Embrace your guru

Guru : Definition: authority, expert, leader, master, pundit, torchbearer, teacher, mentor, tutor, guiding light.

I was reading a post on linked-in with an attached infographic about “Back Facts” from the British Journal of Sports Medicine. As I followed the comments down, one caught my attention:

“I would suggest stop being a “fan” who thinks that everything their “guru” says is 100% correct and analyse a little bit more.”

This got me thinking about gurus.

When I was training to be a Physiotherapist and in my early years of practice, Maitland, McKenzie, Carr and Shepherd, Bobath, among others were our gurus. They were followed by Mulligan, Kaltenborn, and Hungerford. There were others that came before and many followed. For those of you that have studied physiotherapy, these names will be very familiar. Each area of clinical practice has its gurus. They were not just names, they were “techniques”. They were our pioneers.

Throughout the 1980s, well into the 1990s and some would argue even beyond, there was little evidence-based practice in Physiotherapy. We relied on anecdotal evidence and confirmation bias as a guide to our effectiveness. Clinical research was sparse and neuroscience as we know it today was in its infancy. What was being discovered in research was not easily accessible to clinicians. This changed considerably with the internet, however, accessibility remains a challenge with findings being bound up in scientific journals, sometimes taking years to reach clinical practice. A pain conference that I attended about 6 years ago, stated that it was taking up to 15 years for pain science research to make its way into practical application. This problem will not be unique to the field of Physiotherapy.

Despite the challenges, our profession has become underpinned by evidence-based practice. As a result, we have changed, innovated, become more confident, more competent, and importantly more effective. In my opinion, this has happened far too slowly in some cases.

The pioneers have made way for a whole new generation of scientists, researchers and teachers who work tirelessly to advance our profession (and others) in pursuit of knowledge that will improve the lives of our patients.

I suspect that it is not easy being a trailblazer, especially when it comes with a deep conviction and unfaltering belief in the science. Whilst, often being faced by the challenge of those whose ideas remain predicated on anecdotal evidence, historical practice or confirmation bias despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Of course, our research and scientific leaders need to be open to our questioning and analysis- That is science. However, do they deserve to be subjugated to criticism and skepticism by those, who are threatened by the evidence and what that might mean for the way that they practice?

Clinical researchers, scientists, and educators are our leaders and innovators. None of them are self-professed gurus. This is a label we bestow upon them. However, they are manifestly important to our status as a profession. We have choices about whether to follow them or not, to support them financially or not. We should, however, honour and respect those who dedicate themselves to helping us to provide the “best” treatments to achieve our purpose of improving the wellbeing of our patients and, in turn contributing significantly to our professional satisfaction.

If you are a “fan” and your “guru” works within an evidence based model-embrace them. They deserve it!

Dianna Howell Certmgr MIML MAPA (March 2021)

PS: For those of you interested, below, I share a clip about leading and following.

How to start a movement by Derek Sivers.

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