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  • APTA-Backed Bill to Provide Diversity-Based Scholarships, Stipends Introduced in House

    APTA's efforts to create a physical therapy profession as diverse as the society it serves could be getting a significant legislative boost: a new bill introduced in the US House of Representatives seeks to provide $5 million per year in scholarships and stipends aimed at increasing the number of students from underrepresented populations in physical therapy and other allied health education programs.

    Introduced by Reps Bobby Rush (IL) and Cathy McMorris Rogers (WA), the Allied Health Workforce Diversity Act of 2019 would set aside money in the Health Resources and Services Administration specifically for use by accredited education programs in physical therapy, occupational therapy, audiology, and speech-language pathology. Those programs would in turn issue scholarships or stipends to students from underrepresented populations including racial or ethnic minorities and students from disadvantaged backgrounds including economic status and disability. APTA, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), and the American Academy of Audiology (AAA) were instrumental in crafting language for the bill.

    The legislation falls squarely in line with APTA's strategic plan, which identifies greater provider diversity as necessary to ensure the long-term sustainability of the physical therapy profession.

    "We must build a diverse profession by ensuring there are opportunities that allow for inclusion of all individuals who want to become physical therapists and physical therapist assistants," said APTA President Sharon Dunn, PT, PhD, in a joint news release issued by APTA, AOTA, ASHA, and AAA. "The population we serve is evolving and becoming more diverse. We know that patients who receive care from providers who share their racial and ethnic backgrounds tend to respond better to treatment. That's one reason this legislation is so important, and we applaud the representatives who have introduced it."

    APTA government affairs staff will track the bill's progress and share opportunities for grassroots advocacy. The association will add information to its Legislative Action Center later this week for members to use to support the legislation.


    • I hope this legislation will support education at the PTA/COTA level as well.

      Posted by Laurie Daigle on 7/10/2019 3:25 PM

    • Thank you Dr. Dunn

      Posted by Phyllis Kitchens Thurmond on 7/10/2019 3:32 PM

    • I hope 'diversity' will be all inclusive and therefore include not only people of color but LGBTQ+ individuals as well.

      Posted by Jeannie Senter on 7/10/2019 3:36 PM

    • I love this!!! So excited! As a 2nd year minority PT student, I would love to get involved in advocating for this bill!

      Posted by Megan Francisco on 7/10/2019 3:39 PM

    • I am very heartened by this.

      Posted by Louise Brown-Smith on 7/10/2019 3:56 PM

    • I applaud the efforts at diversifying our profession. I also feel very strongly about assuring that any individual applying for and receiving these scholarships be as qualified as any other applicant regardless of economic status, disability, race or ethnic background. We must first assure that any individual wanting to apply is qualified and not solely on the fact that they may meet one of the criteria mentioned in the Workforce Diversity Act. If we do not consider that fact, we are not serving our patients or communities with quality clinicians. The academic programs of PT,OT,ST have always had the best and brightest students applying, and that standard should never be overlooked for any reason. I'm all in favor of any student from an underrepresented status receiving these scholarships, as long as they are qualified candidates.

      Posted by Michael on 7/10/2019 4:50 PM

    • Sweet!

      Posted by Gustavo Martinez on 7/10/2019 6:04 PM

    • I very much support increasing diversity in healthcare professions with a particular importance to the Physical Therapy. The physical therapist has the longest total one to one encounter time with the patient among all other medical specialities or healthcare professions. This always requires above average cultural competency and communication skills to gain the patient trust and most cooperation.

      Posted by Mohamed Hassan on 7/10/2019 7:44 PM

    • This is great! I'm one of 4 racial minorities, and we have two ethnic minorities, out of a class of 60. When asked what surprised us most about PT school (so far), one of the other minorities in our class said that she was most surprised about how homogeneous the makeup of our class is, especially since we are in a city that is very diverse; though economically depressed.

      Posted by Natasha Holiday -> CNP`AF on 7/11/2019 2:10 PM

    • I am all for diversity that is equal. Meaning regardless of the color of the skin, gender, religion or sexual orientation, everyone must possess at least the minimum qualifications in order to enter the profession. Everyone should be equal prior to entering the schools algorithm for acceptance. I would be resentful towards the profession if we lowered our standards of acceptance only to improve diversity of the workforce. Everyone in this profession earned their way into the profession. I ask that this remains true as the profession attempts to diversify.

