Sharing My Voice and Enthusiasm as a Student
Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes
I was one of the hundreds of physical therapists (PTs), physical therapist assistants (PTAs), and students who came together in Chicago, Illinois, this past June. There for APTA's House of Delegates (HOD), I was struck by the passion and fire held by the professionals and students surrounding me.
The first event I attended was the APTA Board of Directors meeting. Discussions happened regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion, APTA rebranding, and future APTA events, including APTA's centennial gala. Although this meeting consisted of serious discussion and focus, I felt a shared sense of excitement among the Board members and gallery of APTA members and staff. Afterward, multiple attendees and APTA Board members made it a point to introduce themselves to me and the other students in attendance. From night one, it was clear that our APTA leadership truly values student involvement and perspectives.
Fast-forward to APTA President Sharon Dunn's opening remarks before the HOD. Her presidential address challenged the status quo in regard to the cost of higher education and PT burnout. Many prospective students, current students, and new clinicians feel the constant pressure of student loan debt, and her remarks affirmed that my struggles and concerns are noticed and being addressed.
The year-long work of the state and section delegations that form APTA's HOD culminated over the next few days in the form of regional caucus meetings, reference committee meetings, delegation meetings, and wonderfully orchestrated HOD sessions. And not only that, but discussions between sessions to "iron out" policy language and express feelings about specific motions were passionate, collaborative, and thorough.
I'll stop here to remind readers that this important governance work would not be possible without dedicated APTA members. These members work together toward common goals year after year to make our profession thrive and grow.
This brings me to my big take-away from HOD: the strong sense of family and community.
During the 5 days experiencing my first APTA HOD, I noticed friends and colleagues hugging, laughing, conversing, encouraging, mentoring, congratulating, and showing their thanks to each other.
Closing remarks by Board members completing their final terms were genuine and heartfelt. Longtime APTA members sought out students and encouraged them to stay connected, and offered wonderful advice.
I've never been in a room with so many strangers and felt perfectly at home and a sincere sense of belonging.
Physical therapy is so much more than treating patients, sitting in class, or attending a conference once a year. Through year-long and year-round engagement with our profession and #PTfam, we can all contribute to changing society for the better.
A weeks' worth of events ended and I felt more empowered as a student. I feel confident that sharing my voice and enthusiasm for our profession will carry over into my final year as a student and career as a clinician. Ultimately, my experiences at APTA's HOD opened my eyes to the sense of community that thrives within APTA.
Mitch Lane, SPT, is a student at Duke University and serves as the incoming director of communications for the North Carolina Physical Therapy Association SSIG. You can connect with Mitch on Twitter at @MitchLane10.