Physical Therapy Leaders Networking to Transform Health Care

“Often, when I come to meetings in Washington, D.C., I look to the left and I look to the right and I don’t see any physical therapists,” said Pamela Duncan, PT, Ph.D., FAPTA, FAHA, professor of neurology and director of innovations and transitional outcomes at Wake Forest Baptist Health. “I don’t see them talked about in the broad perspective of health care reform and, if they are, they’re in the parentheses. But this isn’t a barrier,” Woods Duncan continued. “This is the best opportunity we’ve ever had.”

Duncan was addressing leaders of academic programs and health systems from across the country who convened in the nation’s capital for a two-day conference and networking opportunity July 25-26, “Preparing the Next Generation of Physical Therapists for Innovative Practice: Physical Therapy Leaders Networking to Transform Health Care.”

The event, co-hosted by GW’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences’ (SMHS) Physical Therapy (PT) program and Woods Duncan Consulting, shined a spotlight on the opportunities and challenges for PT practice and education in this era of health care reform. Keynote presentations were provided by Walter Ettinger, M.D., M.B.A., senior vice president and chief medical officer of the University of Maryland Medical System; and Chris Trimble, M.B.A., adjunct associate professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth and at the Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science.

Ettinger, who reminded the audience that “it’s all about the money,” led a discussion about redesigning health systems for quality and value-driven outcomes. Trimble, who has spent the past 10 years studying how to execute innovation initiatives, said that “we can’t wait for policy makers on Capitol Hill to save our troubled health care system. Instead, we need a new generation of health care leaders who are ready to remake the system from the grass roots, through innovation and entrepreneurship.”

In addition to Duncan, conference organizers and speakers included Ellen Costello, PT, Ph.D., associate director of the SMHS PT program; Ed Dobrzykowski, DPT, PT, MHS, ATC, director of system rehabilitation services and sports medicine at St. Elizabeth Healthcare; Michael Friedman, PT, M.B.A., director of rehabilitation therapy services at Johns Hopkins Hospital and faculty member in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine; Janice Kuperstein, PT, Ph.D., M.Ed., associate professor and chair of the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Kentucky College of Health Sciences; Robin Marcus, PT, Ph.D., OCS, interim dean and associate professor of physical therapy at the University of Utah College of Health; and Laura Lee (Dolly) Swisher, PT, Ph.D., M.Div., coordinator of professional education, professor, and assistant dean of the University of San Francisco Morsani College of Medicine. GW SMHS Physical Therapy program faculty speakers also included Kenneth Harwood, PT, Ph.D., CIE and Rhea Cohn, PT, DPT.

Participant Cristina Romagnoli, DPT ’14, said that it was “exciting and humbling to be brainstorming with such a diverse and impressive team of professionals all in one room.” Throughout the conference, Romagnoli used Twitter to virtually engage with PTs, student PTs, and PT educators around the country. “There was a large emphasis during the conference on two-way communication, which is one of the strong suits of social media platforms. It wasn't just about disseminating information, but inviting the audience to respond, which is crucial to truly forge new paths for innovative practice,” Romagnoli said.