After one massage, Nancy Porambo knew what she wanted to do with the rest of her life.
Now after 24 years, the licensed massage therapist has paved her path in the world of therapeutic and neuromuscular massage and has landed on the top.
Porambo, the owner of The Therapy Option in Jim Thorpe and The Spa at the Inn in Jim Thorpe, is currently serving as the 71st president of the National American Massage Therapy Association. With more than 57,000 members, the AMTA is the largest nonprofit, professional association serving massage therapists, massage students and massage schools.
A highlight of her term will include introducing Dr. Mehmet Oz, of the award-winning The Dr. Oz Show, at this year's AMTA National Convention in Denver in September.
Every story has a beginning
Porambo's story through the massage therapy world began over two decades ago on a trip to Hawaii.
She said that during that vacation she had her first massage. It changed her life.
"It was an incredible change because I was relaxed," Porambo recalled. "I could feel my shoulders again. I felt different."
At the time, Porambo was working in industry as a project manager.
When she returned to the mainland, she decided to find a massage therapist and located one in Northampton, because at the time the practice of massage therapy was not well-known in the area. The nearest therapist she found specialized in neuromuscular therapy, which evaluates posture as one avenue to alleviate the source of chronic soft tissue pain.
"It was much different than the first massage," she said. "I was curious and intrigued about how massage could also help relieve structural pain."
Porambo's decision to take a class in massage was simply to network and learn more, but as she embarked into her first weekend of structural integrative work, she knew she'd found her calling.
"I knew this is what I wanted to do with the rest of my life," she said.
Taking the next step
After graduating from Health Options Institute and the St. John Institute, Porambo took the plunge into entrepreneurship, opening The Therapy Option Inc.
She said it was a big career change, but it was one she was thrilled to be taking.
One obstacle still stood in her way Pennsylvania was not a licensing health care state in the area of massage therapist practices.
In 1992, Porambo, with the help of then-state Rep. Keith McCall, began a very long, uphill battle to get a bill passed that would make Pennsylvania a licensed state.
She began a coalition of professionals who wanted to become licensed and started attending chapter meetings of the American Massage Therapy Association.
The group looked at other states as models to see if this would be something that could be done in Pennsylvania and worked with legislators to try and gain support.
"It was frustrating," Porambo said. "People would volunteer, but it was a long, tedious process, so people would come and go. A bill would be formed, then would die because no one would pick it up and bring it through the licensure committee. The last bill though, Keith (who was speaker of the house at the time) took it and helped it fly. He took it where it needed to go."
Five drafts and 16 years later, on Oct. 9, 2008, then-Gov. Edward Rendell signed the bill into law, making Pennsylvania a licensed state in the area of massage therapy.
The pen Rendell used, as well as the first Pennsylvania license in massage therapy, hang in Porambo's office today.
"Never did I think it would take that long," she said, adding that she was relentless in her pursuit and thankful for the support of the AMTA and McCall. "I'm not the one to take full credit for it, but I never let it go.
"I was in a good position on the board of directors of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the AMTA to make a difference, and took advantage of that to help make it work," she said.
Following this achievement, the AMTA asked Porambo to join its national board.
Trek to the top
In 2008, Porambo was elected as member-at-large in the AMTA's national organization. She took office in 2009 and spent two years in the position.
During that time she learned to think on the national level instead of focusing just on one state. She helped bills in dozens of states get the momentum they needed to pass into law and meet people she never otherwise would have had the opportunity to meet. Currently, 45 states plus the District of Columbia are licensed across the nation.
"It's really an incredible organization," Porambo said.
In 2010, Porambo was elected to the AMTA vice president position and took office in 2011, where she served in that capacity until 2013.
As the 2013 elections approached, Porambo began looking to advance.
"I thought it was time to move up as the momentum of the profession was moving toward more focus on health care," she said.
She was elected president, and in 2013, served as president-elect under AMTA President Winona F. Bontrager of Lancaster.
On March 1 Porambo was sworn in as president, a position she will hold until March 2015, when she shifts to the outgoing president position.
"It's been a great experience," she said, noting that she has lots of speaking engagements throughout the country.
She credits Kelly Newton and her staff at both The Therapy Option and The Spa at the Inn for helping her while she is away with AMTA business.
"They are instrumental in making this all work," she said. "I couldn't have done this or continue to do this without them."
Porambo is also excited about her opportunity to introduce Dr. Oz at the national convention, who is this year's keynote speaker. The convention is an AMTA member-only event.
"Oz has put health care front and center with his show," she said. "This is a pinnacle point for us (AMTA). People are using massage therapy more than ever now, and doctors are seeing the benefits of the service.
"I'm so tickled," she said. "I never dreamed I would do something like this. It's such an honor, and it has been a great ride in my career."