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Owner, Apex Physical Therapy Specialists


Selected to be part of the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Enterprising Women of Color Business Center’s Small Business Marketing Bootcamp

Shawna Yee has been a physical therapist for 20 years and has spent the last eight years owning and operating her own clinic. Apex Physical Therapy Specialists is conveniently located in Honolulu, Hawaii and serves patients throughout the island of Oahu. Prior to opening her business, Shawna worked in other clinics on the continent, and decided to branch out on her own upon moving back home to Hawaii to have more freedom and flexibility.

“Working in the other clinics, we were pressed to use assistants and aides, but I appreciate the time to work directly with patients, one-on-one,” Shawna explained. “I analyze their movement patterns and determine the best treatment for them. Each of our therapists work with patients individually.”

Shawna employs another physical therapist, and together, they treat a variety of orthopedic conditions, including neck, shoulder, back and hip pain as well as post-surgical and sports injuries. They’re also certified to treat patients with Parkinson’s disease and other neurological disorders. Additionally, Shawna has been a certified Pilates instructor for over 15 years. “The thing I like about Pilates and how it can be used within a rehabilitation setting, is that it really focuses on movement patterns and alignment. This translates well to working with many orthopedic and neurologic populations. With patients with neurologic concerns, you really have to look at how they move,” she said. “In different populations, people move differently and have unique movement patterns.”

Shawna strongly believes in patient education as well as continuous learning. She was one of the first in Hawaii to be Board Certified in Orthopedics and she’s been certified in Strength and Conditioning Specialty for 20 years. She combines this knowledge with working with her patients to empower them to care for their bodies.

Reflecting on her business journey, Shawna pointed out that the biggest challenge was overcoming the learning curve that came with stepping into an administrative role, which included working with insurance companies and billers. “I welcomed opportunities to learn more about this aspect of physical therapy and have been a Pay Relations Co-Chair for the Hawaii Chapter of the American Physical Therapy Association for over 10 years,” she said. This experience has allowed her to better understand the various aspects of insurance and healthcare, which are constantly changing, and develop a network of experts and mentors to continue the learning process.

This education has been further supported by classes offered through YWCA Oʻahu and the MBDA Enteprising Women of Color Business Center. “That’s why these classes have been great,” Shawna shared, noting that she signed up for the Small Business Marketing Bootcamp after learning about the Center through Central Pacific Bank’s WE by Rising Tide program. “I try to seek out learning opportunities that develop my professional clinical skills as well as to learn more about the administrative aspects. Marketing has been a big challenge as far as meeting with doctors during the pandemic and having to respect their space. I’m always seeking different learning opportunities and I’m open to learning more.”

After working on the mainland, Shawna has been proud to be able to return home to be able to serve the local community for over eight years and the growth she’s had along the way, and thanks her family for being supportive and patient throughout this process. Over the clinic’s lifespan, Shawna has also developed solid working relationships with doctors that allow everyone to work together to provide patients with the best care. She takes great pride in going above and beyond by making connections with nutritionists, counselors, and other professionals to develop a network to best support patients.

You won’t find Shawna only working with patients in her clinic either. She also devotes time to being out in the community, meeting with different organizations and offering educational seminars focused on preventing injuries.

Shawna plans to continue asserting herself as an expert in her field and working to promote her business to doctors and the community. With many private clinics now being absorbed by hospital systems, Apex Physical Therapy Specialists provides an alternative for people to get the care they need. “I really believe in what we do, and I love my profession. We’re definitely in a position to help people feel better and live better lives. That’s the type of business I want to run,” she said.

To her fellow woman entrepreneurs and small business owners, Shawna offers the following advice: “I appreciate that I’ve been able to guide my own path and have that work and family balance. Just try because you never know. I feel like entrepreneurship is a good opportunity and I’m glad that I did it.”

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