Featured Member of the Month (June 2020): Robyn Bjork

Robyn Bjork, PT, CLWT, CWS, CLT-LANA is Founder, CEO/President, and Executive Director of Education for the International Lymphedema & Wound Training Institute (ILWTI). She is a Physical Therapist who is an expert in the field of wound care and edema/lymphedema management. She is a proud member of AVLS since 2016 and Chair of the new Lymphatic & Integumentary Rehabilitation (LIR) specialty section. 

Bjork is a Certified Lymphedema & Wound Therapist through ILWTI, a Certified Wound Specialist through the American Board of Wound Management, and a Certified Lymphedema Therapist through the Lymphology Association of North America. Bjork is a board member and past Secretariat of the World Alliance of Wound & Lymphedema Care (WAWLC) and is an international expert in the morbidity management of Podoconiosis and Lymphatic Filariasis. 

How and why did you start practicing in the field of vein/lymphatic care?

As a Physical Therapist, I have a strong interest in chronic wounds and was working as a wound specialist in a long-term care facility. One day, after a missionary presented at our church, I felt called by God to eradicate Podoconiosis, a form of lymphedema, from Ethiopia. A retired surgeon said to me “Robyn, I know there is a mission in Africa but we have a mission field right here too.” His words led me to found a wound clinic in my hometown. Becoming a Certified Lymphedema Therapist in addition to a Certified Wound Specialist, and partnering with regional vein specialists, were the key to successful treatment for a variety of previously non-healing wounds. 

Gaining experience in my local wound and lymphedema clinic eventually led to spearheading projects in remote areas of Africa and Haiti to develop treatment programs for severe lymphedema and wounds secondary to Podoconiosis and Lymphatic Filariasis. Recognizing the need for many more dual certified specialists both nationally and internationally, I then founded the International Lymphedema & Wound Training Institute in 2012. Since that time, it has been exciting to train many clinicians in lymphatic and integumentary rehabilitation, and help facilitate the integration of vein/lymphatic care and wound healing in mainstream clinical practice.

When you are not at work, how do you spend your time?

Now that I live in Alaska, I spend my free time hiking in the mountains and salmon fishing with my husband.

How long have you been a member of the AVLS and why did you decide to join?

I’ve been a member of AVLS since 2016. I initially joined as an integral part of my job with Sigvaris, Inc., where I was previously employed as Director of Innovation and Medical Education. When the “ACP” transitioned to the “AVLS,” I was excited to see it become the leader in integrated vein/lymphatic care. As a Physical Therapist who specializes in wound and lymphedema management, it is wonderful to be part of an organization where we have physician leadership in this area of practice. As an active member of AVLS, I am now Chair of the new Specialty Section “Lymphatic & Integumentary Rehabilitation,” or “LIR” for short.

In what ways has the AVLS helped you as a vein/lymphatic care provider?

Having a better understanding of venous disease and procedures, access to expert physicians, and informative Annual Congress sessions on venous and lymphatic disease have all been invaluable to me.

Any advice for your peers new to the field?

Lymphatic medicine is uniquely a new frontier that affords an unparalleled opportunity to shape the future of clinical practice. AVLS is an organization that provides the resources and infrastructure to facilitate change in the way we approach lymphatic and integumentary rehabilitation, particularly in the lower extremities. As a Physical Therapist, I encourage all of my colleagues to become a member of AVLS so we can join with expert physicians to improve access to care and quality of treatment for all patients with lymphatic edema and wounds.

What resources does the AVLS provide that would benefit them?

We now have a new Specialty Section dedicated to Lymphatic & Integumentary Rehabilitation (LIR). This is a great time to get involved to voice your needs and to help shape the future.