      Posted by Vincent Gutierrez on 7/13/2019 6:57 PM

    • Patients do well not because a given PT looks like them and shares their beliefs, they do well with a PT who is skilled, respects them and values their well being.

      Posted by MaryEllen Axner on 7/13/2019 10:19 PM

    • Some of the comments I’m reading are coded with racism, and demonstrate that most people are ignorant of the processes of affirmative action.

      Posted by Ian Falchiere on 7/16/2019 12:44 PM

    • The decision to accept or not accept a student is entirely the decision of the university. To my understanding this proposed scholarship fund is at a federal level. Meaning, it allows PT school to be more affordable and enticing to (hopefully all) marginalized groups. It would not affect the quality of students accepted by universities but would hopefully increase the number of minorities who apply for and accept offers from PT programs. Furthermore students go to school to be educated, if they are accepted into a program for which they are not academically suited, there are standardized policies (GPA minimums, practical and written exams, licensing exams etc.) in place to prevent them from graduating and then going on to treat patients. This is the same for all students of all backgrounds. To imply that the admittance standard would be lowered to create a more diverse population of physical therapists is to subscribe to the dangerous, inherently bigoted, racist, small-minded, and blatantly incorrect assumption that all who are minorities are in some way less qualified or intelligent than their cis gendered, caucasian counterparts. I firmly believe that the population of physical therapists and physical therapy students should mirror the population which it serves. Nationally, as of 2016, 88% of physical therapists are white, 5.4% are Asian, 2.5% are Hispanic, 1.5% are African American/black, and 0.4% are Native American according to an APTA survey. If you are not white, and you see these numbers they are awfully discouraging. I appreciate the APTAs efforts to improve these dismal numbers. For those who felt the need to comment their concerns for the integrity of the profession (@Michael @Vincent @MaryEllen). I too am concerned, knowing patients who do not have physical therapists who represent, respect, or relate to them could potentially be treated by you.

      Posted by Djenne Parris on 7/20/2019 7:30 PM

    • This is wonderful news! Can't wait til it is passed and ready to be implemented. Well worded comment @Djenne, I wholeheartedly agree with you.

      Posted by Isis Monzon on 7/22/2019 11:51 AM

    • I've often said that one key to understanding human behavior is to understand that most people are not rational, they're emotional. This article and many of the comments illustrate that point perfectly. The article states, "We know that patients who receive care from providers who share their racial and ethnic backgrounds tend to respond better to treatment." Yikes! Even if suggested by research (and I would then question the objectivity of such research), this statement is shocking. Does this statement mean that only if we are the same race and/or ethnicity (or for that matter gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, political persuasion, etc. of our patient) will we have optimal outcomes? This statement is, quite frankly, a ridiculous assertion. For the sake of diversity, wouldn't it be more educational for providers and patients to actually be different from one another rather than the same? If you only interact with your own kind, how do you grow as a human being? The article also states that " ... APTA's strategic plan, which identifies greater provider diversity as necessary to ensure the long-term sustainability of the physical therapy profession." I have a very different view from this statement. What IS necessary to the long-term sustainability of the physical therapy profession is to receive reimbursement commensurate with the true value of our services and the economic times we live in as opposed to the steadily shrinking reimbursement levels (in nominal and especially in real dollar terms) which have been the trend for decades now. For far too many years, our expenses have been going up, our revenues have been going down, our administrative burdens have been going up, and our stresses have been magnifying. I fail to see how increasing diversity with remedy this situation. Considering some of the comments, Djenne Paris states that "I firmly believe that the population of physical therapists and physical therapy students should mirror the population which it serves." If that is true, we also need to stop admitting so many female physical therapy students and start admitting more male physical therapy students. After all, if 64% of physical therapists are female, the male/female ratio must be way out of balance and, by her reasoning, must be discriminatory. I'm saying this tongue-in-cheek, of course, so for the knee-jerk over-reactors, don't bother with a vitriolic response wailing about this sexist statement. Her final comment of "I too am concerned, knowing patients who do not have physical therapists who represent, respect, or relate to them could potentially be treated by you", is an inappropriate, thinly veiled accusation of racism by inference which is highly disrespectful, judgemental, and just plain wrong. She has never even met these 3 people but she's already passing a judgement on them? Furthermore, comments like Ian Falchiere's are devaluing the term "racism". When this accusation is lobbed willy-nilly, like hand grenades, at anyone or anything whose viewpoint happens to differ from theirs, the term loses its meaning and effectiveness to the point where, those who are accused who aren't are saying, "You can call me a racist all you want but that doesn't make you right and I'm going to continuing doing what I believe is right and not be intimidated or dissuaded by these false accusations.". I fully support providing equal opportunity for all regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, socioeconomic status, or whatever other dividing characteristics one can identify (and these characteristics do seem to be used more as of late to divide rather than unify people) but I think financial aid should be provided on the basis of only two things: (1) merit and (2) need or (3) some combination of the above. I, myself, was a beneficiary of such largesse and am eternally grateful for it but anything else is discriminatory and will only create more problems and divisiveness in the long run. .

