Dr. Lisa Folden
The Inspiring Journey of Lisa: Breaking Barriers and Embodying Compassion in Physical Therapy

by Myra Stacey

An Unlikely Beginning in Detroit
Lisa was born into a bustling home in Detroit, Michigan, where adversity was a constant companion but never a defining characteristic. Her mother, who was only 15 at the time of Lisa’s birth, faced the responsibilities of parenthood with courage, supported by a loving aunt and grandmother. Together, they made up a trio of strong women who imparted resilience, love, and determination values. While material resources were scarce, love and emotional support filled the household.

The Seeds of a Calling
Lisa’s initial dreams were influenced by the stereotypical image of healthcare—white coats, stethoscopes, and the prestige associated with doctors. But a turning point arrived during a rushed, impersonal appointment with a healthcare provider when she was 16. This experience triggered a profound realization: Healthcare needed more than just medical procedures; it needed a human touch. Physical therapy surfaced as a career path that perfectly balanced her academic interests with her instinctive empathy and her passion for sports.

Setting the Course: College Years and Beyond
Eager to bring her dreams to life, Lisa enrolled at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan. However, an unexpected obstacle presented itself—she was put on the waitlist for the Physical Therapy doctoral program. Just when it seemed her dream was drifting further away, a spot opened up just a week into the semester, and Lisa seized the opportunity. She threw herself into the three-year, 120-credit program, fully aware that the journey ahead would be both grueling and rewarding.

A Journey Through a Less Diverse Landscape
One of the most striking aspects Lisa encountered was the scarcity of diversity within her field. More often than not, she was the only African-American woman in the room, both in academic settings and, later, in professional ones. Although daunting, this isolation imbued her with a greater sense of purpose. Lisa chose to use her unique position as an opportunity to challenge preconceived notions and assumptions about race and gender. Her encounters with patients who questioned her competence became opportunities to prove her skill and dedication.

Challenging the Status Quo Through Compassionate Practice
Lisa’s philosophy is deeply rooted in the belief that societal narratives often perpetuate feelings of inadequacy, especially among marginalized communities. She has made it her mission to challenge this paradigm through her work. As she navigates the complexities of helping her patients recover, she aims to empower them, encouraging them to recognize their inherent worth. Her therapy sessions become not just physical rehabilitations but also emotional and psychological journeys toward self-acceptance.

Embracing the Power of Now
Over the 16 years of her career, Lisa has grown to appreciate the hidden blessings in life’s quieter moments. She cherishes the joy in the journey, teaching her patients to do the same. Lisa’s professional growth is intertwined with her personal evolution. She has come to value the power of mindfulness and strives to impart this wisdom to her patients, helping them understand that contentment can be found in the here and now, not just in some distant future.

Expanding Her Impact: Mentorship and Community Outreach
Recognizing the lack of diversity in her field, Lisa has become an advocate for change, taking on mentorship roles to guide young professionals who find themselves in situations similar to what she experienced. Her involvement in community outreach programs, focusing on underprivileged youth, aims to break the cycle of inequality by promoting health education and access to quality healthcare.

The Harmony of Professional and Personal Life: Lisa as a Mother
Amid her bustling professional life, Lisa also embraces the role of motherhood with the same dedication and compassion that characterize her career. She is a proud mother of vibrant children who have inherited their mother’s spirit and resilience. Her eyes light up when she talks about her children, and she often mentions how they’ve been her greatest teachers. Lisa credits them with teaching her the power of unconditional love and the art of living in the moment. She juggles her demanding profession and parental responsibilities with grace, viewing each role as mutually enriching. In both her personal and professional spaces, Lisa continues to demonstrate that love and career are not mutually exclusive but can co-exist in a harmonious balance.

A Legacy in the Making
Lisa’s journey is far from over, but her impact is undeniable. Those who know her, work with her or have been under her care all testify to her exceptional skill and extraordinary compassion. Through her continuous effort to merge healthcare with the emotional and psychological well-being of her patients, she heals not only bodies but also souls.

Lisa Folden

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