Carmela Claypool, a physical therapist and lymphedema specialist at United Hospital and at the Sister Kenny outpatient lymphedema clinic in St. Paul, talks about her work.

Q: What's a typical workday like for you?

A: I work with patients after breast cancer or orthopedic surgeries, other cancer patients and patients with edema related to venous problems. I employ complete decongestive therapy: manual lymph drainage; medical compression bandages; therapeutic exercises; and patient and family education. I stay up-to-date with the new evidence-based treatment options and new compression garments to prevent recurrence once the edema is under control.

Q: How does your role fit into the bigger health care picture?

A: My work helps the patients to recover faster and allows them to be able to return to a productive life, which also saves money in health care.

Q: Who do you interact with during the course of the day?

A: I interact with patients and their families, physical and occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, physicians, nurses, surgeons, physiatrists, hospitalists, a neuro-psychologist, oncologists, a recreational therapist, wound/ostomy nurses and administrative personnel.

Q: Why did you become a lymphedema specialist?

A: I've been a physical therapist since 1972, working at the Peruvian

Air Force Hospital, and as instructor at the Physical Therapy School at San Marcos University in Lima, Peru. I came to the University of Minnesota with a Fulbright scholarship and worked as a physical therapist specializing in neurodevelopmental treatments. In 1991 a friend in Peru developed lymphedema from complications of cancer treatments, and I decided to change to the lymphedema field. I was certified by the Lymphology Association of North America and traveled to Peru to train physical therapists and physicians about lymphedema.

Q: What do you like about your work?

A: I enjoy working with my patients and their families, and see them get better.

I'm grateful they allow me to be part of their journey to recover.