Our NJMOMpreneur of the week Zarina Vitebsky is no stranger to hard work, compassion, motherly love and a whole lot of #momhustle. When she moved to the United States, Zarina impressed her family by quickly learning English and proving doubtful teachers wrong as a straight-A student. Fast forward to 2019, and Zarina still boasts that same unmatched ambition as one of the kindest, most skilled Advanced Pelvic Floor Specialists of ProTouch Physical Therapy in Cranford. Seriously, this #NJMOM does it all — her daily to-do list includes running a business, helping patients find relief and working on her non-profit organization that helps underprivileged children. Oh, did we mention she’s also a single mom to four bright, active kids who love to go on adventures with her all over the state? We got a chance to sit down with this go-getter for some major mom inspiration.
featured image via Jessica Liggett Photography
Advanced Pelvic Floor Specialist at ProTouch Physical Therapy & NJMOMpreneur Zarina Vitebsky
NJMOM: What do you offer to your clients and how is it different than other professionals in your field?
Zarina: At ProTouch Physical Therapy, our Pelvic Floor Therapy clinic treats some of the most complex conditions using a variety of modalities and a minimum of 30 to 45 minutes of strict manual therapy on each patient. We provide these services in private rooms and spend as much time listening to our patients as we do treating them. I strongly believe this dedicated and multidisciplinary approach certainly propels us in the field and separates us from other facilities. Our patients become a part of our family the minute they step in the door and have access to our therapists at all times, even during off hours. In addition, our team is constantly expanding their knowledge of pelvic floor anatomy and treatment by taking the latest courses throughout the year. We want to be the best at what we do, and we understand that the learning process never ends. This level of passion and dedication to pelvic floor therapy is what makes us successful versus other clinics that may offer a smaller and limited pelvic floor department within their practice.
I would say that the only thing stopping me in opening a business was fear and guilt that I would not spend enough time with my growing children. I quickly realized that women are capable of stretching time during the day and finding time for everything and everyone. Do not succumb to fear. Get yourself out there, face your challenges, and accomplish your goals; it is so rewarding and has not affected my relationships with my children.” – NJMOMpreneur Zarina Vitebsky
NJMOM: What inspired you to get into your line of work?
Zarina: I come from a family of hard-working physical therapists. I grew up seeing Olympic athletes treated by my father. I also watched my older brother, Alex, go through physical therapy school. Watching both of them take pride in their practices inspired me to follow in their footsteps. The day my passion for pelvic floor therapy was ignited is a very different story: it was a Wednesday class at 8 A.M. at Old Dominion University (ODU), and we had an adjunct professor that day. I could feel myself falling asleep, bored and thinking only of a strong cup of coffee to get me through a lecture on anatomy and physiology of the pelvis. That was, until the professor sitting on the desk and in front of the class did something completely unexpected. She raised her skirt and inserted a biofeedback probe before performing Kegel exercises. The entire class fell backward except for four female students, including myself, who stood up and walked over to see what the professor was doing. All four of us became pelvic floor physical therapists.
NJMOM: What is your favorite part about your business?
Zarina: My favorite part about my business is that I get to wake up six days a week knowing that I’m walking into my own clinic, and making a significant difference in the lives of our patients by utilizing my own education and judgment. Pelvic floor therapists are detectives in their own nature; many patients come to us after failing to receive answers or relief through multiple physicians and facilities. It is so rewarding to be a part of that journey, and watch a patient who has felt complete despair regain their quality of life. What can be more rewarding than that?
NJMOM: What is your background in your business expertise?
