THE JOHN WEST STORY
The story of John West Physical Therapy cannot be told without the story of its founder, John David West, whose vision and values created one of the most successful physical therapy clinics in Houston. John D. West was born on Labor Day weekend in 1938 in Waco, Texas. He grew up in Corpus Christi where he attended Sundeen Junior High School and became a star basketball athlete. Young Johnny’s success in high school basketball made him the town hero. He was regularly featured on the front pages of the local Corpus Christi newspaper. He was soon sought after by head hunters from colleges all over the country. Upon graduating from high school in 1956 and receiving numerous scholarship offers, Johnny West, now towering at 6’ 8”, stayed true to his Texas roots and decided to play for the Baylor Bears at Baylor University in his hometown of Waco, Texas. He was a star athlete at Baylor University as well. In 1963, he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy.
On his 21st birthday, he had an epiphany. He had to be serious about his future and he no longer wanted to be called “Johnny West.” In order to be taken seriously in the profession he was entering, he wanted to be referred to as “John West.”
While attending a friend’s wedding in Houston in 1964, young John West met Dr. Joe King, the father of the groom. Dr. King had an opening for a Physical Therapist position in a doctor owned Houston clinic known as Shamrock Physical Therapy Clinic, Inc., which was located in the Medical Center behind the famous Shamrock Hotel.
This was the beginning of the young and industrious John West’s long and successful career as a physical therapist. He moved to Houston and made Houston his home in 1964.
Learning the ropes of the profession with skill, twenty-five year old John West quickly earned the respect of his peers and colleagues. Within a year of joining the clinic, Mr. West was running the clinic operations of Shamrock Physical Therapy Clinic, Inc. and turned the clinic into a successful business. Reminiscing on those early days, Mr. West said that in the 1960s, physical therapists wore a uniform similar to an orderly. A white shirt, white pants, white belt, and white shoes. Mr. West decided that he much preferred wearing dress pants, a dress shirt, and a tie. This attire was also more comfortable when attending meetings for patient care with other doctors. The customary white attire was soon a thing of the past in the profession.
Amongst the owners of Shamrock clinic were soon to be pioneers of another reputable Houston hospital in the Medical Center. Drs. Joe King, Harold Brelsford, Robert H. Fain, and Mr. J. C. Trotter were working on establishing the Fondren Orthopedic Hospital. Recognizing Mr. West’s hard work, talent and business acumen, when the founders of the clinic moved to Fondren Orthopedic Hospital, they offered their shares in the clinic to Mr. West. Being the ambitious visionary that he was, Mr. West availed the opportunity and acquired the shares, and became the President and sole shareholder of Shamrock Physical Therapy Clinic, Inc. In 1966, Mr. West started doing business as John West Physical Therapy, the first independently owned physical therapy facility in Texas, that continues to serve the Houston community till this day.
After over three decades in the Medical Center, the John West Physical Therapy clinic moved to River Oaks in 2000, where it remains today at 2305 San Felipe, Houston, Texas 77019. Mr. West designed this facility with ten treatment rooms in one building, and an annex building incorporating his open floor plan exercise area, and three heated swimming pools for aqua therapy. He also provided for free parking for his patients, who need to take only a few steps to enter the clinic. At the height of his career, Mr. West had expanded to 16 locations across Houston and in parts of Texas under the John West Physical Therapy name or as Rehabilitation Services of Houston, including inpatient clinics at hospitals. No independent physical therapist reached the heights and success as did Mr. West in his long and accomplished career.
John West was consumed by his passion to heal his patients. On days when he saw an unusual condition in a patient, he strategized over the best plan of care to heal the patient. He would go over exercises in detail with patients, and have them practice before his eyes to ensure maximum recovery. Once the treatment regime was completed, Mr. West always told his patients to return if they had any questions or if they needed to go over exercises again, and he would assist them pro bono. Mr. West returned every patient’s call, even when patients called him everyday to ask simple questions such as how long they ought to run today, or how long should they work out on an exercise equipment. Such was his love for providing therapy that Mr. West took Spanish classes to be able to communicate with Spanish speaking patients. He already knew French, and learnt to speak Spanish fluently, and enjoyed being able to converse effectively with his patients. During his 55 year long career, Mr. West saw hundreds of thousands of patients. He treated many international leaders, royalty, high profile athletes, movie stars, Olympians, ballet dancers, as well as average folks. He would even make house calls to see any patient who was unable to commute to his clinic.
Mr. West’s passion was always his clinic and patient care, while his second love was his ranch in South Texas. As a young man, he enjoyed skiing and scuba diving. Mr. West loved history and learning about different cultures, and travelled the world in this pursuit. When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, Mr. West wanted to be in Germany to witness history. He chiseled a few pieces from the fallen wall with a small hammer. In Japan, he went to the World War II memorial, and was immediately surrounded by giggling children in school uniforms, who wanted photographs of the tall giant American with blond hair and blue eyes.
After purchasing his ranch in 1997, Mr. West spent almost all his weekends there. Planting his spring and autumn vegetables gardens, deer and dove hunting during the seasons with his friends, or just having quiet weekends devouring books. Reading was another passion. His favorite subjects were American and Texas history, and the history of Native Americans. When his gardens bloomed, he picked huge baskets of vegetables and lemons. He gave his patients bags full of Swiss chard, tomatoes, lemons, jalapeños, okras, eggplants, along with smoked sausage made in his barn. He was absolutely adored by his patients for his kindness and generosity.
Mr. West practiced out of his main clinic in River Oaks for the rest of his days. His name and John West Physical Therapy are synonymous with excellent care in therapy. Mr. West was well known and admired in the medical community for how much, and how well he cared for his patients which included generations of the same families in the Houston area. Rich, poor or in between, none of this mattered to him. He took care of all with his Midas touch. When away from the clinic, he was always amused when asked, “Are you the John West?” John West was a living legend in his lifetime. Physical therapists wanted to emulate him for his magical healing touch. His motto was to provide a Legacy of Excellence to his patients. He was a pioneer and trailblazer in his profession. Through all this he remained a humble man, and a caring therapist. John David West will always be our esteemed and kind founder. His generosity of spirit, his goodness to mankind, and his love for Texas will not be forgotten soon.