On April 18th, the Columbia University Program in Physical Therapy Perspectives on Practice Elective had the honor of playing host to Erwin Valencia, the Director of Training and Conditioning for the New York Knicks. In addition to his role with the Knicks, Erwin is the former Rehabilitation Director of the Pittsburgh Pirates. He also serves as the Director of Medical and Performance Services for Baseball New Zealand and is consultant to the South African Baseball Union, Czech Republic National Baseball Ream, LG Twins Professional Baseball Team, and is the Sports Physical Therapy Expert for the Philippines Physical Therapy Association. Aside from being a force in the world of sports medicine & performance, Erwin is also a Social Entrepreneur, a TEDx Speaker, a Mentor, and High Performance (Life/Executive) coach.

Erwin discussed how he got to where is his, his role with the knicks as well as how he has taken the skills he developed as physical therapists and put them to use in other business ventures. The highlight of the night was how thought provoking and unique his presentation was. He discussed the importance of practicing 3 key principles; gratitude, belief, and mindfulness (self-reflection & taking care of yourself).    

Erwin’s presentation was not only entertaining but it also provided a unique, thought-provoking perspective about the skills we develop as physical therapists. How the skills we develop translate into so many other fields, and if we apply those skills while practicing gratitude, belief, and mindfulness the opportunities are endless. As physical therapists, we have to be masters of communication in order to connect with our patients and those communication skills really help set a foundation to be applied outside of the physical therapy field.

This night was all thanks to a special first-year Doctor of Physical Therapy student, James Sinodinos.And since the Perspectives on Practice Elective is all about empowering students to take ownership of their education by taking on leadership experiences we had James reflect back on the experience of organizing the class.

“I think role models are extremely important. Growing up a baseball player in New York during the 2000s, I had no difficulty finding role models to look up to and mold my game after. However, moving forward with this new phase in my life as a physical therapist, I felt this need to find a figure to answer all of my questions about sports/orthopedics. After connecting with Dr. Erwin Valencia via social media, I knew he was the person I have been searching for. As Director of Training and Conditioning for the New York Knicks with a rich sports background, he provided me with the answers I desired and the guidance I didn’t know I needed. I was thrilled that he was able to give a talk to our physical therapy department, and it made me even happier that others shared my feeling. He passionately discussed gratitude and visions. Erwin spoke beautifully about how grateful he is for every day and every experience in his life. He also opened many people’s eyes about their futures by asking the question “what would you do if money wasn’t a factor?” Erwin left a lasting impression with his lecture and many many hugs.”

This past year has been truly remarkable and having the opportunity to see the Perspectives on Practice grow and provide opportunities to others has been such an honor. Especially because often times in school we are lectured about leadership and what leadership entails. Although, in order to truly understand how to be a leader, you need to lead. You need to experience what it is like to start something and have the success or failure of that project lie on your shoulders. In school, rarely are we provided with the opportunity to do this. Instead, we are usually given options to join already existing, pre-established projects. But, by empowering students to start a project they care about and see it through, it will teach them invaluable lessons about not just leadership but themselves. That is why we are so thankful for the opportunities the Columbia University Physical Therapy program and its Program director, Dr. Krasinski, provides. By entrusting us to have this class as an opportunity to lead and learn, then to pass along that trust to other students and see them excel is truly a rewarding experience and what this class is all about. James took ownership of this class and the initiative to make a relationship out of nothing but the eagerness to learn and now he has a life long relationship.  


“The most powerful thing about time, is it changes” —Erwin Benedict Valencia


If you are interested in getting involved, please come to an event, tune in on Facebook live or reach out to the Perspective on Practice Elective Course Directors: Shaun Whited and Joseph Lipsky.

Hope you enjoy it!

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