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Neurological physiotherapist, Vestibular physiotherapist, PhD, academic, researcher, director – just who exactly is Michelle McDonnell?

You might be forgiven for thinking that I can’t make up my mind, for I have had so many different roles in my 22 years as a physio. Well, the truth is that I have explored many of the options that a career in physiotherapy has to offer and this year I have returned to where it all began…

My passion is to help people with life-changing movement problems – due to brain injury.

As a new graduate in 1997, I loved working in rehabilitation and on the wards, helping people to walk again and recover from significant disability. I continued to build my experience in these areas of rehab in various locations across South Australia, overseas and then in the private hospitals around Adelaide.

The majority of my clients were people following a stroke or with conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis and elderly people with balance problems. My fascination with the way the brain recovered following injury meant that I jumped at the chance to undertake a PhD in this area in 2003 at The University of Adelaide.

I enjoyed those years of study and conducting research into neuroplasticity and the way the brain rewires itself during life and following injury – especially the overseas conferences! These academic pursuits led me to a Research Fellowship, working on fascinating projects with large grant funding.

After a few years I wanted to contribute more to physiotherapy, so I took on the role of teaching students about neurological physiotherapy and rehabilitation. Whilst I enjoyed this work, I felt an extra level of satisfaction working direct with clients at The Physio Clinic and being able to help people get better after severe bouts of dizziness or brain injury. So, in February 2018 I left behind the toil of academia and returned full-time to clinical practice.

Now, eight months later, I look back and know it was the right decision. I am able to contribute to the management of The Physio Clinic, have more time to spend with my children in the afternoons and I especially love the progress I am able to make with my patients.

Physio has so many paths to follow and the variety in my work from treating patients in their own homes, in the pool, in the gym and with a range of different conditions makes it challenging, fun and worthwhile.

When I am not treating patients you may see me in the gym, trying to keep fit with Pilates or out taking our dog for a walk! In my spare time I love to hang out with my two daughters. Sewing, baking and reading are some of my other favourite pastimes.

Dr Michelle McDonnell – Neurological Physiotherapist