Members of the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) community gathered to celebrate academic achievements of the second year students and welcome the new class at the Physical Therapy (PT) Excellence Awards and White Coat Convocation Ceremony, Oct. 15.
“It’s fitting that we are combining the Excellence Awards and the White Coat Convocation,” said Joseph Bocchino, Ed.D., M.B.A., associate professor of clinical research and leadership, and senior associate dean for Health Sciences. “Here at GW it’s very easy to use the words physical therapy and excellence in the same sentence.”
The keynote address for the event was delivered by Nancy White, DPT, OCS, senior director of practice and research, American Physical Therapy Association, a board certified orthopedic physical therapist with more than 30 years of clinical practice experience.
As the federal government’s budgetary standoff — centered on opposition to provisions in the 2010 Affordable Care Act — entered its third week, White focused her remarks on the role PTs can play in addressing the three main aims of health care reform: improved health of the population, improved health care, and cost containment.
“These are the cornerstones of health care reform and the Affordable Care Act,” said White, adding, “Is this not a definition for physical therapy? Everything we do as professionals helps attain those objectives.”
Much of the problems of today’s health care system, argued White, center on the fragmentation of care, with poorly aligned incentives, resistance to evidence-based guidelines, and a lack of effective disease management models.
White made the argument for greater alignment between providers, payers (or health insurance providers), and patients. In our current model, she said, there is not the collaboration that has to happen. “It’s important for us to look for ways for these groups to work together to help patients get better, faster.”
Incentives for health care providers are another key problem added White. “In our current system, if you do more you get paid more, regardless of whether patient outcomes aren’t better.”
In addition to resistance to adherence to evolving clinical practice guidelines, White focused on the U.S. health care system’s short-sighted approach to managing chronic conditions. Although physical inactivity is a major risk factor for many of those illnesses, our health care system still treats conditions such as diabetes like an acute illness. “We wait until people are so sick that they can’t manage their illness and end up in the hospital. I believe PTs have a very good role to play in helping to manage some of these conditions instead of waiting until they become emergencies. ”
Following White’s address, attention turned to SMHS’s PT academic all-stars with the presentation of the 2013 Excellence Awards. Representing the Class of 2014, Nora Brody, Amanda Frake, Barbara Russo, and Pete Tooley received this year’s awards. With her colleagues doing clinical internships across the country in Texas, Michigan, and Minnesota, Brody was the only third-year able to accept her award in person.
Second-year PT students Leanna Blanchard, Jeff Farnsworth, Brittne Jackson, Rachel Reoli, and Megan Scovil received this year’s honors for the Class of 2015.
Following White’s address, white coats were conferred upon the first-year PT students and the students and faculty recited the Health Sciences Pledge. Second and third-year PT students helped the incoming class of students into their coats, formally acknowledging the professional commitment all health care service members make to their patients and professions. The act of upper classmen helping the new students, said Joyce Maring, DPT, Ed.D., associate professor and chair of the Physical Therapy and Health Care Sciences Department, “is symbolic because the professional journey upon which you are embarking is all about teamwork, mentorship, and assistance.”