Reflections on 20 Years

The following is a keynote presented by Mettler Center founder/owner Dr. Paul Mettler at the annual staff banquet on January 26th, 2018.

Let me take you back in time…

The year was 1969. I was 11 years old. I was mesmerized as I watched, on my Uncle's black and white television, Neil Armstrong walking down the ladder of Apollo 11 and speak these words as he takes his first step on the moon, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Wheaties was Breakfast of Champions. Bob Richards, a U of I alum and two-time Olympic gold medal pole vault champion and silver medal decathlon winner, was featured on the front of the cereal box from 1958–1970. On the back side of the Wheaties box they had health tips and promotions that you could purchase. I remember, in 1970, purchasing a fitness promotion for 25 cents that promised to make you taller, stronger and healthier. So, let me tell you why I did this.

I love the game of basketball, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was my boyhood sports hero at 7'2". I thought had to be tall to play basketball. He had an innovative sky hook that he could shoot equally well with the right and left hand. He was pretty much unstoppable. He went on to be the all-time leading scorer in the history of the NBA.

Those of you who have met my family know that the gene for height is missing! Mettler’s are notoriously short in stature. Men are lucky to be 5'7". So, for several years, I would go upstairs in our 90 year old house that had a single stove pipe for heat, and do a routine of chin-ups, sit-ups, push-ups, squats and lunges. I would stand with my heels firmly planted on the floor and stretch lengthening my neck and lengthen my head and my arms as high and forceful as I could toward the ceiling. I would hold it until I feel like I was going to pass out. And guess what...it worked! Or, at least I thought it worked.

Today, I am the tallest Mettler at just shy of 6 feet! Our grade school gym class had a 5th–8th grade sit-up competition when I was in 6th grade. I won the challenge doing 188 full sit ups with my ankles held down! I had a very sore rear end for a week! So, as you can see, I have a fascination for innovation to achieve the impossible. I have had a passion for fitness and health as long as I can remember.

Believing in the impossible and following my heart, I started Mettler Physical Therapy Clinic in 1990, at the age of 32, to fulfill my dream of allowing people to get the caring and effective physical therapy treatment they needed and deserved. I wanted to help people recover from injuries and to keep people healthy. All of my colleagues said I was crazy! Physicians would not refer to me. I would never make it. There were no independent physical therapy practices in CU at the time. And boy were they wrong!

Over the next seven years, we moved three times. Each time to larger space, adding more staff and services to fulfill the whole life fitness model. Our final location where Mettler Center is located was built and ready to move to in 1997.

We just celebrated, 20 years of the Mettler Center transforming the health and well-being of our community through compassionate care, innovative treatments and services with proven results. We have always prioritized value over volume with an emphasis on whole life fitness” for our community so we can lower long term health care costs. Mettler Center is well-positioned with a unique health care model, incorporating a core fitness membership base with the integrative services of effective physical therapy, massage, personal training, nutrition and mind-body offerings such as yoga and Pilate’s.

This evolution was heavily influenced by my divinely-inspired discovery of the Mettler Release Technique in 1991. It has been the cornerstone that supports and compliments our physical therapy for over 25 years. It allows us to transform and restore injured stiff soft tissue to healthy tissue without creating further trauma. This facilitates faster recovery and better functional performance. It fits in well with our mission of helping people lead healthy and productive lives with lower health care costs. I recently renamed it (with a pending trademark) Dermal-Fascial Restorationâ„ or DFRâ„ .

In 2003, Mettler Center received two honors. We were chosen by Advance Magazine for Physical Therapy as the best physical therapy practice in the nation. We also were selected that same year by the Champaign Chamber of Commerce as Small Business of the Year. More recently, we received second place at the 2015 IV International Fascia Research Congress for the pioneering research using high frequency shear wave elastography analyzing stiffness in injured tissue.

I have patented several orthopedic sleeping pillows and even had the opportunity to sell on QVC! I currently have an exclusive contract with the prestigious Hammacher Schlemmer to sell the Ergonomic Side Sleeper.

The family environment and culture of the Mettler Center is truly special and fulfilling. I have had so many talented employees contributing to our success over many years. Statistics on survival for a startup company is less than 10% after 3 years. I feel good Mettler has been able to weather the economic storms and many changes to health care that have occurred over these past 27 years.

It’s this core group of committed and loyal employees who have been with me for more than 10 years to who I owe a special sense of gratitude. They have grown to provide the outstanding leadership necessary to survive, and thrive, with all the change and competition in health care services. There are now close to 10 independent practices in CU. And we just finished out best year ever in the history of Mettler Center! I hear frequently from my staff, patients, and members and customers who leave Champaign-Urbana that there is no place like Mettler. And they are right!

I believe that to survive in the future health care industry that focused patient and member-centered “whole life fitness” care will be more important than ever to our success. Mettler is working hard to collaborate with businesses that believe what we believe (Indian Acres, Clark-Lindsey and YMCA pool) and we have partnered with several Carle physicians on program called CU Wellness. We are interested in partnering with those who believe that, in order to lower health care costs of our community, we need to keep people healthy so they can lead productive and fulfilling lives.

Mettler Center has recently restructured itself from a Limited Liability Company to an S Corp. And my desire is to allow our doctors of physical therapy, who have been mentored at Mettler Center over a 5–10 year period and are passionate about our mission and vision, to be able to become future owners of Mettler Center.

I look forward to seeing you all transform the health and wellbeing of our community through our unique patient and member-centered health care model in 2018!