Centre Physical Therapy Joins the Arts District By Kelly Pollock

As a student at Oak Park-River Forest High School, Caty Stegemann took a career aptitude test that told her she should consider becoming a teacher, a nurse, or a therapist so she secured a volunteer position at West Suburban Hospital and discovered that she loved physical therapy. College and career took her to other parts of the Midwest, but now, more than 25 years later, Caty has returned to Oak Park and, in September, opened Centre Physical Therapy at 207 Harrison Street.

Caty, who has been a physical therapist since 1996 and has worked in outpatient orthopedics since 2003, decided to take the leap into entrepreneurship for three reasons. First, in her last job, Caty’s patients were coming to her based solely on referrals. “I was bringing business to my employer and not the other way around,” she says. Second, her patients encouraged her to strike out on her own. “It really resonated with me when one of my patients said, ‘You can’t swim unless you jump out of the boat.’” And finally, with over 20 years of experience, it seemed like the right time to open her own clinic.

When looking for a space, Caty wanted something that was close to both public transportation and had easy highway access which made the Oak Park Arts District a natural fit. And the revitalization of the area was a key selling point. While it was necessary for her to go through a “lengthy” zoning amendment process to allow a medical clinic in the Arts District, everyone was “very supportive” along the way.

Despite what it says in the zoning amendment, the exposed brick and natural light at Centre Physical Therapy make it feel like the antithesis of a medical clinic. Serenity and zen are just a few of the words that Caty uses when describing the space. “We made a conscious effort to avoid a sterile feeling. We wanted a healing atmosphere.”
The timing of patient appointments is another thing that sets them apart. Instead of scheduling appointments on the half-hour, appointments are scheduled every 45 minutes to allow for more hands-on one-on-one time with patients. In addition, Caty and her staff, which includes clinic manager and physical therapist Emily Haglage, physical therapist Curtis Sargent, and front office coordinator Sol Salinas, often consult each other to ensure that every patient’s diagnosis and treatment plan is appropriate.

Since Illinois passed the Direct Access Bill in August 2018, patients can now receive physical therapy treatment without a doctor’s prescription. There are limits on the number of visits and length of treatment, but emphasizing physical therapy as a first step before more invasive methods of treatment is more cost-effective and can be life-changing for patients. “While the average course of treatment is twice a week for six weeks, we can see results in as little as a few sessions,” says Caty. “This is why direct access is so important.”

To encourage thinking about physical therapy as a proactive step in everyday health or to answer questions for patients who aren’t sure that physical therapy is the right treatment for their situation, the clinic offers complimentary 15-minute consultations to discuss illnesses and injuries and appropriate next steps.
Centre Physical Therapy’s current hours are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 7:00-3:30 and Tuesday and Thursday from 10:30-7:00. They can be reached at 708-210-9800 or through their website at www.centrephysicaltherapy.com.