PT Students Make Advocacy More Attainable for Cohorts

DPT students, National Awards

Getting involved in advocacy can be a daunting task for people unfamiliar with the ins and outs of legislation and politics. But that didn’t stop two Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Program students at the George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS).

In April, Haley Yohn, class of 2020, and Megan Morris, class of 2021, joined up to plan and host a physical therapy advocacy dinner in Alexandria, Virginia. This was the third year that an advocacy dinner was held at the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) headquarters; two GW DPT students started the event in 2017. More than 60 people, including students, faculty, and local physical therapists, attended this year’s dinner. In addition, four local DPT programs were represented.

“It’s so important to be aware of what is currently happening regarding legislation in the PT profession,” Morris said. “It gives us insight to what practicing will look like in the future. We need to be aware because we as students and future clinicians need to shape the physical therapy profession.”

More than 50 annual National Advocacy Dinners were hosted across the country this year. The events give PTs, faculty, and PT students the opportunity to gather and learn more about what they can do to become advocates for the profession. The APTA Student Assembly developed the program to enable students to get involved in advocacy at both local and national levels.

This year, the night included pizza, a presentation delivered by Morris and Yohn, and a Q&A panel with APTA employees. Yohn, Morris, and the panel provided resources so attendees could learn more about the many ways that they could get involved.

Strategies for advocacy involvement included relevant social media applications available for download and helpful contact information for students. Topics at this year’s dinner included physical therapy telehealth, DPT program repayment plans, and the role of physical therapy in the country’s current opioid crisis.

“While advocacy can seem like an overwhelming topic, I think advocacy can be as small as telling your Uber driver about why physical therapy could be useful in decreasing his lower back pain,” Yohn said. “I hope to take this approach when applying advocacy to my future career — dispersing it in small doses and, hopefully, making an impact at the individual level. I hope that the dinner encouraged fellow PT students to start somewhere.”