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Congratulations to winners of 2023 Physical Therapy Student Essay Contest

May 16, 2023

ACAPT's Consortium for Humanities, Ethics & Professionalism (CHEP) joins the Journal of Humanities in Rehabilitation (JHRto sponsor a judged writing competition designed to encourage deep thinking by physical therapy students about the role and value of humanities, ethics and professionalism in academic training and professional life.  

The annual Physical Therapy Student Essay Contest offers a creative opportunity to ignite critical reflection in PT students across the nation.

Congratulations to the 2023 contest recipients who wrote about how the profession could be more inclusion of individuals with disabilities.

The first place winner received a $250 award from ACAPT and all winners' essays appear in the 2023 spring & fall issue of JHR

First place

Mason Trauger Doctor Physical Therapy Student 2023 Essay WInner

Mason Trauger, a student at DeSales University.

The classroom, clinic & community: What can we do with all three?

In his winning essay, Mason reflects on the quote from Verna Myers, "Diversity is being asked to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance" as he explores how clinicians can best learn from their patient’s perspectives.

"Clinicians should not only provide tailored treatment to each patient, but also aim to empower them and their caregivers through sharing the skills and knowledge necessary for symptom management outside the clinic. This knowledge distribution is not unidirectional; how can we decide what works best for and in a life that we are not actually living?

The motto 'nothing about us without us' used by disability advocacy organizations highlights the wisdom individuals living with disabilities possess: it is their guidance and experience that ought to guide learning activities that relate to experiences as a disabled person in healthcare settings.

Developing compassionate, humble healthcare providers who seek to bolster patient-informed care in both the clinic and community is essential to allow as many individuals as possible to join in the 'dance' of inclusion together."

Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) and Physical Therapist Assistant students can learn more about the PT Student Essay prompt and submission process here.


Vanessa Lista Physical Therapy Student 2023 Contest Winner

Vanessa Lista, a student from Neumann University.  In her essay entitled A Life Without Words, Vanessa dives deeply to the question of inclusion in rehabilitation,  "If we, as caregivers, family, friends, even strangers, don't represent individuals with communicative disorders, how else will they be heard?"

"As a caregiver for someone with special needs, I have learned the importance of treating all patients without bias due to disability, visible or not, and with compassion.

By placing focus on what the patient wants while keeping goals in mind, the patient is more likely to comply with treatment interventions.

While early education about disabilities can teach inclusion on the playground, continued education into adulthood can provide comfortable environments for individuals with disabilities in their healthcare and their communities." 

Priyanka Bhakta

Priyanka Bhakta, a student at Emory University.  Priyanka’s essay - Envisioned Futures - is guided by her background in disability studies.  She charges the profession to look critically at ourselves and our mission:

"If a legitimate and growing academic field that has been developed by and for people with disabilities is not even recognized by the literal gatekeeper of the physical therapy profession, is our profession truly prepared to effectively and meaningfully increase inclusion of actual people with disabilities within its educational and clinical spaces?

By ensuring that people with various disabilities have access to join the profession, the number of people with varying disabilities who become clinicians can increase.

Leadership of the most impacted is the first principle of Disability Justice and underscores that in order for inclusion efforts in physical therapy to be effective and truly meaningful, they must all be led by people with disabilities." 

Check out the Center for Excellence in Academic Physical Therapy


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