Health Masters PT - October 2017

have the best job on the planet. I A Tireless Spirit of Learning I know, everybody says things like that about their career, but it’s true. For a long time now, I’ve felt like the luckiest man in the world. I’m in the most engaging and fulfilling field I can imagine. In a lot of ways, I have one man to thank for putting me on this path. When I was going to Cathedral High School here in El Paso, I had a science teacher who continually inspired me, a retired medical physician named Dr. Barajas. He was one of the most brilliant men I’ve ever known, with an unparalleled drive for gaining knowledge and a contagious love for his subject. Over time, that scientific spark spread to me, and I guess Dr. Barajas noticed. He became a mentor, and he encouraged me to think about physical therapy as a future area of study. He must have seen something in me, a revelation I still don’t fully understand. But I listened. When I headed off to the University of Texas at El Paso, Dr. Barajas put me in touch with a colleague who would end up guiding me through learning physical therapy in the coming years. Dr. Barajas and I kept in touch for the rest of his life. I remember one day at the university, trudging to class with the bright yellow Texas sun radiating off the pavement. Lo and behold, there was Dr. Barajas, making his way across the campus. But why? I stopped him with an enthusiastic wave, and, surprised but happy to see me, he walked over. I asked him what he was doing at the school, maybe giving a lecture?

HOW MY HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER GUIDED ME INTO PHYSICAL THERAPY

He went on to explain his philosophy, a worldview that I’d seen in action every single day back in science class but never fully grasped. “You have to embrace knowledge for the sake of learning,” he told me. “You have to be a lifelong learner. No amount of knowledge can ever be enough.” Standing there on the street corner, I was floored. Here was Dr. Barajas, quite literally the most intelligent person I had ever met, telling me that the entire scope of his dozens of years of study wasn’t enough. I remember the event, I remember the verbiage he used, and I remember the exact place I was standing. It was among the most transformative moments in my life. From then on, I threw myself wholeheartedly into learning everything I could about physical therapy: methodologies, ways of communicating to patients, the minute operations of the musculoskeletal system. I wanted to absorb it all. As I started my own practice, which eventually expanded into what Health Masters is today, I strived to maintain that spirit of learning for learning’s sake. I’m constantly continuing my education, searching for new processes and ideas to help my patients and my team improve their lives to the greatest possible degree. Dr. Barajas and I kept in touch until the day he passed away a few years ago. At the wake, held in the Cathedral High auditorium, I was moved by the words of his brother: “My brother was a man whose job was never finished,” he said. His speech echoed what I knew about the doctor: He was a continual learner, always in pursuit of new ways to be a better doctor, a better teacher, and a better father. I’m eternally grateful for the impact Dr. Barajas had during those formative years of my life. He led me into a field that has given me so much that I truly can’t imagine my life without. There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing with my life, and I have only him to thank.

“Well, I’m taking classes, of course!” he said with a laugh.

I was confused. “But Doc,” I said, as students flowed past us, hurrying to class, “You’re one of the smartest guys I know! What are you doing taking classes?”

With that, he gave me a perplexed look. “Haven’t you learned anything I’ve taught you?”

A second passed and I scratched my head, taken aback. “I have to admit, I don’t understand.”

–Louis Zuniga

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