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Honoring Excellence in Physical Therapy

Best known for their passion to heal the human body, physical therapists (PTs) are often defined as dedicated practitioners who understand the value of service, communication, leadership, and interpersonal skills. More importantly, PTs know how to utilize those skills to effectively treat injuries and disabilities and improve functional mobility, and quality of life for their patients. The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) honored second- and third-year PT students who exemplify those essential skills, recognizing their achievements at the Physical Therapy Program 2012 Excellence Awards on Nov. 8. Ten GW PT students received monetary awards for their service to the university and to the community, their leadership roles, and their academic performances. “It’s really an honor,” said Laura Beynon, a third-year PT student, after receiving her award. “It’s nice to be recognized for our hard work and service to the community.”

For awardee Peter Tooley, a second-year PT student, the decision to pursue a career in physical therapy was a personal one. “Going through physical therapy in high school for football and lacrosse injuries spurred my interest,” said Tooley. Humbled by the honor, Tooley says a career in physical therapy will give him the opportunity to spend half an hour to 45 minutes with his patients a few times a week and really get to know them on a personal level, as well as have a positive impact on their wellbeing.

So what defines excellence in the PT profession? According to keynote speaker Kelly Daley, PT, M.B.A., clinical analyst for physical medicine and rehabilitation at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, excellence comes from finding a purpose and being enthusiastic, playful, and passionate about your contributions to the health care world.  

In her discussion, titled “Professional Excellence and Clinical Informatics,” Daley addressed the key trends driving the PT profession. These drivers include an aging population, treating older patients with chronic diseases, the rising cost of health insurance, and an increasing complexity of care. Daley also spent time defining clinical informatics and the role it plays in physical therapy. “Clinical informatics is all about trying not to make the same mistakes twice and learning from what it is you do,” said Daley. “It’s about using information that is already out there in literature, as well as using your internal information, what it is you did well and what you can do better in the future.” She then posed the question, if the application of clinical informatics is successful, how do we measure that? There is a science to it according to Daley, but what it really comes down to is finding out if the patient is the best they can be. “As PTs we are well-equipped and well-positioned to measure that and to be a part of this process,” said Daley.

“I’m very proud to receive this award,” said awardee Cristina Romagnoli, a second-year PT student. For Romagnoli, being a physical therapy student isn’t just about studying hard. It’s about giving back to your community through service. Despite the challenges they will face in their professional careers, the future for these PTs looks bright. A little hard work doesn’t scare these awardees, who know that going the extra mile to take care of a patient is just part of what they do every day. “Our entire class is focused on giving back,” said Tooley. “Going out into the community and doing extra work is just a part of what we do.”