The Foundation of Mission Gait

Written by Kristin Riddick

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When I tell people that I work for a new nonprofit, the first question people ask is, “What do you do?”

Mission Gait is an organization focused on improving gait rehabilitation for patients and professionals. We strive to increase patient access to skilled providers and to make gait-focused materials and education more easily accessible to the busy rehabilitation professional. With a three-pronged approach of research, education, and patient care, Mission Gait conducts original studies, offers courses and presentations in the area of gait rehabilitation, and provides patient-centered tips and materials for busy practitioners.

The second question people ask is, “Why? Aren’t rehabilitation professionals trained to work with these people?” Well, that’s a little more complicated. The answer to that is yes, and no.

Mission Gait was founded in 2016 by David Lawrence, a physical therapist from Richmond, Virginia who is world-renowned for his work with people with walking disabilities. In his travels and presentations around country and the globe, David discovered a vast need for more education in gait rehabilitation and a greater focus on patients with complex walking disabilities. 

Since physical therapy schools have a limited amount of time to expose students to a wide array of topics from neonatal to geriatric physical therapy and everything in between, more complex conditions may be glossed over or lost in the curriculum. Upon graduation, clinicians become immersed in their 40-hour (or more) work week, and it becomes difficult to find time to peruse research articles that may or may not be helpful in the clinical setting. Even in continuing education offerings, gait rehabilitation is an area of little focus. Yet for patients with gait-related conditions and disabilities, physical therapy is of the utmost importance in order for them to return to community involvement. Each year, 50% of Americans over the age of 18 experience some sort of musculoskeletal injury that lasts longer than 3 months. Physical therapy is able to help improve the functioning of those patients, provided that the therapist has a thorough working knowledge of therapeutic interventions that suit the patient’s needs and time to commit to their care.

This applies to other professions as well. Orthopedic doctors, prosthetists, orthotists, and others in the rehabilitation field can be a huge support for people with walking disabilities. Despite the high levels of training required for each profession, however, misconceptions still persist in the medical community about the nature of disability and the capability of patients to reach their goals. We know that patients’ abilities always outweigh their disabilities, and with skilled and compassionate care, they can prevail. 

Therefore, our goal is to increase patients’ access to the care that they need, wherever they are, and to help clinicians increase their skills in working with the most complex patients. We want to change the mindset from “hopeless” to “triumphant.” We hope to make great strides in the education of quality care for patients with gait disabilities, and we invite you to Join the Mission.