In celebration of APTA's 100 Days of Service initiative and National Physical Therapy Month in October, we're taking a look at some of our members' community service efforts. In this installment: Rodney Weir, PT, DPT, DHS, discusses his work with a local community foundation.
How have you given back during National Physical Therapy Month or throughout the year?
I'm from Coloma, a town in southwest Michigan that is considered an underserved area. I have been fortunate to work with a community foundation that supports my hometown on a number of projects. The main project that is formally run by the Berrien Community Foundation is a scholarship in my name that is presented to a selected high school band member who will go on to a college marching band. The scholarship encourages individuals from southwest Michigan to take the next step and join a college marching band. Need is a substantial part of the selection criteria, with the goal of offering some financial support to make this dream possible. I also have been involved in volunteering for a backpack drive for Coloma schools, working with the foundation to give needy students school supplies.
Why is this activity important to you? How does it promote the value of physical therapy?
Community engagement is critical for physical therapists. By getting involved in local organizations and schools, we have a chance to promote our profession and establish meaningful connections. This allows PTs to be seen not just as professionals you see when you are injured, but as professionals who are committed to the greater good. There are many benefits of volunteering and service: increasing our visibility and the public's knowledge of what we do, establishing trust, and helping individuals during times of need.
What have you gained from your experience giving back?
Knowing that I've provided some support and possibly changed the trajectory of a young life makes the effort worthwhile. Providing an example for students in areas where there is not necessarily an expectation that college is coming is sorely needed. I find amazing power in sharing my story, talking about how education has led me to physical therapy as a career, and using my platform to encourage students from underserved areas to value education and its transformative power.
Any words of advice for other members looking to get involved and wondering where to start?
Volunteering and community engagement can seem overwhelming, but there is always a need for more help and support. Look for opportunities in local schools or organizations; there may be races for charities, local food drives, or senior centers that need help with different activities. What seems like a small contribution can make a big difference for people in need.
Rodney Weir is an assistant professor of physical therapy at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.