If you're a PT or PTA, you know that inspiration can be as close as your next patient or client. But PTs and PTAs can also draw inspiration from each other, and especially from the people who emerge as leaders of the profession. Maybe it's that we see ourselves in them, or maybe we see the people we hope to be. Either way, there's something special about the energy generated by colleagues who challenge their profession to think, do, and be more.
But what about those individuals? Where do they draw their inspiration—or more to the point, what has inspired them recently? That's the question we posed to 3 prominent PTs who have made their marks in different ways.
The question: What has most inspired you over the past year? Here are 3 perspectives.
The Past as Inspiration: Sharon Dunn, PT, PhD, OCS, APTA President
It doesn't matter where you encounter her—at an APTA Board of Directors Meeting, at the House of Delegates, in the classroom, or getting wholeheartedly into the semi-crazed spirit of the Oxford debates at the annual NEXT conference—one thing becomes immediately clear: APTA President Sharon Dunn is a force to be reckoned with. Dunn exudes not only a love for the physical therapy profession, but a love for the people involved in all aspects of that profession, from patients to PTs and PTAs, to students. In an interview with PT in Motion magazine, Dunn described her passion for what she calls the profession's "True North," the place where PTs and PTAs merge their fascination with the human body with a genuine desire to help others achieve "not just movement but dignity, joy, and quality of life." How's that for inspiring?
For Dunn, connecting with that passion means paying attention to the work and words of those who came before her:
"I draw inspiration through the example and words of many of the PTs who have blazed the trail before us. In my office are photos and quotes of those individuals, along with a stack of McMillan lectures with highlights throughout and notes in the margins. So when challenging issues arise, I go to those notes and recollections. But nothing beats a personal phone call, and just a few weeks ago I was honored to receive a phone call from Charles Magistro [PT, DPT (Hon), FAPTA, DrSci (Hon), former President of APTA, and first chairman of the Foundation for Physical Therapy]. He asked about the many issues facing the profession and what our plans were to address them. When his questions were all answered he encouraged me to keep the faith and he thanked me for my service. What an inspiration and role model of grace under fire, integrity, and passion. And I’m still reeling that he thanked me, when I owe him such a debt of gratitude."
The Present as Inspiration: Eva Norman, PT, DPT, CEEAA
Eva Norman's bio for APTA's Physical Therapy Political Action Committee (PT-PAC) describes her as an "active member" of the association, but that's like calling Bruce Springsteen an "active member" of the E Street Band. Norman's commitment to the association—particularly in advocacy efforts in Washington, DC—have demonstrated the combination of energy, tenacity, and creativity that makes the physical therapy profession what it is. In 2012, she was awarded the APTA Federal Government Affairs Leadership Award, and she has continued to advocate powerfully for the profession.
Norman finds inspiration in the here-and-now work involved in bringing the profession's voice to policy makers and legislators:
"The event that has moved me beyond words in the past year, and, in fact, over the past 13 years, is APTA's PT Day on Capitol Hill. This amazing event brings hundreds of therapists from all over the country to give our patients and profession a resounding voice. This annual day on Capitol Hill has inspired me to recruit more therapists from all over my home state of Minnesota to ensure every congressional district is represented. Most important, it has motivated me to make sure my patients are heard loud and clear. Thanks to technology, today I can create a YouTube video of their stories and play their messages for members of Congress. It is incredibly moving to hear the positive impact of physical therapy in patients' own voices. We are truly transforming lives! If you want to make a difference and move the profession toward our vision join me on April 3-5, 2016, to learn, educate, and advocate at the 2016 Federal Advocacy Forum. Physical therapy and our patients are counting on it!
The Future as Inspiration: Alan Jette, PT, MPH, PhD, FAPTA
If you know anything about physical therapy research, you know about Alan Jette. During a career spanning more than 35 years, Jette has received over $50 million in research funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), NIH’s National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Social Security Administration, and foundations and private corporations. He has had more than 200 peer-reviewed articles published in numerous international scientific journals, and has been named to the Institute of Medicine. He delivered the 43rd Mary McMillan Lecture, "Face Into the Storm," in 2012. This year, he became the new editor in chief of Physical Therapy (PTJ), the profession's preeminent research journal.
When Jette needs recharging, he looks to the next generation of PTs:
"In the past 12 months the event that greatly inspired me was serving as guest reactor for the capstone event in which the graduating DPT students at the University of Pittsburgh presented their quality improvement projects prior to graduation in April 2015. In this all-day event, all the graduating DPT students presented their quality improvement projects in small groups, the culmination of 1 year's worth of data collection and analysis from their full year internship. All students collected data on most of the patients they saw during their 1-year internship, and the students consolidated the data related to their groups. This example of 'systems thinking' on the part of the next generation of physical therapists was very inspiring to me and bodes well for our profession going forward."
This article is a part of APTA's "Profession in Transformation" series. Check it out!