Blog Post

Q&A With the 2020 Ascend Practice of the Year

Learn how an NYC-based clinic thrived against all odds in 2020.

Breanne Krager
5 min read
November 18, 2020
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Each year, WebPT hosts the annual Ascend business summit, which culminates in honoring one practice with our Practice of the Year Award. In line with the conference’s theme of adapting, rebuilding, and refocusing, the practice we selected for this year’s award demonstrated grace under fire in 2020: New York City’s SPEAR Physical and Occupational Therapy.

Refusing to lay off or furlough a single therapist during the COVID-19 lockdown, SPEAR stayed true to its mission and core values by banding its team together to create innovative, purpose-driven solutions. This enabled them to continue providing care in a rapidly changing outpatient environment. I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Dan Rootenberg, PT, DPT, CSCS, the CEO and co-founder of SPEAR Physical and Occupational Therapy, about what makes SPEAR exemplary and what the company is focused on next. Check out our interview below!

Tell me a bit about SPEAR Physical and Occupational Therapy. What is the culture like? What makes your clinic stand out from the competition?

At SPEAR, we emphasize developing people—not only the people coming into our practices for treatment, but also the people who make up our team. That is what differentiates us, and that is what allows us to provide both clinical excellence and an exceptional experience for our patients.

At our core, we believe in empowerment and development. By providing the members of our team with the tools they need to develop—and with opportunities to grow both personally and professionally—we have fostered a culture that is rooted in growth. Not only are our therapists top-trained clinicians; they are natural motivators trained to lead their patients on the path to recovery.

If we continue to invest in our team, they will use that investment to better themselves and the patients they treat. This culture is what drives our company forward, and we are blessed to be recognized for this, as we have now been recognized as the nation's top physical therapy practice two times.

Tell me about your company’s mission and core values. What do they mean to you and your staff?

As a company, our mission is to empower the members of our team and the people we treat to become the best that they can be—something that can only be accomplished if our team is well-aligned. Our SPEAR-IT values of Service, Passion, Empathy, Accountability, Respect, Impact, and Teamwork act as a guiding framework for our organization’s alignment. Whether we are hiring or promoting, we look for people who already embody our principles naturally. By building our team with like-minded individuals that already possess our company ideals, the SPEAR-IT value system is always present, and our mission is constantly fostered. Here’s a glimpse at each of our core values:

  • Service – “We make every effort to anticipate and then exceed your expectations.”
  • Passion – “We aim to inspire with our thirst for excellence, and care intensely about your success.”
  • Empathy – “We seek to understand your perspective, listen well, and communicate effectively.”
  • Accountability – “We honor our word, and take responsibility for achieving exceptional results.”
  • Respect – “We treat everyone we see, whether patient or team member with dignity and respect.”
  • Impact – “We strive to make every patient visit one that positively impacts your health and well-being.”
  • Teamwork – “We collaborate with our patients, our team, and our referring physicians to achieve extraordinary outcomes.”

With 20 locations and more than 257 employees, how do you ensure everyone on your team upholds those core values?

As mentioned previously, at SPEAR we place a unique focus on people. When we find a person with exceptional talent and a mindset that matches our company ethos, we make sure to find a place for that person on our team. Thoughtful hiring is an extremely important part of our company. Getting the right people on our team ensures that our values are embraced and that our culture continues to cultivate itself from within.

What sort of experience do you strive to create within your clinic?

As a physical therapy practice, our product is the service and care that we provide our patients. When a patient comes into our practice, positive outcomes are expected. Clinical excellence is a prerequisite for our providers. 

We want our patients to know that when they come to one of our clinics, not only will they get the best care, but they will also be in a comforting environment surrounded by people who are invested in their recovery. Through the thoughtful design of our clinics and the SPEAR-IT-driven perspective of our providers, we have curated an experience that is positive, motivating, and revitalizing for our patients. 

When patients walk into a SPEAR Physical Therapy clinic, they know they’re exactly where they need to be.

How has the pandemic affected SPEAR’s culture and patient experience? And how have you all adapted as a result?

When the pandemic hit, we had to look back at why our company was so strong to begin with—which was our people. Our leadership team quickly made the commitment to not lay off or furlough any therapist during the time of crisis. To uphold and even strengthen our culture, we all needed to work through this together. Our team responded by taking charge and leading us through the rapidly changing outpatient environment. When physical therapy was deemed an essential service, our providers felt a duty to provide care, and they worked with countless first responders to deliver the treatment they needed after spending long shifts on the front lines. At the peak of the pandemic, our team dedicated themselves to the New York City community, and their ability to adapt is what took our practice from seeing 32% of our standard in-person visit volume, to seeing 10,000 monthly telehealth visits in a matter of weeks.

Above all, we knew that frequent and effective communication was vital for our organization during this time of uncertainty. Leaders must act as sense-makers, and our executive team did so by providing information on how the pandemic would affect the people in our organization, whether it be good or bad. Through weekly town hall meetings, we created transparency into the current state of the company and how the leaders were thinking. In turn, our team reported feeling less anxiety regarding the situation. This transparency and commitment allowed our team to focus solely on their responsibility as providers, and they demonstrated both their resilience and commitment to caring for our patients no matter the circumstance. 

I noticed your clinic offers a variety of services and programs that extend beyond physical therapy. What inspired you to look beyond PT, and what role have ancillary services and programs played in SPEAR’s success?

Our job is to provide excellent care, and part of providing excellent care is listening to our patients’ needs. When our patients tell us that they need a particular service, it does not go unnoticed. The ability to listen is a characteristic that we value deeply, and the addition of ancillary services is a reflection of our company’s ability to innovate and adapt to the communities we serve.

Having just celebrated your clinic’s 20-year anniversary last year (congratulations!), what’s next for SPEAR?

SPEAR has been able to grow as a result of the talented people within the company. Moving forward, we will continue to invest in the growth and development of our people through our SPEAR Future Leaders Program, which provides comprehensive management and leadership training. We believe many patients could benefit from the services we provide, and we will continue to look to our developing leaders to help us bring our services to new markets and further our goal of continuing to be the best physical therapy practice in the country.

Want to learn more about Dan Rootenberg and SPEAR Physical and Occupational Therapy? Check out the practice’s website, or give SPEAR a follow on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.


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