Supporting Children Is a Lifelong Passion for This Occupational Therapist

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Brittni Winslow is living her dream as the practice owner and executive director of Emerge Pediatric Therapy

By Emily Davis | Photography by John Michael Simpson

An unexpected opportunity to shadow a pediatric occupational therapist in high school ignited a passion in Brittni Winslow. “Seeing the work she was doing opened my whole world up to this [career],” she says. “It was exactly what I wanted to do.”

Brittni arrived at Emerge Pediatric Therapy in Durham (then Emerge – A Child’s Place) as a graduate intern from East Carolina University in 2011 and was hired as a full-time therapist in 2012. The clinic offers one-on-one occupational, physical and speech therapy to children whose support needs range from emotional regulation to motor skills. It was her dream job, but she soon found herself at odds with the work environment and culture. Rather than look for a position elsewhere, she decided to propose some changes to her boss.

“Being a new therapist, just six months in, it was a little bit daunting,” Brittni says. “Over time, I continued to be seen as someone who wasn’t scared to ask questions and advocate for change.”

Brittni’s eventual ascent up the company ladder, although not initially planned, was not wholly unexpected. Her father, an entrepreneur, instilled in her a desire to work for herself one day. Before she left for college, he advised her to select a date by which she’d have her own occupational therapy practice. She chose 2020.

“It wasn’t necessarily something that I was thinking about every day as I was coming to work, but I think it was running subconsciously for me,” Brittni says. “So when those opportunities did start to arise for leadership, they were things that I really wanted to go after.”

By 2015, Brittni was being mentored to take over the company. By 2018, Brittni assumed 20% ownership of Emerge, and in 2019 – pregnant with her third daughter and still a year shy of her 2020 goal – she bought the other 80%. Emerge has since opened second and third clinic locations in Cary and Carrboro and grown from around 15 to almost 70 employees.

Her work comes with great joys and challenges. Brittni gets to watch young patients gain confidence, but she also has to make difficult decisions for a growing company. She says her perspective as a former therapist at Emerge helps orient her decision-making as its owner. Her growth as a leader within the company motivates her to provide similar opportunities to her team.

“It’s been great to see therapists grow in their own leadership and being able to mentor them into being leaders within the company,” she says.

When she’s off the clock, Brittni is often occupied by the crowded schedules of her three daughters – Brooklyn Winslow, 9, Eleanor Winslow, 6, and Molly Winslow, 3. Her husband, Clint Winslow, is a franchise owner of several Jersey Mike’s Subs locations in the Durham and Chapel Hill area, but Brittni jokes that their daughters’ extracurriculars keep them busier than their actual businesses. Beyond regular soccer games and Bouncing Bulldogs practices, the family likes to spend quality time attending Durham Bulls games and enjoying outdoor dining spots, like Honeysuckle at Lakewood.

Brittni continues to expand the reach of Emerge into her community, like through the center’s sponsorship of extra supportive, sensory-inclusive Sensory Suite nights at Bulls games and sensory-friendly haircut training with the team at Cookie Cutters Haircuts for Kids.

“We are really looking at ways for us to be able to get outside of the clinic walls,” Brittni says, “particularly [to reach] people who might not be able to access therapy services as a client. It’s a big, big passion of ours.”

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