FAIRFIELD — Fairfield Universal Therapy is now independently owned by its operators, the husband and wife duo of Adam and Dana Conilogue.
Until April 2019, the business was part of the Universal Therapy Group, which had clinics in Fairfield, Burlington and Fort Madison. As the other offices became part of Great River Medical, the Conilogues bought the Fairfield branch to take ownership of the office where they’d worked since 2012 when they moved to Fairfield.
Adam said the change in ownership was hardly noticed among the clinic’s clientele, since it mostly affects behind-the-scenes work like taxes and insurance. It has given the business more freedom to go its own direction.
The clinic has a receptionist and three physical therapy assistants in addition to Adam and Dana. Together they offer a wide range of therapy services such as sports rehabilitation and a number of surgeries.
Dana focuses on therapy specific to women, which includes treating incontinence, and strengthening muscles damaged from a C-section, for example.
Adam specializes in treating people with balance problems, helping them reposition the crystals in their inner ear. The clinic has many exercise machines that do exactly that.
“We have equipment that helps people balance or regain functions after a stroke or injury,” Adam said.
Both Adam and Dana perform a therapy technique called trigger point dry needling, which involves inserting needles into specific parts of the body and using electric stimulation to release tension in the muscles.
It sounds like acupuncture, but Adam said it’s a distinct treatment. It grew out of an understanding of how patients responded to injections of medication.
The literature found that patients in the control group, which received a needle but no medication, did as well as those who received a medicine in their needle. This led doctors to believe that it was the insertion of the needle that caused the improvement and not the medication the needle injected. Needles that contain no medication are called “dry needles,” hence the name of the treatment.
Moving to Fairfield
Dana, whose maiden name is Kuiken, grew up in Fairfield and attended Fairfield High School. She and her sisters were terrific athletes at the school. Dana went on to become an All-American swimmer at Simpson College. It was not until she went to physical therapy school at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., that she met her future husband.
Adam recalls that the postgraduate doctor program was organized such that the same group of students took all of their classes together. He happened to be fortunate enough to be grouped with Dana.
“It worked out that we liked each other,” he said.
Adam grew up on a ranch outside a small town in Wyoming, so he is accustomed to rural life. He enjoys hunting and fishing, which is why he likes living in southeast Iowa, but he also likes Fairfield’s rich culture. Before moving to Fairfield in 2012, the couple had been living in the Pacific Northwest in Oregon and Washington state.
“We used to live in Seattle and Olympia, and those places have great culture, but we get that same great culture here,” Adam said. “Fairfield has a lot to offer. We couldn’t have picked a better spot to raise a family.”
While the couple lived in the northwest, they worked for traveling clinics where they would spend three months at a time at one particular clinic before moving to a new city. Adam said they liked the variety, getting to spent time in lots of places.
“It was fancy-free living, and we could move without much hassle,” he said.
The couple did that for two years before deciding that it would be nice to live closer to family, especially since they wanted to start a family of their own. At the time they moved to Fairfield, there was no other outpatient clinic in town, which would make them the first if they were to open one.
“We’re the only private-owned outpatient clinic in town,” Adam said.
Since moving to Fairfield, the couple have started their own family. Their children are ages 7, 5 and 2.
Adam said he loves coming to work every day to Universal Therapy. Physical therapy was not his first career choice. As an undergrad at the University of Wyoming, he wanted to be a computer programmer.
“My first class in computer programming might as well have been in French. I did not like it,” he said.
An experience in middle school opened Adam’s eyes to a potential career in therapy. After his seventh grade year, he suffered a bad injury while riding a four-wheeler. He fell off and the vehicle’s handlebar tore a gash in his leg.
He had to do physical therapy to recover from the accident, and that planted a seed in his mind that he might like to be a therapist. After computer programming didn’t work out in college, Adam changed his major to kinesiology and health promotion.
Universal Therapy, just like nearly every clinic in the country and around the world, has taken a hit during this coronavirus pandemic. The business makes a fair share of its revenue on elective surgeries, and those came to a halt around mid-March.
Though emergency surgeries were still permitted, the loss of elective surgeries like knee replacements and shoulder surgeries, meant surgeries were 40-50 percent of normal.
The business has incorporated more tele-health and added in-home visits for those patients who are nervous about coming to the clinic.
Adam said physical therapy is mostly a “hands on” exercise, but a therapist can still help a patient through a video call. They can tell whether a person has bad posture, or let them know if their computer desk is set up to promote good posture.
Adam said that, since the coronavirus has caused more people to work from home, they’re less active than when they were forced to go to the office.
The clinic got a Paycheck Protection Program loan, which Adam said helped, allowing them to survive those first difficult months of the pandemic. Nevertheless, the clinic still had to furlough one worker, though Adam said business is picking up again, and he hopes to be at full staff sometime in August.