Six Weeks with the Philadelphia 76ers

DPT Student Learns from Team Physical Therapist

February 22, 2017
DPT student Avi Friedman spent six weeks studying with the team physical therapist of the Philadelphia 76ers Justin Jiunta (right).
DPT student Avi Friedman spent six weeks studying with the team physical therapist of the Philadelphia 76ers Justin Jiunta (right).

Avi Friedman, a third-year doctoral candidate at the School of Health Science (SHS) Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program, was an avid user of the LinkedIn networking website. After his first year in the physical therapy program, when DPT candidates start their clinical experience, he looked to LinkedIn and saw a golden opportunity. One of his connections was Justin Jiunta, a prominent physical therapist in the Philadelphia area who also happens to be a team physical therapist of the Philadelphia 76ers.

“After one phone call, he agreed to take me on,” recalled Friedman.  “I had some incredible successes and managed to create some fantastic relationships,” said Friedman.

Friedman decided on a career in physical therapy after his son was born with a hearing impairment. He said that the therapists treated his child like their own.

“Their dedication inspired me to work in healthcare,” he said.

He chose a career in physical therapy because he liked how much time physical therapists were able to spend with their patients.

“PTs may be the only doctoral level trained clinicians that get to spend anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour with a patient,” explained Friedman. “Physical therapists are able to build an enormous sense of trust with their patients.” 

For six weeks, Friedman drove to Philadelphia from his home in Lakewood, NJ, to work alongside Jiunta in the busy clinic Jiunta maintains.

“The guy was a wellspring of knowledge,” Friedman said.

What struck Friedman more than anything? Jiunta’s humility.

“You can be at the top of your game and still be a good person,” said Friedman about Jiunta. “He maintained his clinic from the wee hours of dawn until late in the evening. He saw everyone from a 65-year-old recovering from a stroke, an 18-year-old with a torn ACL, and famous basketball players. He gave everyone the same personal attention.”

“At the end of the day, within our society and culture we imagine these elite athletes as untouchable people, but even at the highest level of the sport, they’re just people who have been blessed with talent,” said Friedman.

Since completing his rotation, Friedman and Jiunta are still in touch. On a break between semesters they met up for lunch, and Jiunta remains a mentor and invaluable resource for Friedman.