Hi, I'm Dr. Caroline!

I am a proud pediatric physical therapist, with a passion for helping children achieve their full potential and maximize their quality of life. I earned my Doctorate in Physical Therapy (DPT) from Duke University in 2017 and a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Physiology and Kinesiology from the University of Florida in 2014. It was through my clinical experiences in undergrad and in PT school that I discovered my passion for working with children, and it inspired me to complete a Pediatric Residency at Brooks Rehabilitation in 2018. During my residency, I worked in many specialty areas within Pediatric Physical Therapy, and was able to sit for my PCS Exam, becoming a Board-Certified Clinical Specialist in Pediatric Physical Therapy in 2019. 

I have worked in acute care, inpatient rehab, outpatient and early intervention settings, which gives me a comprehensive understanding of my role in the pediatric physical therapy system of care. I currently am working in outpatient, early intervention and private pediatric settings, where I treat children from prematurity into adulthood with neurologic, neurodevelopmental and orthopedic diagnoses. I also work as a clinical lab instructor at the University of St. Augustine, where I assist in teaching neurologic and pediatric interventions to future DPT students. In class I get to bring clinical relevance to didactic material and develop lesson plans for lab experiences that maximize hands-on learning. I have a specific passion for the benefits of early intervention, the priority of musculoskeletal development for the pediatric patient, and the use contemporary interventions to maximize function. I am passionate about incorporating functional strengthening into pediatric play and utilizing observation for movement analysis. 

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Evidence-based Clinical work

During my time at Duke, I learned about integrating physical therapy research into clinical practice and how research can validate the effectiveness of interventions. During residency, I got to develop and execute a research study on the influence of torticollis on the balance systems that influence head and postural control. I have since presented that research and other case studies I have completed at physical therapy conferences, as a way to share and spread innovation within the PT profession. The vast complexity of the diagnoses and interventions that surround pediatric physical therapy means practitioners need to stay current on research and be able to synthesize data and apply it to practice. I seek to have evidence-based interventions, like treadmill training and task-specific training, to provide the most research-based care. I also have had the opportunity to create continuing education courses that integrate my clinical practice with research to support a more innovative approach to pediatric practice. 

Guardian angel

Like me, my mother, Mandy, was a Duke-educated pediatric physical therapist, who shared in my passion for children. Sadly, she passed away when I was four years old and my brother was two. The stories of her hard work and commitment to the physical therapy profession have always motivated me, and I’m awed to be able to be treating patients in her honor. From this experience, I know what it is to suffer loss. But, I also learned the power of resilience, like many of my patients’ families. When my father remarried, I gained the love of a mother who raised me and my five siblings, together creating our beautiful family. Being blessed with a mother on earth and one in heaven, as well as growing up in my “Brady Bunch” family, I have a better understanding of the variability of family dynamics and the value of diverse family experiences.

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Big family, love for children

Growing up in a big, blended family with two older and three younger siblings, I grew up to love and enjoy children. I got to play an integral role in my younger siblings’ lives and this is where my passion for children first blossomed. I grew to appreciate the awe and wonder with which children see the world, and I’m glad to have a profession that allows me to see the world through their eyes – every day. Keeping in touch with my own inner child helps me relate to my young patients, so I draw inspiration from my love for Disney movies and Disney characters like Mulan and Simba. These heroes convey so many important life lessons – that you can overcome something hard; you can come back from a setback or failure, you can achieve your heart’s dream. 

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Cheerleader at heart, channeling creativity

I draw on all my experiences to color my life and my work – even my years as a middle school and high school cheerleader! Seeing how enthusiasm influenced the team, the fans, and everyone around us, I learned the power of a positive attitude. Now as a pediatric physical therapist, I use cheering and laughter to encourage my young patients and their parents to see beyond current limitations and believe in what’s possible. I utilize play-based physical therapy intervention to maximize children’s participation and engagement during PT, as the games and play can help to distract a child from the work that is being mixed into the fun. Practicing physical therapy with children demands a high degree of creativity as you need a scientific knowledge to develop a purposeful intervention but also the imagination to bring that intervention to life in the eyes of the child. As a STEM major and a health care professional, I am grounded in science. Yet, I enjoy drawing on my artistic and creative side to develop intervention materials and strategies to engage children positively in their physical therapy. 

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Blessed to serve

I was raised to count my blessings and to try my best to be a blessing to others. As a member of my sorority, Kappa Delta, I worked on many philanthropies focused on the needs of children. My service orientation continued through graduate school and into my professional life, where I have helped create adaptive ride-on cars through the GoBabyGo organization. These cars were customized to the needs of each child and brought awareness to rare diseases through volunteering and sponsorship. Even my time working as a restaurant server in high school and college helped focus me on the customers’ needs and my responsibility to create a great experience for them. Now, in my work with families, I am sensitive to the specific needs and dynamics of the families I serve, and I seek to make a difference for them.

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Pushing the limits

I love to travel with friends and embrace new experiences and adventures. Sometimes, this means pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone. Recently, I was surprised with a sky diving adventure, and it proved to be one of the most thrilling and exhilarating experiences of my life – but not until I actually stepped out of the plane! I know how terrifying it can be for a child to take her first steps or trust that his body will respond when challenged to do something new. But I also know that we discover our potential when we face our fears and push beyond what we think of as our limits.

Caroline Ubben, PT, DPT, PCS