Tell Your Story on Capitol Hill at the APTA Federal Advocacy Forum
By Katy Neas
The Federal Advocacy Forum is right around the corner (March 31-April 2, 2019), and you're not going to want to miss it.
This year is a historic year for APTA advocacy: For the first time in more than 2 decades, the Medicare therapy cap is not the lead priority on the association's public policy agenda. Thanks to you, the hard cap has been permanently addressed. But more work remains.
Our nation is at a crossroads between health and the health care delivery system. Too many Americans are limited by chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. Too many people with disabilities struggle to secure appropriate support services that allow them to live independently in the community. Too many lives have been shattered by opioid addiction. Our health care system too often pays for treating illness rather than advancing the wellness and prevention services necessary to achieve and support good health. The United States spends more per capita on health care than any other developed country, yet our citizens are limited by poor health. This must change.
Daunting though these challenges may seem, progress is possible through effective advocacy. Your elected officials need to hear directly from you about your efforts to build a community that advances the profession of physical therapy to improve the health of society. The Federal Advocacy Forum will enable you to make your collective voices heard on the issues affecting physical therapy and your patients and clients.
The APTA 2019–2020 Public Policy Priorities are grounded in 4 overarching goals. The association wants Congress and the Administration to:
- Enact policies that empower people to live healthy and independent lives,
- Eliminate barriers to health care services,
- Support efforts to increase efficiencies in the delivery of health services that reduce administrative burden to providers and ensure transparency to patients, and
- Prioritize research and clinical innovation to access appropriate value-based health care services.
When you come to Washington, DC, next month, you'll have the opportunity to share your expertise with Congress. There are many new faces on Capitol Hill: 10 new senators and 101 new members of the House of Representatives. Some of these individuals may not be expert in health policy and may not understand fully the contribution this profession makes to children, adults, and seniors in their community. They may not realize how specific policy changes could impact the health of their constituents.
That's why your stories are so important. In addition to asking legislators to support specific bills, you will want to educate them about your practice, your area of expertise, and how you empower your patients to achieve positive outcomes. I can assure you, when they know more about you, what you do, and who you serve, they will be impressed.
Have no fear—the APTA government affairs staff will provide you with all the tools that you'll need to make this Federal Advocacy Forum the best one yet!
Finally, please accept a note of sincere thanks from me. I have seen the significant contribution that physical therapists make in acute hospitals, critical care units, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, and home health over the past 7 months, as my husband continues a very long recovery from Guillain-Barré syndrome. During his 179 days in a hospital, I have witnessed the strength and grace of the physical therapists who have helped him regain strength after each of his 5 relapses. Each of these amazing professionals played critical roles in his recovery—teammate, coach, cheerleader, advocate, and friend. I will always be grateful. My family's experience only reinforces my commitment to APTA's work to expand patient access to physical therapist services and to secure fair and adequate payment for these important interventions.
I look forward to seeing you in March, and I thank you for all that you do!
Katy Neas is executive vice president, public affairs, at APTA.
To attend the Federal Advocacy Forum, register now at www.apta.org/FederalForum. Registration closes March 18.
Vision, Courage, Compassion: Black Physical Therapists Who Transformed the Profession
Photos courtesy of American Physical Therapy Association Archive. From left: Lynda Woodruff, Vilma Evans, Arnold Bell, Thelma Brown Pendleton, Mary McKinney Edmonds, and Leon Anderson.
For this Black History Month, we dug into APTA's Archive to take a look back at some truly ground-breaking African American physical therapists who achieved greatness despite obstacles, transforming the profession along the way. Now deceased, they offer us all examples to strive for as individuals and as a profession, urging us to keep "moving forward" and challenge the status quo.
Lynda D. Woodruff, PT, PhD, was a trailblazer since 1962 when, at age 13, she was 1 of 2 African American students to desegregate E. C. Glass High School in Lynchburg, Virginia—an experience that greatly influenced her approach to life: "I could never trust anyone. I ceased asking by the time I was 14 for help, because if you asked for it, and they gave you something, 9 times out of 10 it would be the wrong information, or the wrong feedback. And that was more detrimental than having no feedback."
After receiving her master of physical therapy degree from Case Western Reserve University, Woodruff went on to become the first African American to join the physical therapy department at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She was a founding director of the department of physical therapy at North Georgia State College and established the first DPT program at Alabama State University. She joined the faculty of Georgia State University in 1978, where she received her PhD. Woodruff was appointed to the appointed Georgia State Board of Physical Therapy and served for 10 years. As an APTA member, Woodruff was a strong advocate for diversity and inclusion, helping to establish APTA's Advisory Council on Minority Affairs, as well as for true mentorship, especially for women and minorities.
Woodruff was a founding member of the Section on Clinical Electrophysiology, at a time when PTs who conducted electromyography testing were being charged with practicing medicine without a license. She received numerous awards for her leadership, including the Lucy Blair Service Award. In recognition of her many achievements, the Georgia Senate declared February 24, 2006, as Dr Lynda D. Woodruff Appreciation Day.
One of Woodruff's mentors, Mary McKinney Edmonds, PT, PhD, FAPTA, had originally intended to be a physician. But just a few weeks from her 1953 graduation from Spelman University, Edmonds attended a lecture by physical therapist Wilmotine Jackson. "[Jackson] spoke about raging polio epidemics, and I just got totally excited," Edmonds said in an oral history recorded for APTA. She earned her physical therapy certificate from the University of Wisconsin. Before the phrase "social determinants of health" was popularized, she noticed how black and white women with diabetes who came to rehab would have above-the-knee amputations vs toe amputations, leading her to complete graduate degrees in sociology at Case Western Reserve University. During her postdoctoral fellowship at University of Michigan, Edmonds examined how social class affected people's experiences with health and health care.
