Julie Pauls, PhD, PT has decades of experience as a physical therapist clinician and educator. Before founding ATLAS Posture® she pioneered the role of physical therapy in the Integrative Medicine Center at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. Her experience in Integrative Medicine also includes training as a certified teacher for Alexander Technique International. She is the author of Therapeutic Approaches to Women’s Health & co-author of Quick Reference to Physical Therapy, 2nd edition.
I think geography is as much destiny as biology. Growing up in the “Heart of America” was the stuff of roller skating down sidewalks past neighbors who bought my Girl Scout cookies. My Dad was an educator and my Mom was a cook at the Lutheran school where my brother and I walked down the hill to attend in Topeka, Kansas.
But my childhood was not all idyllic. One of my earliest memories was being treated at the University of Kansas Medical Center for burns I sustained in a kitchen accident. The accident left me with scars on my face and hand. It says something about my supportive family that it wasn’t until college that I was informed that facial scars are a disability with high levels of stigma. My sociology professor, herself impaired with Multiple Sclerosis, delivered the news while I stopped taking notes and stared, incredulous, from the front row.
I was in college studying towards a degree in Physical Therapy. This degree plan was decided back in my senior year of high school when my Dad arrived home with a ginormous manual called The Occupational Outlook Handbook: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Dad: “Physical Therapy looks like a winner.”
Me: “OK by me.”
My Dad is so wise; it turned out to be great guidance. My PT career allows me to serve others while having the flexibility to be available to my family. In addition to being a therapist educator, my roles as wife, mom, grandma & caregiver for parents and brother really define my choices. One of my favorite jobs was when I combined PT with teaching childbirth education classes while living in the Middle East. It makes me smile to think “Freedom of Choice Based on Knowledge of Alternatives,” the motto of the International Childbirth Education Association where I was certified for 20 years, was shared with clients from over two dozen countries.
Back in the US, I jumped into commuting across Houston to the Texas Medical Center (TMC). The text carved into the side of the McGovern Commons, in the center of the Med Center, To Serve and To Heal Through Education, Research and Humane Care, served as inspiration. TMC is a world class place to work as they provide millions of patient visits each year across a virtual city of medical institutions.
A few years ago getting to and from work took three hours daily. This meant stepping on the bus by 5:30 am to hit the ground running to complete work in time to catch the bus back to get home in time to see my family for dinner. Increasingly, the time it took to recharge post-work meant most of my time away from work was spent recovering from work. Providentially, I discovered the Alexander Technique. It helped me learn how to use my body with more ease. The outward effect on my posture has been a gradual transformation to feel more open and naturally aligned. People who know me well say I look taller.
When I was sharing my insights on posture with patients at the hospital, many reported a decrease in fatigue related to their illness. Now I’ve gone from teaching one patient at a time to sharing this work broadly via presentations and onsite group workshops, as well as through books & videos. I use the ATLAS Posture® signature system myself, as I teach, which enables me to sustain my work and expand my reach.