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It's déjà vu all over again: Mercer University's DPT program, in Atlanta, Georgia, captured top honors in APTA's Student Advocacy Challenge contest for the second year in a row. The win was the result of an all-out effort that involved faculty, integrated advocacy into the classroom, and included outreach to local PTA students.

The advocacy challenge is an annual APTA initiative aimed at helping PT and PTA students understand the importance of making the profession's voice heard in legislative and policymaking circles, at both the state and national levels. The yearlong contest awards points to programs that engage their students in advocacy, including letter-writing via the APTA Patient Action Center, attending a legislator's town hall meeting, participating in a state APTA chapter's lobby day, and participating in the annual APTA Flash Action Strategy event, among other activities. Again this year Mercer came out on top, besting 37 competing programs.

In some ways, the momentum for the win is built into Mercer's DPT program: Students in the program participate in four leadership courses during their studies, and each includes advocacy activities, including participation in the Georgia PT Day at the state capitol. The importance of advocacy is also modeled by the Mercer faculty, with program chair Jeannette Anderson, PT, DHS, serving as the APTA Federal Affairs Liaison for APTA Georgia, and faculty member Daniel Dale, PT, DPT, serving as a key legislative contact. Dale is also a past president of APTA Georgia.

In addition to the direct advocacy activities, the Mercer program also held a highly successful APTA National Advocacy Dinner as part of the yearly event in which students across the country are encouraged to host get-togethers, over a meal, to talk about the importance of advocacy and ways to participate in the efforts. The 2022 Mercer dinner was organized by Nathan Arnett, SPT, current Mercer student representative and a former APTA Core Ambassador, who arranged for PTA student colleagues to join virtually.

"Our DPT students consistently go above and beyond in their advocacy efforts," Dale said. "They take pride in their engagement with their elected officials and the overall political process, and they stay up-to-date on what's happening. The commitment to advocacy I see in our students leaves me feeling confident about our profession for decades to come."

Participating in this year's advocacy challenge is easy — just visit the APTA Student Advocacy Challenge webpage to find out how. And even if you're not participating in the contest, you can still host an APTA National Advocacy Dinner during the month of April.

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