Story and Photo by Kaitlin Hill  

“What do you want to be?” That was the question Anna Jackson, co-founder of the Middleburg-based physical therapy group The Jackson Clinics, asked her husband Richard 15 years ago, inspiring them to open, expand, and pursue perfection in their practice. 

His answer outlined no small task. “I said to Anna, ‘I want to have the best practice in Northern Virginia. I want to stand head and shoulders above the competition.’” 

For the Jacksons, being the best meant setting up a “model practice,” which, in addition to offering first-rate care to their clients, includes comprehensive educational opportunities for their employees and a commitment to create positive change through their programs in Ethiopia and Kenya. 

Patient success is a key factor in their definition of company success and Anna Jackson can speak firsthand about their quality of care, not only as an employee, but also as a patient. For years, she suffered with chronic back pain after a high school car accident injured her back and broke her neck. 

She recalls, “[Richard] had a course called functional relationships. It’s essentially a back course that starts with the foot. I went up to see him teach and after the first day I said, ‘You know I have suffered with chronic back pain for years and this manifests like I might be one of these patients.’”

“So [Richard] did his magic, and he is quite magical in that way…And the next morning I got up to take my pain medicine and, I didn’t need it. I am not kidding you. I started to sob. And in that moment, I became the greatest believer of what this profession can do.” 

Anna Jackson

Part of the magic is perhaps Richard Jackson’s alternative approach. Unlike other facilities that offer targeted treatment limited to the sight of the injury, he treats the whole body. He explains his method as, “If you have consistent pain anywhere in your body, maybe the force that created it isn’t generated locally. So we treat the whole body and that is the significant difference in how we treat our patients. The level of care, from the patient perspective, is you are going to have one-on-one hands-on sessions from a physical therapist followed by being trained physically by an athletic trainer, and that is a good combination.” 

The Jackson Clinics’ promise of one-on-one care across their 21 Northern Virginia and Maryland locations is determined by their ability to hire the right people and continue to educate them. Richard Jackson notes, “I want physical therapists who want to be the best to come work here. That is why there is all this focus on education. It’s the only way to ensure that vision comes true.” For proof of their dedication to education look no further than the numerous programs they offer their employees – APTA Accredited Upper Extremity Athlete Fellowship Program, APTA Accredited Orthopedic Residency Program, a Foot and Ankle Fellowship, to name a few, and, as their website puts it, “Unlimited access to continuing professional education for all of our clinical team members, including 17+ courses taught in house per year.” 

Through their foundation, the Jacksons are using education and mentorship to shape lives in Ethiopia and Kenya, too. Richard Jackson shares, “We were in Ethopia for seven years. We started a residency program that turned into a doctoral program in physical therapy. In December 2017, we graduated 17 DPTs and now we are out. It is sustainable. It’s up to them to carry on and they have the curriculum and the skills.” 

With Ethiopia settled, he says, “We’re in Kenya. We’ve been in Kenya since 2012 and have established an orthopedic manual therapy residency which is now 100% taught by Kenyans.” He expands, “We have educational programs in neurology, pediatrics, cardiopulmonary – all aspects of physical therapy. We have introduced the first women’s health training program.” 

And the mentorship goes both ways. Richard Jackson remarks, “We’ve sent over 130 teachers to Africa in the last eight years. They get mentorship and didactic education. That is one of the unique things about this practice, not only in Virginia but in the country, this ability to or desire to educate and transform rehabilitation in countries that need it. And, make it sustainable.” 

Of their work in Africa, Richard Jackson says, “You ask yourself at one point what’s important in life? To be able to have done something good and sustainable…that seems to be tremendously important.” 

Even with highly-rated clinics in the US and life-changing programs in Africa, the Jacksons still aren’t finished building their model practice. As they look to the future they focus on providing ongoing mentorship and identifying ways of further improving their already successful system. Anna Jacksons admits, “I think a big goal for 2020 and 2021 is to continue our mentorship with our leaders and have our team members know that we are right here.” For Richard Jackson, “Our primary goal is to enhance what we have and make it better and better.” 

Luckily for the patients and practioners of this unique physical therapy practice in Middleburg, Northern Virginia, Maryland and Africa, Anna Jackson says, “We’re not going anywhere.” ML

This article first appeared in the January 2020 issue of Middleburg Life.