GW Physical Therapy Program Celebrates 20 Years

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Eight GW Physical Therapy alumni stand together

The best marker for assessing the quality of an education is the enthusiasm of the people in the school’s hallways, according to Thomas Hoogeboom, PT, PhD, of the Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands. “I feel like [George Washington University (GW)] is doing pretty well with that.”

Hoogeboom, who serves as an assistant professor at Radboud, was invited to speak to alumni, faculty, students, and staff during the GW Physical Therapy Program (PT) Anniversary Celebration on Jan. 24.

More than 250 guests attended the event, including Emma Stokes, PhD, president of the World Confederation of Physical Therapy and Joyce T.H. Wang, MD, MPH, PhD, senior adviser and director of the health division at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the United States. Alumni at the event had the opportunity to catch up with former classmates, discover how the PT program has evolved since they were at GW, and celebrate 20 years of the program at GW.

“People often ask me, ‘What makes GW special?’ ” said Ellen Costello, PT, PhD, director of the Physical Therapy program at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences. “I think it’s two-fold: The faculty love to teach, and I think that’s evident in all the effort they put into all of their coursework. … Then, of course, the bright and energetic students [who] have 100 percent commitment to their educational journey.”

Program highlights include 100 percent first time pass rates on the national physical therapy licensing exam for nine years in a row, as well as a 10-year affirmation of accreditation with commendation from the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education.

Event attendee Hayley Gillen, a second-year PT student, said that when she arrived at GW, she instantly felt at home.

“When I got here I loved the environment and faculty. I met some of the students who were second years at the time and they were so welcoming,” she said. “I have been interested in physical therapy and health care science since I was 15–16 years old. When I came [to GW] for my interviews, everyone I met made me feel like I was already part of the school.”

Hoogeboom’s address to the PTs focused on his research exploring the role of physical therapists practicing in acute care in the hospitals and the long held tradition of keeping patients in bed.

“All the care is central around the bed,” he said. “It makes sense from a logistical standpoint, but not from a care standpoint. Lying in bed can lead to a loss of muscle, loss of aerobic capacity, and greater chance for complications or being admitted to a nursing home or rehabilitation center following discharge. That’s why we wanted to ban bed-centricity.”

Hoogeboom shared strategies his team used to get patients out of bed during their hospital stay, including patient education.

“We needed to change several aspects of the hospital,” he said. “But also we were changing the role of the physical therapist.”

The PT needs to be an architect to change the environment, Hoogeboom explained. “We need to have the right supplies to ensure patients feel safe and comfortable in the space.”

Outcomes support the research with a reduction in hospital length of stay of up to 14 percent and a significant increase in patient discharges directly to home.

The anniversary event, hosted at 2000 Pennsylvania Ave., was held during the 2019 American Physical Therapy Association Combined Sections Meeting in Washington, D.C.

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