Campus & Community

The Big Picture

3 min read

Denise Lotufo: Physical therapist

Denise Lofuto When the student came to University Health Services (UHS), he was afraid that he would never run again. Doctors in his native Italy had told him that he should stop running, a biting disappointment for someone who liked to play soccer.

Physical therapist Denise Lotufo started him on stretching and strengthening exercises. He protested that that wouldn’t help. But after evaluating him, Lotufo found a small muscle behind the knee that was abnormally tight and weak, and she kept working on it. Now, that student can run 35 minutes without pain.

“It’s his lungs that hold him back now, not his legs,” Lotufo says.

The student was one of the many people who make their way into the basement of Holyoke Center every day with low back pain, repetitive strain injuries, and a variety of work-related and weekend sprains, strains, and pulled muscles. One staffer at the News Office limped in with a painful sciatic nerve. After three weeks of massages and stretching, he walked out better than new.

Lotufo ran private massage therapy practices in Belmont and Arlington before going to Northeastern University to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physical therapy. She came to UHS last May after moving muscles at Boston Medical Center.

To relax after easing the pains of others Lotufo plays the cello. “I started out playing piano, but I fell in love with the cello when I was 12,” she recalls.

Lotufo moved from Florida to Boston to work as an au pair for a family affiliated with the Longwood Symphony in Boston. She studied cello with the family, and eventually began playing in the symphony herself. The symphony is made up of health-care professionals who play to raise money for charitable organizations.

Earlier this year, Lotufo shared a ride with Ellen Tulchinsky, a Longwood violinist who is chief of physical therapy at UHS. Tulchinsky mentioned that there was an opening at UHS. Lotufo applied and got the job.

Recently, Lotufo and her partner, Teresa Lopes, traveled to Cambodia to adopt a baby girl they have named Telden. Her name comes from a combination of their names, Teresa lopes/lotufo and denise.

“We had been thinking about adopting a baby for many years,” Lotufo says. “But I needed to wait until I finished school and had a permanent job.”

With the aid of a Maine organization called Adopt Cambodia, she and Lopes went to Cambodia in August and came home with Telden, now 8 months old.

“She’s healthy and smart and a great joy to us,” Lotufo says with a proud mother’s smile. “We’re raising her to be bilingual in Portuguese and English. (Lopes is Portuguese.) Already she can clap and wave goodbye when asked in either language.”

Besides playing for the Longwood Symphony, Lotufo also serves on its board of directors. The next concert is on Dec. 1 at Jordan Hall in Boston.

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