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When I was told that I’d get to teach a HawkGrips Level I educational course in Kingston, Jamaica, here are the top three things that popped into my head: 1) Bob Marley, 2) Usain Bolt, and 3) rum. After spending a day instructing physical therapists (PTs) at the Mona campus of The University of the West Indies (UWI), these are the top three things I walked away thinking: 1) Bob Marley, 2) Usain Bolt, and 3) rum. Let me explain.

Jamaica Kingston University of the West Indies HawkGrips IASTM educational course instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization Dr. Drew Contreras

The University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica, just hosted the first HawkGrips educational course in the Caribbean, with more than 20 local physical therapists attending.

The setup on March 10 was the same as it has been for any other course I’ve ever instructed before. Get there early, organize all the administrative stuff, and plan time for the usual computer/IT challenges that happen. But something different right from the start with this course was the high level of genuine interest demonstrated by every one of the participants.

They were all PTs and most had trained at UWI. Their practice settings ranged from outpatient to hospital, sports and geriatric. But all of them showed up very eager to learn and get things going. Local physical therapy company Everything Therapy deserves credit for doing a great job of promoting the course and handling registration. Maybe the Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee helped enhance the class atmosphere too. I’ve drank coffee all over the world and would honestly put this brand right up there with the best.

Intelligent Attendees

Coming into a course at an international location, I wasn’t sure what the baseline knowledge of the attendees would be regarding anatomy and soft tissue treatments. But it became clear right away that this group was as sharp and knowledgeable as any I’ve taught in the United States. Many had already utilized or at least been introduced to IASTM, as well as other advanced manual therapy techniques.

Jamaica Kingston HawkGrips Level I education course instructor Dr. Drew Contreras HG8 scanner

HawkGrips Instructor Dr. Andrew Contreras demonstrates treatment with the HG8 “Scanner” instrument to attendees at the recent HawkGrips Level I course in Jamaica.

What made this group stand out even more was the infectious enthusiasm about learning a skill they could translate directly to their patients, which made for a fast-paced and highly interactive course. If you’ve never been in a room full of Jamaican PTs, trust me it’s hard not to have fun and laugh.

Admittedly, Jamaica isn’t as wealthy as the United States or many European countries, and the domestic healthcare system has its challenges. But as far as physical therapy goes, the clinicians are just as talented as anywhere else. I have no doubt there are some Jamaicans who will be receiving HawkGrips treatment at their physio appointments this week. Maybe even a few track stars, footballers, netballers and wicket keepers.

Lessons Learned

Looking back, I definitely made a few mistakes on this trip:

1. I learned that the Bob Marley Museum is only a few miles away from UWI, but my poor planning meant I wouldn’t be staying long enough in Jamaica to check it out.

2. I did get a chance to visit Usain Bolt’s restaurant, “Tracks & Records,” where I ate some amazing jerk chicken. But I also discovered the restaurant had a stage for live music, and in this case too poor planning meant I had to get some sleep and prepare for the course, so I couldn’t stay to enjoy the show.

3. One of the students gave me a local “rum ball” cookie at lunch. I’m glad there weren’t many to further tempt me or else I might not have made it through the afternoon session! So again if I planned better, I would have made sure there was time to buy more after class.

What thoughts ran through my mind on the flight home from Kingston? That I get dibs on teaching the next course in Jamaica and will make sure to: 1) visit the Bob Marley Museum, 2) eat at Usain Bolt’s Tracks & Records again but stick around for live reggae music, and 3) definitely have more rum balls, just after the course this time.

Dr. Andrew Contreras is a federal physical therapist in the United States Department of Defense. He formerly served as the White House Physical Therapist during the Obama Administration and is currently working in the Washington, DC, area. These sentiments are his own and do not reflect any formal position or statements by the Department of Defense.

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