An update from the remarks delivered by APTA Washington President Meryl Gersh at our 2020 Chapter Meeting on October 10.
Thank you for being part of APTA WA. Your activism and care energize and inspire me.
In her 2018 message to the House of Delegates, APTA President Sharon Dunn told us, “Our future awaits, and we have the opportunity, the honor, and the responsibility to shape it. It’s a journey we’ve already begun.”
President Dunn described our transition to an outward-facing vision to transform society by optimizing movement to improve the human experience. To a profession that is recognized not only for its role in recovery and return to function, but also characterized by an increased role in health sustenance and proactive prevention of disease and disability. In our future we will demonstrate our value based on the irrefutable data of our own outcomes and in partnership with our colleagues across disciplines.
Our journey together took a very different path since I first became your president one short year ago, an apocalyptic path that had previously only been described by certain scientists or imagined by science fiction writers. A path that paid little more than lip service to social injustice.
The last time I greeted you in person, albeit with an elbow bump instead of our usual hugs, was on March 14th in Chelan at the PPSIG breakfast business meeting. Three days later our professional and personal worlds as we knew them shut down. Most of us had never known a day of unemployment as physical therapists and physical therapist assistants. Our practices severely curtailed caseloads or closed their doors and furloughed staff. Overnight our members became the technical, professional, legal and reimbursement experts on delivering physical therapy services through telehealth platforms – and generously shared their expertise with all of us. Our colleagues in inpatient settings redefined their roles, pivoting to provide assistance with triage, emergency, and critical care in environments in which some had never worked. All of us prioritized the safe and effective care of our patients, incorporating regulatory guidelines for infection control from a huge and often confusing variety of government and professional sources. Jackie Barry, our executive director, and our office staff provided timely comprehensive updates on our webpage and social media platforms, so that we could make sense of the deluge of information accosting us. We all found novel ways to serve our communities.
I watched with pride and awe as our members formed coalitions to help each other and became part of the network of government efforts to serve the citizens of our state and country. I watched with pride as our members mobilized to once and for all make an impact on the gaping wound of social injustice in our society through the formation of a new Special Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. I facilitated communication and connection where I could and stepped out of the way to observe the remarkable emergence of grassroots leadership in our state association.
While we will continue to encounter choppy waters going forward, we have assumed new roles and incorporated new strategies for patient care. Most of us have been able to return to work. We have come this far together and will surely continue to move our profession forward.
We do not need to be tested to pandemic limits of endurance or by the enormity of societal injustice to conquer some of the great challenges still facing out profession, among them (and again borrowing from President Dunn):
- Payment models that threaten rich patient relationships that have been the hallmark of our profession.
- The burden of student debt that continues to threaten the financial security of our colleagues, as well as decreasing the diversity of our ranks.
- A societal impact that is less than we desire. So many of us feel challenged to provide the kind of care that drew us to this profession in the first place.
In the coming year, as members of the APTA we embark on the celebration of our next century. I pledge to you that we can and we will do more to address these challenges.
We are not starting from ground zero. For the better part of a decade our association has been developing an infrastructure to help us shift payment models, solve the student debt crisis, and heighten provider and consumer awareness about what we do.
If I have learned anything in the last seven months, it’s that, when tested to the limits of our endurance and patience, our members emerge as innovative, dedicated, gracious leaders with boundless energy and compassion for the communities we serve and the colleagues with whom we work – truly servant leaders. Our committed Board of Directors provided wise counsel and thoughtful perspectives at the drop of a hat, and anytime that an “unscheduled” virtual pow-wow was deemed necessary. Thank you to a very special group of colleagues.
Thank you so very much for the privilege of serving as your President and for all that you do, every day, for so many. Your value and my appreciation know no bounds.