      Posted by Brian Miller on 8/3/2019 3:48 PM

    • As a first-year DPT student, I am excited to hear about these opportunities and how they will benefit future DPT students. I have been lucky enough to receive one of the few scholarships my program offers that happened to be a diversity scholarship. I wasn't expecting an opportunity like this in graduate school, especially because I never received any extra scholarships from my undergraduate school. As a recipient of a DPT diversity scholarship, it has truly been an unexpected blessing that has encouraged and supported me through my short time in my program so far. I highly encourage the APTA to fund and support diversity scholarship opportunities! Coming from one of the poorest counties in TN with a very high rural population, I appreciate being recognized as someone who can add to the diversity of the DPT community and hope to effectively serve and represent rural populations across Tennessee and the nation.

      Posted by Chris Huff on 9/10/2019 10:45 PM

    • THANK YOU Djenne for saving this minority OT practitioner from having to expend the emotional energy necessary to respond to those thinly-veiled racist comments about making sure that standards don't go down (which, as Djenne so eloquently stated, inherently suggests that minority students couldn't possibly be as qualified otherwise they would already be accepted at equal rates and ignores systems of oppression)

      Posted by Maggie Deforge on 9/18/2019 7:33 PM

    • This is phenomenal! As a current DPT student I am happy to see that the physical therapy profession is putting more effort to increase diversity. I support this idea completely, as I too believe that diversity in healthcare can lead to improved satisfaction for not only racial and ethnic minorities but for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. I applaud these efforts and want to support anyway I can. Representation matters, and as an African American man, being one relatable individual in my community helps to educate others about physical therapy. I inform the people around me about what I am going to school for and their eyes widen in shock that someone like them is going beyond college to get a doctoral degree. I hope this great profession continues to strive for diversity when it so desperately needs it.

      Posted by Ian Campbell -> DLU_?J on 10/11/2019 10:43 AM

    • This is an amazing thing to hear as a current 1st year DPT student! I think that we should have diversity everywhere especially in any type of healthcare field. Especially in PT! Having a more diverse health workforce to serve those in need is vital to expanding our reach to those underprivileged & disadvantaged communities. I have many classmates who represent many diverse cultures and ethnic backgrounds and it makes me feel so fortunate to surround myself with them everyday. I hope this profession of PT only grows more and more in diversity in order to reach out to those in greater need.

      Posted by Ashton Smith on 10/15/2019 12:27 AM

    • This is awesome! Diversity is an important aspect of our society and culture. It is exciting to see that the term diversity isn't solely referring to ethnicity, or color. Diversity encompasses so much more than what many individuals automatically associate the term with. Factors such as socioeconomic status or being a first-generation college attendee/graduate in a family all play an important factor in the term diversity that shapes our society, and our culture. I am a first-generation veteran, college attendee, college graduate, and now, excitingly, a graduate level scholar in the field of physical therapy in my family so it is especially exciting to see that diversity is being acknowledged.

      Posted by Kody Groves on 10/17/2019 12:19 AM

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