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September 13, 2016

Blaser Physical Therapy thrives in changing market

Photo/Lawrence Emerson
Kendal Blaser leads a physical therapy session at her office with Diane Demaree, who recently underwent knee surgery.
Photo/Lawrence Emerson
Traci Busker, who has a doctorate in physical therapy, applies a dry needling treatment to a patient’s calf.
Photo/Don Del Rosso
“I think they’re great,” says Ellen Bailey, who receives strength and flexibility treatments at Blaser. “I wouldn’t come here if I didn’t.
Ms. Blaser credits local business owner Cecil Campbell with encouraging her to launch an independent practice.
Medicare’s broke. And, they keep finding more and more ways to pay us less and less. And, all the other insurance models follow Medicare.
— Kendal Blaser, owner of Blaser Physical Therapy
Blazer Physical Therapy
• Owner: Kendal Blazer

• What: Outpatient physical therapy clinic

• Employees: Five physical therapists, five clinical aides and three administrative staffers

• Where: 40 North Hill Drive, Warrenton

• Hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday, 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday

• Phone: 540-341-1922

• Website: blaserphysicaltherapy.com

• Facebook page: Click here

By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
The two-letter, high school athlete thought she wanted to coach sports for a living.

“I liked being in that positive environment, motivating people in a physical environment,” said Kendal Blaser, a 1978 Towson (Md.) High graduate who played varsity field hockey and lacrosse.

So that fall she enrolled in Maryland’s Frostburg State University as a physical education major.

Frostburg required physical education students to take biology.

“Biology was my favorite class,” Ms. Blaser recalled. “I asked a question in a lab course. And, the professor said, ‘Oh, is this a PE (physical education) section, You’ll never need to know that. Don’t worry about that.’ And, of course, I was very turned off.”

She objected to the suggestion that a dumbed-down version of biology would suffice for physical education majors, because “we just need to blow up basketballs.”

Miffed, the 18-year-old freshman visited her academic advisor. “I told him I wanted to get the most out of my courses. I wanted to do something a little more science-oriented. And, he suggested physical therapy.”

That led to three summer jobs at the Kennedy Krieger Institute of The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The world-renowned institute treats people with brain, spinal and musculoskeletal problems.

“It just hit a home run when I was in that environment,” recalled Ms. Blazer, 56. “The physical therapists were devoted, yet fun, upbeat and positive. And, I just fell in love with it.”

In the early 1980s, the college student had no idea that new-found passion would lead her to Warrenton, where she would start a physical therapy practice of her own.

Blaser Physical Therapy on April 1 marked its 20th year in business.

Today, the 13-person staff includes five physical therapists, five aides and three administrative people.

The business records about 800 patient visits per month, according to Ms. Blaser.

“My success would not be what it is without the incredible staff I have and the excellent care we provide,” she said.

Virginia Living Magazine this year named Blaser Physical Therapy “The Best Physical Therapy Practice” in Northern Virginia.

The practice offers a range of treatment programs, including those that focus on:

• Post injury and surgical rehabilitation.

• Chronic pain.

• Services for children with a range of conditions, including Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome and developmental delays.

• Sports-related injuries.

From 1988 to 1996, Ms. Blaser worked for three Warrenton physical therapy providers, including Blue Ridge Orthopedic & Spine Center and Fauquier Hospital, before her friend Cecil Campbell urged her to open a practice.

Owner of Cecil’s Tractors & Truck Repairs of Warrenton, Mr. Campbell told her she had the personality and sales savvy to succeed, she recalled.

“He said, ‘Kendal, If I can do it, and I’m not half as smart as you, you can do it’,” Ms. Blaser said.

That convinced her to give it a try. Not knowing where to begin, Ms. Blaser made an appointment with Warrenton accountant Rob Franzoni.

“She came by my office and, together, we sat at a table and manually created a spreadsheet,” Mr. Franzoni said. “We mapped out a financial plan.”

Accomplished business people start with a plan, he said.

“You really want to use the plan to sort of guide you, to sort of show you how far off you are from what you were thinking,” Mr. Franzoni said. “The successful business people I know are those who are able to adapt to changes. You have this plan, but it’s not carved in stone.”

Ms. Blaser understands that, he said.

“She’s very smart about it,” Mr. Franzoni said. “She changes as she needs to, to get over the humps and to make it across the finish line.”

Starting small, Ms. Blaser and a secretary opened the business in a tiny Cape Cod at 549 Winchester St. in Warrenton, behind Walgreens pharmacy.

They outgrew that place in about a year, after which Ms. Blazer moved the business to a building at Fletcher Drive and Lee Highway, which has since been replaced by The Fauquier Bank’s View Tree branch.

Three years later, Blaser Physical Therapy moved to larger quarters in the Summit Community Bank building, across from Rankin’s True Value Hardware at Warrenton Village Center.

It remained there until Ms. Blaser built and opened her $1.25-million, 4,800-square office at 40 North Hill, off of Blackwell Road.

Diane Demaree of Bealeton earlier this year had surgery to repair the torn meniscus in her left knee.

Mrs. Demaree recently visited Blaser Physical Therapy for treatment.

As the patient lay still on table in the clinic, Ms. Blaser slowly manipulated and applied ultrasound to the injured knee.

“I want you to still be conservative” in using that knee, she told her. “I don’t want you to do any squatting. I don’t want you to do a ton of walking down stairs.”

Ms. Blaser then guided the patient through a short walk around the clinic’s gym and treatment area.

She suggested Mrs. Demaree “roll through” her strides as if riding a bicycle.

“Good,” Ms. Blaser said. “Increase your rate of speed and see if it relaxes you. See how I’m getting you to go a little quicker? Keep going.”

A return patient, Mrs. Demaree had received treatment for other ailments at Blaser Physical Therapy.

“I’ve been to other” physical therapists, she said. “These people are amazing, very personable. They listen to you. They listen to what your body says.”

Ellen Bailey of Amissville, who has a common heel and arch condition called plantar fasciitis, agreed.

“I think they’re great,” said Ms. Bailey, who receives strength and flexibility treatment. “I wouldn’t come here if I didn’t. I’ve never had (a physical therapist or aide) that wasn’t competent. They seem to be up-to-date with the newest methods. I really enjoy coming here, despite the pain.”

Much has changed since she started her business, Ms. Blaser said.

For one thing, declining Medicare reimbursements make it difficult for independent physical therapists to break even, she said.

“Medicare’s broke,” Ms. Blaser said. “And, they keep finding more and more ways to pay us less and less. And, all the other insurance models follow Medicare.”

Big bottom-line conscious chains also dominate the landscape.

“My grand plan was that I would sell,” the Nokesville resident said. “Practices used to be pretty lucrative to sell 10 to 15 years ago.”

But, in the last five years, the market has just about collapsed, as more and more independents try to sell their practices, Ms. Blaser suggested.

Brokers for physical therapy “chains” want “you to basically hand” practices “over for a nominal fee, because they’re counting on people getting out from under” them, she said. “I don’t have that plan, because I don’t think it’s a reality-based plan. Practices have no value, as far as purchase.”

So, Ms. Blazer said she remains committed to providing quality care and covering costs.

“As long as I can make payroll and pay myself and pay my mortgage, then all is good.”
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TooTrue · September 15, 2016 at 4:19 pm
Ms. Blazer is a fine person.
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