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Congratulations to winners of 2024 Physical Therapy Student Essay Contest

Apr 5, 2024

ACAPT's Awards & Recognition committee 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 2024 contest recipients who wrote about how AI technology in rehabilitation will impact the essence of humanism in patient care.

The first place winner received a $250 award from ACAPT and all winners' essays appear in the 2024 spring & fall issue of JHR

First place

Hannah Sy, a student at Northwestern University
At Capacity: How Physical Therapists Will Gain More by Doing Less

Hannah brings a unique and thoughtful perspective to using AI in rehabilitation and what it means for humanistic care. "The potential for AI is boundless in rehabilitation, and even the most pedestrian of applications would offer benefit to a clinician's humanistic patient care."

In her paper, she challenges the difference between humanism and the skills and knowledge an AI technology could provide. She links the benefits of AI to help decrease clinicians' burnout and enhance patient's personalized treatments.

"The advantage of AI in patient care is its ability to solve complex problems with its capacity to process copious amounts of data. Patients, however, are more than data points. They are people with unique personalities, dreams, and stories. Thoughtfully engaging with these aspects of who patients are requires human connection and makes their care humanistic."

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






Michaela Magpile, a student from Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.  In her essay entitled Compassion Asks Little of Us: The Role of AI in the Art of Rehabilitation, Michaela correlates her passion for dance and the arts with AI in clinical practice. "If a dancer can use music as a tool to inform their work and still be considered a real artist, so too should a clinician be able to conscientiously use AI and still maintain the essence of humanism in their practice; they just need to use AI as exactly what it is – a tool."

Michaela warns that relying solely on AI to perform tasks could sideline the value of human-to-human conversation when the provider and patient collaborate on their plan of care. Developing a treatment plan is highly dependent on the patient’s specific goals, concerns, and lifestyle, and ignoring the unique nuances of their situation is akin to ignoring their humanity.



Caitlin Miller, a student from George Washington University. Caitlin's essay, Mirroring Each Other: Beyond AI's Capability, addresses the human bias in the data used by AI and the humanism in physical therapist-patient relationships.

"The experience of pain, the priority of certain physical capabilities over others, the processing of grief over a life-altering diagnosis, the responsibilities in work and at home–each of these aspects of a person’s life is important to notice, hear, and value."

Caitlin calls on physical therapists to be present with their patients, open to understanding and prioritizing the diverse array of possible experiences, needs, and expectations. In her essay, she outlines the enormous potential for AI in rehabilitation.


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