Clinical specialty area: Musculoskeletal 

Year of Graduation: 1993

Areas of Professional interest: Prevention and treatment of sport-related musculoskeletal injuries and post-traumatic osteoarthritis, diagnostic imaging.

What did you find most rewarding about the Specialty Program?

The rigor of the process. There are many specialty programs around the world but none as thorough and rigorous as the Canadian Physiotherapy program. I love a good challenge!

What were your reasons for applying to the program?

I felt that it was my professional responsibility to help take the profession of Physiotherapy in Canada to a new level. It is important that the public, other health care professionals and healthcare policy makers understand that physiotherapy is a diverse profession and that there are individuals with expertise in various areas of practice, no different than physicians or nurses. 

Where do you hope to see the profession in 25 years?

The primary point of entry to the healthcare system for all musculoskeletal health in Canada.

What impact do you think specialization will have on your specialty area?

There are a lot of different credentialing opportunities that assess advanced clinical competency in musculoskeletal physiotherapy but what is missing in many of those programs is the assessment of competencies related to professional leadership, involvement in professional development and research activities as well as therapists ability to communicate and collaborate. I think that the clinical specialization program will push the specialty area of musculoskeletal physiotherapy to a new level. 

What is the value of the Specialty Program to candidates?

The biggest value of the specialty program is what you learn about yourself and the realization of why you have chosen the profession of physiotherapy.

Have you used your specialist network and if so how?

Having gone through the clinical specialization process with therapists in other specialized areas of practice it is easy to identify a specialist to consult with on an area outside my area of practice.

What are important things to consider for those who are interested in pursuing their clinical specialty?

To be successful in the clinical specialization program a therapists needs to have accumulated a critical mass of clinical, professional development, mentoring, research and collaborative experiences. However, these experiences alone are not enough, one must be able to reflect upon them, identify what they have learned from them and how those lessons have guided their evolution into a clinical specialist. Finally, one has to be able to communicate all of this to the assessor panel.  

What new skills or enhanced skills did you obtain going through the specialty process?

As the specialty process requires a great deal of reflection and ability to communicate both verbally and in writing I feel that in the process of obtaining my clinical specialization I enhanced these skills.

What advice would you give to applicants going through the specialty process?

Give yourself adequate time to write down your journey as a physiotherapist including time to reflect upon which experiences have been the most formative. It is imperative that you tell a story about where you came from, where you are now, how you got there and skills you picked up along the way that make you a specialist. 

What impact has the specialization designation had on you and your career?

The specialization designation has given me legitimacy with other medical professionals as well as academic colleagues and funding agencies. 


Dr. Whittaker is an assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy, Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Alberta, Adjunct Professor at the International Olympic Committee funded Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre at the University of Calgary (Canada), and an Associate Member of the Arthritis Research UK Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis. In addition to being recognized as a clinical specialist in musculoskeletal physiotherapy by the Canadian Physiotherapy Association, she is a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Manipulative Physiotherapy. Jackie’s backgorund combines knowledge gained through more than 20 years of clinical practice (orthopedic and sport-related private practice) and research training which allows her to move freely along the knowledge generation-translation continuum. In 2012, she completed her PhD at the University of Southampton, UK, where she acquired a greater understanding of the relationship between low back pain and modifiable risk factors. After completing her PhD, Jackie held an Alberta Innovates clinician postdoctoral fellowship at the Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre, Faculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary for a project entitled ‘Consequences of Knee Joint Injury in Youth Sport: Implications for Osteoarthritis and other Health Outcomes’ (2012-2015).

The current focus of her research is to understand the origins of chronic adult musculoskeletal diseases, such as OA, in youth, and to shift the approach taken to manage OA towards preventing or delaying its onset. This includes determining the origins of health and disease through a greater understanding of the period between youth musculoskeletal injury and OA onset, and the development and implementation of targeted secondary prevention interventions aimed at reducing the burden of OA.