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Mercer University's DPT program has received top honors in APTA's Student Advocacy Challenge contest for the third year in a row. Is it too soon to talk dynasty?

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 an APTA state chapter's lobby day, and participating in the annual APTA Flash Action Strategy event, among other activities. Mercer outperformed 32 programs for the win again this year.

Daniel Dale, PT, DPT, lead faculty advisor for advocacy initiatives at Mercer and past president of APTA Georgia, believes that the program's integrative approach to advocacy was a key factor in the win.

"Mercer's DPT program continues to promote advocacy as a major tenet of professional development and identity throughout the DPT program," Dale said. "Faculty, alumni, and students are consistently involved as volunteer leaders at multiple levels of chapter and association leadership, which sets the tone for incoming students as to what to expect in terms of their role in advocacy." 

In addition to advocacy being woven into coursework, Mercer students joined in APTA Georgia's PT Day at the Capitol, one of the largest chapter advocacy events in the country. Students also participated in a National Advocacy Dinner, the APTA Flash Action Strategy, student-led advocacy-themed presentations at the APTA Georgia state conference, and on-site legislator visits to the school with Rep. Mesha Mainor, PT.

Leo Swanger, SPT, Mercer's advocacy student representative, described the win as "incredibly fulfilling" and urged other programs to get involved in this year's challenge.

"It’s a great time while we are in school and have professors and other PTs around us who can share knowledge about what is going on in clinical practice that we may be able to improve," Swanger said. "And it's easier to get involved than it may seem. APTA has excellent resources for students and patients to send letters to legislators, and there are some helpful advocacy resources out there if you are getting into it. The first thing it takes is the desire to seek out that information."

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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