Zarina: I graduated as an undergraduate from ODU and went to ODU PT graduate school. From there, I graduated with a masters in Physical Therapy and a specialty in Neurology. I then worked in the Neurological Department for eight months after graduation, where I was exposed to patients struggling with urination, defecation and pain within the pelvic floor. Realizing that pelvic floor issues were of interest to me, I started to see female patients with simple issues like incontinence and pregnancy related pain. One day, a male walked into my clinic and asked me to see him for his post prostatectomy pain. I expressed that I do not treat males, but he was desperate and insisted that I at least try. It was a success. That was 17 years ago, and I have been treating males with the most complex conditions ever since. I am also one of only two physical therapists in the United States who have been trained by Dr. David Wise (author of Headache in the Pelvis) to carry out his specific pelvic pain protocol. I began pursuing multiple certifications, including Herman & Wallace’s Pelvic Rehabilitation (PRPC) and a Mastery Certification in Manual Therapy (MCMT).
NJMOM: What are you most proud of in your career?
Zarina: I remember starting my career in treating the most basic symptoms and diagnoses. It’s 18 years later, and I’m now treating patients with some of the most complex and mysterious conditions in the medical field. This transition in cases gives me a sense of pride in what I am doing and that I am on the right path. My next step will be to start my training in treating patients who undergo transgender surgeries. I am so proud we have such a dedicated staff who creates a loving and safe atmosphere for patients from all walks of life.
NJMOM: What is something few people know about you?
Zarina: Few people know my story of immigration to the U.S. at the age of 12 from the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). I lived in Italy for two years before moving to the U.S. Here, I learned to speak Italian and was immersed in Italian culture. At the age of 14, I went to high school in Queens, New York and barely spoke English. I quickly realized that there are standard classes and there are honors classes. I was an English as a Second Language (ESL) student, but I walked in the honors department and requested that I be placed in the appropriate classes. The teachers were shocked and denied my request. So I offered them a deal — stay if I get A’s, or go back to standard classes if I got a B on one single test. I would study in the tub at night, not to disrupt my parents from sleeping to fulfill my end of the bargain…and ultimately exceed the expectations of the teachers who felt I did not belong in these classes. By the end of the year, I was the only student in these advanced classes that received all A’s. My ProTouch staff always asks me where I find the drive and energy to raise four kids, treat so many patients and continue to further my education as a PFPT. But they don’t know that my drive is to defy what was expected of me, which started with this one experience when I was 14. I carry on that mentality with pelvic floor therapy in finding a better solution for my patients despite what they may have been previously told by the medical community.
NJMOM: What can we expect from you next year – personally and professionally?
Zarina: Professionally, I expect to have more certifications, begin work as an Adjunct Professor for Pelvic Floor Therapy and begin working on conducting case studies, as well as start a rough draft of my pelvic floor book. Personally, my family comes first and that means helping my oldest son, Nicholas, apply to colleges. Next year I also plan to train for a half marathon, which has been a personal goal for some time now.
NJMOM: What charitable cause are you most passionate about?
Zarina: My son, Nicholas, and I formed a non-profit organization called Steam Forward in 2016 to address the needs of poor and less-privileged children all over the world. We have done Christmas parties, fundraisers and more to provide for needy children. Nicholas came to me during his freshman year and expressed that there are schools even in the U.S. where children do not have access to musical instruments or technology. We decided to organize a company that would also raise money to provide musical instruments and technology to children in less privileged parts of the world. Having immigrated into a less than privileged position in society myself, I am partial to this cause and hold a place in my heart for the compassion my son continues to share toward children in need.
NJMOM: Who is your role model? Why?
Zarina: Without a doubt, my parents are my role models. After seeing my parents travel from Russia to Vienna to Italy to the U.S. while keeping two children safe and building a brand new life, the words “respect” and “honor” take on a whole new meaning. Both of my parents had their PhDs before emigrating and left a comfortable life in Russia to starting over in the States. My mother took on a role as part of a cleaning staff while my father delivered pizzas. My brother and I were given a happy life here and sent to college while our parents sacrificed everything they had worked for in their home country to see that we had a better future here. I couldn’t imagine better role models in my life.
NJMOM: What is the best piece of advice your mom (or parent/role model) ever gave to you?
