Historically, two previous formal organizations served the needs of leaders in physical therapy education to communicate and collaborate. The Council of School Directors, a group organized outside the walls of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) initially served these needs.
Then, the Education Section, one of the earliest sections of the APTA, was approved in 1945 as the seat of communication among all physical therapists interested in education within the profession. Special Interest Groups within the Education Section then evolved specifically to address the needs of educators serving physical therapist education as academic administrators, faculty, clinical educators and, after the emergence of the physical therapist assistant (PTA), those who were providing training to PTAs.
As a forum for discussion of vexing administrative issues and a point of contact for sharing information critical to education leadership roles in physical therapy, the Academic Administrator’s Special Interest Group (AASIG) served for many years to unite the academic community. Clearly, AASIG was the precursor to ACAPT.
Over time, participants in the Education Section’s AASIG recognized the need to move beyond information sharing to formal advocacy, policy development and construction of more powerful partnerships with influential groups associated with the academic enterprise. This recognition led to discussion of changes in structure and culture that would serve those needs and manage the challenges of leadership in both long-standing and new institutions hosting physical therapy education.
Although signs of interest in developing a structure outside the Education Section had been evident for several years, the catalyst for developing ACAPT came in 2007 at the Education Leadership Conference (ELC) with a passionate plea for action by several members of AASIG). As has occurred in other professions (e.g. medicine, pharmacy, dentistry and optometry) that host professional education at the doctoral level, members of AASIG embraced the need to provide stronger leadership in the academy and the potential for our collective influence to increase if supported by a different organization structure within APTA.
Upon this backdrop, members of AASIG immediately convened a task force to explore developing a new organization that would invigorate and transform academic leadership in physical therapy. The work of this group culminated in 2008 with a report recommending a Council of Physical Therapy Academic Programs that would:
Further, the task force recommended that AASIG support forwarding a motion to the APTA Board of Directors formally requesting approval of the new Council of Physical Therapy Academic Programs. The Academic Council, as it was to be called, was intended to fulfill the following mission and accompanying goals:
Promote excellence in academic physical therapy through communication, cooperation and collaboration among accredited programs, provide a structure for exercise of autonomy, accountability, and leadership in policy-making and decision-making that fosters the academic enterprise by:
The organization proposed for approval was to be built on three major structural principles.
In response to the task force recommendations, and after intense discussion and debate, 152 academic programs pledged their support “to develop a new organization of physical therapist academic programs, and… a constitution consistent with the proposed mission, goals and principles of organization.” A Council Organizing Committee was then appointed with broad-based membership from research intensive universities, private and public institutions, and members of three special interest groups of the Education Section – AASIG, the Clinical Education SIG and the PTA SIG. A preliminary report of the work of the organizing committee was presented at the 2009 Combined Sections meeting, with a final report presented at the 2009 ELC.
Since its approval, ACAPT has implemented its governance structure, developed communication mechanisms for the academic community (including a website featuring its unique brand), and crafted far-reaching strategic plans to achieve its stated goals.
Consistent with ACAPT’s collaborative philosophy, APTA, the Education Section and ACAPT are united in the intent(s) to:
Academic physical therapy will continue to have a powerful influence on teaching, learning, research and practice, through its unique structure, its influential leadership and its collaboration with the multiple institutions, associations and individuals that drive excellence in the academy.
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The American Council of Academic Physical Therapy (ACAPT) is a component of the American Physical Therapy Association