One word echoed throughout the George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) Physical Therapy (PT) Convocation on Oct. 16: potential.
The students starting on their PT paths, and those whose journey is already under way, were given advice on how to disrupt, evolve, and expand the profession.
Reamer Bushardt, PharmD, PA-C, senior associate dean for health sciences at SMHS, recounted nine principles leading to success that he heard at his own white coat ceremony, including adhering to high ethical standards, demonstrating honor and integrity, exercising accountability, and exhibiting a commitment to advancing the profession.
“I know you’ll do it, because this program consistently produces outstanding clinicians and extraordinary humanitarians, and I wish you every success in the years ahead,” Bushardt said.
Awards and recognition given throughout the ceremony highlighted the potential of individuals, including residents and current students, whose white coats have already seen their share of wear and tear.
Erin Wentzell, DPT, assistant clinical professor of physical therapy and health care sciences at SMHS, introduced the Physical Therapy Student Organization officers, who are “truly the leaders” of the PT family. “They work tirelessly to plan events, to organize the students, to really take us to the next level,” she said.
Recent PT residency graduates also received recognition, including three individuals from the Orthopaedic Residency Program, two graduates of the Neurological Residency Program, and the second graduate of the Pediatric Residency Program. In addition, Marisa Birkmeier, DPT, director of clinical education and assistant professor of physical therapy and health care sciences at SMHS, presented Kerry Vela, DPT, with the Excellence in Residency Mentorship Award.
“Dr. Kerry Vela is the backbone of the Johns Hopkins Hospital and George Washington University Pediatric Physical Therapy Residency program,” Birkmeier said. “She’s the lead mentor in the program and has been critical in the development and overall implementation of the program.”
Following the presentations, Justin Moore, DPT, CEO of the American Physical Therapy Association, gave the excellence lecture, continuing the thread of potential.
Moore encouraged the students “to develop your potential, put it to action, and improve on the profession and patients and communities you will serve.”
Currently, he noted, health care is at a critical juncture where political discourse is causing great polarization and leading to changes in the industry. A time of crisis, he added, is also a time when disruptive innovation can occur. “The potential [for change] is being realized in health care,” he said. “[And], if our potential to reform health care has begun, what about in our profession, in physical therapy?”
The profession, he continued, is growing exponentially and “is at a unique time and place in its history and in health care.
“You’re entering a great profession at a great time,” Moore said. “As the next generation of PT leaders and clinicians, you will be prepared by the great education you are receiving here at GW. You have an outstanding faculty that is at the forefront of professional development, research, and clinical practice. You will learn how to utilize data, how to apply evidence, how to work in teams, and how to challenge the known in innovation.”
After the lecture, the members of the Class of 2020, assisted by second- and third-year students, slipped their arms into the sleeves of their new white coats, which were donated by the Class of 2017. Inside the pockets of the coats were notes from PT alumni, offering words of advice and support to students who are just beginning to figure out their own potential.