Zarina: As a child, I was perpetually intimidated to take on new endeavors. My mother would always say, “You need to at least try. It does not matter if you win or lose, it is a great opportunity to learn and that is the purpose in life.”
NJMOM: Do you have a favorite quote you live by? Why is this quote so important to you?
Zarina: I love the famous quote by Mahatma Gandhi,
The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
This quote speaks volumes to me because I treat patients for a living all day long and address their needs and when I get home I do the same for my four amazing children. I believe when you give a little bit of yourself to others in need, they take that energy and use it to create their own, so your energy always lives within them.
NJMOM: What are your favorite things to do in New Jersey with your family?
Zarina: I am blessed that I have a family that is happy to be doing anything as long as we are together. In the fall, we love to hike at High Point State Park. From the top of the mountain, you can see the hawks hovering above the Delaware River and the beautiful fall colors of the foliage. In the spring, my children love to visit Dingman’s Fall, a waterfall across the Delaware River Gap. Even in the spring, you can still see snow that has not fully melted and continues to run into the waterfall. In the summer, my family is big on fishing in the local lakes in Morris County, biking to the local ice cream shop in Mendham or watching a summer festival movie on the green in Morristown. We’re a very active family and pretty much can find something to enjoy in every season.
NJMOM: What is the best part about being a mom for you?
Zarina: The best part of being a mom is that I have four best friends that I come home to daily. I am a single mom of Nicholas 17, Tyler 13, Michael, 9 and Mia, 4. I am also “mom” to my wonderful 20-year-old au pair Magda who helps me raise my children. My children have been my best teachers, teaching me patience, love, kindness and open-mindedness. I go to bed embraced by little arms and I wake up the same way. I could not have asked for a better life.
NJMOM: What are your favorite businesses in New Jersey?
Zarina: Our business, ProTouch Physical Therapy, is located in Cranford, New Jersey. Cranford is such a wonderful town with more and more up-and-coming shops every day; we have an amazing coffee shop called Track 5 that we frequent in Cranford. I live in a small town called Mendham which has some great businesses, as well. We have a small ice cream shop, Creamery. During our hikes, we always stop at Bagel Station in Sparta for the best bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches. Since there are three boys and three girls in the house, the boys have a tradition to ask the girls out on Valentine’s Day out to dinner—we usually go to Stone House in Warren.
NJMOM: Where do you reside and vacation in New Jersey?
Zarina: We reside in Mendham. We like to vacation in Ocean Grove and go glamping next to St. Paul’s Church, where you can sit outside and listen to the service, organ music and attend various concerts. We tend to go to Ocean Grove for day trips because the beaches are family friendly and the shoreline is not as rough (no entry fee or parking fee, either).
NJMOM: What advice might you have for a fellow NJMOMpreneur who is just starting out?
Zarina: I would say that the only thing that was stopping me in opening a business was fear and guilt that I would not spend enough time with my growing children. I quickly realized that women are capable of stretching time during the day and finding time for everything and everyone. Do not succumb to fear. Get yourself out there, face your challenges and accomplish your goals; it is so rewarding and it has not affected my relationships with my children. If anything, I can now offer them a brighter future while sending them a clear message on responsibility, hard work and reward. My children tell me that they watch me wake up at 5 A.M. daily and leave home by 6 A.M., which sends them a clear message that they, too, should aim high.
NJMOM: Anything else you’d like to tell moms in New Jersey?
Zarina: Thank you for allowing me to share a story about my little unique family and my amazing job. I firmly believe that women need to stand together in supporting and promoting NJMOMpreneurs. We play a significant role in society and greatly influence our little ones when we are reaching higher aspirations. Strong mothers raise stronger daughters to have a bright and amazing future, while teaching their sons to have the utmost respect for women.
Join ProTouch Physical Therapy’s Facebook Group, New Jersey Pelvic Pain Healing Institute.