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Infusing Passion into PT: Coast-to-Coast and Around the Globe

The APTA’s Education Section and the American Council of Academic Physical Therapy (ACAPT) co-hosted their annual Educational Leadership Conference (ELC) in Phoenix, Arizona October 7-9th. This energizing national conference has a diverse and growing attendance of PT educational administrators, faculty, directors of clinical education, coordinators of clinical and residency education, and clinical instructors. The programming, intent on promoting excellence in PT education, was extraordinary with a plethora of scholarly, peer-reviewed posters, and presentations, in addition to several business meetings, inclusive of boards, SIGs, and consortia encounters. It is an incredibly cerebral event that supports ample networking and collaboration across the scopes of PT education, both academic and clinical.

For the 3rd year at ELC, there was a forum officially, launched on Friday morning, entitled, the “Annual Forum on Innovation in Physical Therapy Education in Honor of Dr. Geneva R. Johnson.” Dr. Geneva R. Johnson, who founded the first graduate school of Physical Therapy at Case Western Reserve University in1960 and was once again in attendance at ELC. This year, the keynote address, “Formation of a Doctoring Profession: Are We Shying Away from Education that Really Matters in the Lives of Our Graduates?” was presented by Dr. Emma Stokes, the World Confederation for Physical Therapy (WCPT) President. The WCPT is the sole international voice for physical therapists worldwide through its 112-member organization, and Dr. Stokes set the stage for the conference with her energy by challenging us to infuse passion and ignite innovation, through advocacy and education into our profession. Dr. Stokes challenged us to ‘walk with the dreamers.”.

Dr. Stokes opened with Winfred Peterson’s quote “Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground. Let their spirit ignite a fire within you to leave this world better than you found it.” She posed the question to the audience, “what does success look like?” She asked, “Are we shying away from education that really matters?” Her belief was “yes we are!” She further presented eight guiding principles for transformation within our PT profession: identity, quality, collaboration, value, innovation, consumer centricity, access-equity, and advocacy. She demonstrated throughout her talk the need for passion and the need for the “marvelous”. Dr. Stokes articulated that the “marvelous” is as permissible as the matter of fact. PTs respect that science is a place of precision and parameters, but we, as PTs, must ignite our passion and step into the “marvelous”, stretch the boundaries and create that space. Do we, as PTs, academic and clinical educators make space for the “marvelous” both for us and for our students to push beyond the boundaries of our profession?

Dr. Stokes also spoke of how we must be advocates for our own profession and instill passion in those that we mentor and teach. She shared a slide that noted that our students need design, not only function; story, not only argument; symphony, not only focus; empathy, not only logic; play, not only seriousness; and meaning, not only accumulation. As a profession, we need to rock the boat while staying in it and we need to push the limits! Our students need learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together, and learning to be… as PTs, leaders and advocates of who we are. Dr. Stokes stated PT needs to be more like Pippy Longstocking, the beloved, unconventional, red-haired character from children’s literature: responsible, courageous, and imaginative!

As most of you are aware, October is National Physical Therapy month. This is a time that affords each of us the opportunity to recognize and celebrate the transformative power of physical therapy; it also issues a call for each of us to reach beyond the walls of our clinics and classrooms to connect with the public at large. As we embark into this celebratory PT month, I challenge each you to reflect on your practice, your purpose, and your being, as a PT, and put forth the effort to resurface that passion, that leadership and professional advocacy for Physical Therapy! Let's get out there and use National PT month to advocate for our profession and get out there and make a difference! #ChoosePT!

Please note that Dr. Stokes’ address will be published in the APTA Education Section Journal of Physical Therapy Education.

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