My first time in Washington DC was an experience that I will never forget. Never having attended an APTA National Advocacy Day, I had no idea what to expect from this trip. Sure, I attended preparatory meetings and spoke with seasoned therapists who have dedicated much of their career to the advocacy of our profession, but none of that prepared me for what I would endure during this experience. Not only did I get to tour Washington DC and see vast monuments and memorials dedicated to our country’s greatest leaders, but I had the opportunity to interact with some of our profession’s greatest leaders.
Being the centennial year of the American Physical Therapy Association, there were many events surrounding this celebratory milestone. I had the chance to attend the first “Future of Physical Therapy Summit” surrounding the topics of building community, advancing the physical therapy profession, improving the health of society, and passing the torch to the next generation of physical therapists. The energy and excitement that I had after listening to such diverse and knowledgeable speakers was something that is hard to gain in the classroom alone. There is so much to our profession that we can’t possibly learn over two years of didactic work, and I believe this continuous learning is what makes our profession so stimulating. The centennial events sparked my passion and was a great way to lead into advocacy day. As a Doctor of Physical Therapy Student in my third year of my education, and only one month into my first full time clinical rotation, I initially felt I did not have enough experience to speak on some of these topics we were advocating for. I felt I had not interacted with enough patients in order to provide quality stories. But after having conversations with my colleagues and friends, bouncing stories off one another, and discussing how these changes in legislature will directly affect us, I found I could have talked about these topics for hours. I ended up specifically addressing the issue of student loans. We presented to our congressmen that the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program, which allows loan forgiveness to those who work in rural and underserved areas, does not currently include a rehabilitative care component. Including physical therapists in this program would not only benefit us as students, with thousands of dollars in loans, but would allow for greater access to PT services for individuals who may benefit from our care, such as those battling chronic pain or other chronic conditions.
Participating in National Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill allowed me the opportunity to learn more about our profession, but more importantly feel integrated into our profession. During didactic work, we focus on the hands-on skills and critical decision making in terms of patient care, while participating in advocacy acknowledges the hard work and effort that allows us the legality to practice patient care. This event introduced me to physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, and students of physical therapy from all over the country; it introduced me to people I hope to stay in contact with for the remainder of my career. It was an event I will never forget, and an event I hope to return to year after year.
Meghan Hennessy, SPT
University of Minnesota – Twin Cities
Meghan grew up in Edina, Minnesota where she graduated from Edina High School. She then went on to earn her Bachelor’s in Science in Kinesiology Exercise Movement Science and a certificate in Global Health from the University of Wisconsin Madison. Prior to starting graduate school, she moved to Thailand where she taught English to children in kindergarten and first grade. She had the opportunity to travel to many surrounding countries in Southeast Asia including Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, as well as Bali in Indonesia. When starting graduate school, she was not sure where she saw herself working once earning her doctorate in physical therapy. Now, she aspires to continue her education by completing an orthopedic residency and earning her OCS. When she is not focusing on schoolwork, she has gained experience in the field by working for a private physical therapy and wellness company where she has been able to learn more about owning a private practice and refine her interprofessional communication skills. In her free time, she enjoys running and she is currently training for the Madison, WI marathon in November. She also enjoys yoga and getting outside as often as she can when the weather is nice in Minnesota!