that.
You know what I’m saying? A presentation, it doesn’t have to be a stuffy presentation of the two of you in suits up on stage talking about Fairytale PT. A presentation can be a snippet of one of your productions. Let people see what you do because that’s the inspiring part.
You know what I mean?
We’ll have that submitted by the end of the weekend.
So get that in ASAP. I think you have until March or something like that to get it in, but put that in, put it into the pediatric section. Why not? Put it into the education section. You can get both sections to sponsor you. You know what I mean?
We always had difficulty figuring out where we should put ourselves, because we’re several different categories.
I would probably say pediatric or education, but put it in and make it fun. Even the private practice section. So you guys were at the private practice section in 2017 because you won the young innovator award. Did I make that award up? I forget the name of it.
Business Concept contest winners.
Business Concept, right. I’ll say young innovators. I feel like that’s easier to say. Business blah blah blah…So we’ll just say business innovator award. So these are things, like the private practice section I know are looking for more innovation, and something interesting and fun. So I’m sure CSM is looking for the same.
Put something, that would be fun. I would want to go and see that. And then if you do a little snippet, then afterwards, you can say exactly what this is, because I didn’t know you guys had PowerPoints and Google Docs and everything else. So you can make it instructional. This is exactly how we do it. This is how many of this you need. This is, this is how we got our costumes. This is how much it costs, and it’s not that expensive. So think about all of that, write it down and then submit it. Why not? You’ll hit that best goal. You’ll know by, I don’t know when they tell you when you got it, but I can’t imagine this not being accepted.
It’s innovative. It’s different. It’s new. It’s fun. So get onto the website, go to APTA, get on the website and submit for CSM in 2019, it’s in Washington, DC.
Perfect, it’s not even very far.
It’s not far at all. That’s great.
So it’s a train ride away. Finally, for us on the East Coast, we don’t have to fly anywhere. We just have to hop on a train or a BoltBus for 10 bucks. But I would 100%, if that’s your best goal, that’s a no brainer.
Where can people find more information about Fairytale PT?
We have a website. If you just Google Fairytale, one word, people spell it differently. So Fairytale and then physical therapy, several things will pop up. We do have a website on Wix, W-I-X. We also are on Facebook. You can message us on there. You could also individually find us as well. Jenna Kantor, Katie Schmitt, S-C-H-M-I-T-T. Kantor, K-A-N-T-O-R. You can individually message us, or you could email us firstname.lastname@example.org.
Perfect. And now the last question that I always ask everyone is knowing where you are now in your life, usually I say, what advice would you give yourself as a new grad? But you guys aren’t quite there yet so we’re not going to say that, but I will say, what advice would you give to your younger self? So Katie, why don’t you go ahead and start.
If I were to tell my younger self anything, it would be, if you want to do something, just ask for it. There’s so many times in the past when I was younger that I thought, “Oh, this would be cool, or that would be cool.” Never really did anything about it. And then coming out and meeting Jenna and saying, “Okay, let’s do this.” And then this happened. So if you want to do something, just ask for it.
I would say embrace who you are as a person. So whatever you come in as, if you have a background in the sciences, or maybe it’s in, for us, it was theater, really embrace what that is that really, really makes you happy, and play with always ideas on how you can keep that in your life. You never ever feel like you need to cut off part of yourself, even if you are taking on a new career.
Awesome. Well ladies, that is very profound advice, and I thank you so much for coming on. And just so the listeners know, when we end this, do not just turn off the podcast because you’re going to hear even a little bit more of Fairytale PT. We’ll do the end of beauty and the beast. You’ll get to hear their beautiful voices as you’ve heard interspersed throughout the interview today. So don’t turn the podcast off, keep it on, and listen to the end of Beauty and the Beast with these wonderful, innovative physical therapy students. If I had half the energy you guys had when I was in PT school, God only knows where I’d be now. But thank you guys so much, Jenna and Katie for coming on, and sharing all of this about Fairytale PT, so thanks so much.
Thank you for having us.
Thanks everyone for listening.
Yeah, my pleasure. And everyone, have a great couple of days and stay healthy, wealthy and smart.
So a big thank you to Jenna and Katie for coming on the podcast this week, and a huge thank you to our sponsor, Net Health. I’m so excited to have them onboard. Net Health is ReDoc powered by xfit. It’s a cloud-based, fully integrated EMR and billing solution. Plus opt in to completely outsourced billing services. That’s the best way to optimize revenue. Imagine PT, billing, coding, and compliance experts taking the back office work off your hands, and reporting to you. To learn more about ReDoc and complete revenue cycle management services, head on over to nethealth.com/healthy.
Thank you for listening, and please subscribe to the podcast at podcast.healthywealthysmart.com. And don’t forget to follow us on social media.