Edmonds founded Cleveland State University's physical therapy program, was dean of Bowling Green State University's College of Health and Community Services, and was vice provost at Stanford University, as well as a professor at Stanford Medical School. She was a prolific author and presenter on issues related to cultural competency throughout her career. As a member of the APTA Commission on Accreditation (precursor to the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education), Edmonds helped lead the fight for autonomy from the American Medical Association. Edmonds was the first African American PT to become a Catherine Worthingham Fellow of the American Physical Therapy Association.
Edmonds was hired for her first physical therapy position by Leon Anderson Jr, PT, who was then chief physical therapist at Highland View Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. Anderson, who completed his degree in physical education at Johnson C. Smith University, didn't know much about the profession before he attended physical therapy school at Boston University, he just knew he "didn't want to preach or teach"—prominent professions for black Americans at the time. Ironically, after getting his master's degree in education, Anderson did spend several years as an assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University. After 20 years as director of physical therapy at University Hospitals of Cleveland, Anderson left to start a private practice with 6 colleagues. The first African American member of APTA's board of directors, Anderson held more than 15 elected positions at APTA throughout his career and chaired the Advisory Council on Minority Affairs.
Thelma Brown Pendleton, PT, and Vilma Evans, PT, EdD, were among the first black physical therapists in the United States. Pendleton originally was a nurse; although she aspired to be a PT, black students were not allowed to enroll in physical therapy programs at the time. In the mid-1940s she was finally able to enroll at Northwestern University and get her PT certificate, becoming the fifth African American PT. She founded and headed the physical therapy program at Provident Hospital and later was chief physical therapist at La Rabida Children's Hospital and Research Center. Pendleton also supervised clinical instructor education programs at Northwestern University for many years, and was an active member of the Illinois Physical Therapy Association.
Evans was born in New York City, attended school in Jamaica, and returned to New York for high school. Like Brown Pendleton, Evans had a hard time applying to PT school due to her race. She earned a degree in zoology from Hunter College, a physical therapy certificate from University of Pennsylvania in 1951, a master's in physical therapy in 1956 from New York University, and later a doctorate in education. Evans was director of physical therapy at St Elizabeth Hospital in Danville, Illinois, for 26 years. A lifetime APTA member, she received the Illinois Chapter's Outstanding Service in Physical Therapy Award in 1976 and APTA's Lucy Blair Service Award in 1985, and was a member of the APTA sections for education, geriatrics, and health policy and administration. Early on, Evans decided she "wanted to be part of the ‘inner workings' [of APTA] because that's that way I—or anyone else—could make changes. Members can't all sit on the outside and expect someone else to carry on. If you want change in your organization, you have to get involved."
Arnold Bell, PT, PhD, ATC, was one of the first African American ABPTS-certified clinical specialists in sports physical therapy. Born in the Bronx, he earned his bachelor's degree from Springfield College, a physical therapy certificate and a master's degree in exercise science at Columbia University, and a PhD at Florida State University. He established Florida A & M University's physical therapy program, teaching there for over 30 years. Bell was an athletic trainer at the 1984 and 1996 Olympic Games, and was inducted into the Springfield College Olympic Alumni Hall of Fame and the Florida A & M Sports Hall of Fame. A longtime APTA member, Bell was a member of the Advisory Committee on Minority Affairs.
Another PT with an Olympic connection was Theodore "Ted" Corbitt, PT, MPT, Army veteran, professor, and clinician for 44 years at the International Center for the Disabled in New York City. After returning from World War II, Corbitt earned an MA in physical therapy from New York University (NYU)—and 2 years later became the first African American Olympic marathon runner to represent the United States. He is known as the "father of American distance running." A professor at Columbia University for 20 years, he was one of the first PTs to teach connective tissue massage, proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, progressive resistance exercise, and applied kinesiology. Always setting records, Corbitt walked 303 miles in a single 6-day race—at age 82. Corbitt was active in the New York Chapter of APTA. Read more about this American pioneer.
Another NYU graduate, Roberta F. Cottman, PT, MEd, from Greensboro, North Carolina, received her bachelor's degree from Bennett College in 1945. According to her oral history, "as a young black woman" it was not possible for her to attend North Carolina medical schools. So she went to PT school. For one of her clinicals in a New York state-owned rehab facility, she was not allowed to stay in the dormitory with the white students and had to stay in a private home. She found that, once she entered the field, "nobody cared then what color you were or where you came from. As long as you knew your skills and were able to translate that…into clinical practice." Later, as director of the physical therapy department at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, she hired a PT named Jane S. Mathews-Gentry, PT, MS—who later became APTA president.
Cottman received a scholarship from APTA to pursue her doctorate and was the first female student in the department of anatomy at Wayne State University in Michigan. However, the physical therapy department asked her to assist them as they navigated a crisis, and she never finished her dissertation. Still, she became a tenured professor there.
A charter member of APTA's Committee on Minority Affairs, Cottman also served on the Congressional Black Caucus' Health Braintrust, was a consultant to members of the US Congress, and attended the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995. She observed that health care in the United States is not a human right but "is still based on privilege and the ability to pay. We must begin to look at individuals and the issues of health which surround our citizens, not wait until they become ill."
Do you know of a PT or PTA who deserves to be recognized? Do you have your own stories to share? Let us know in the comments.