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ADVANCE Perspective: Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine

Face Into The Storm

Published June 7, 2012 12:47 PM by Danielle Bullen

TAMPA -- Today, Alan M. Jette, PT, MPH, PhD, FAPTA, gave the 43rd annual McMillan lecture, "Face Into The Storm." In what is consistently one of the most popular events at the annual conference, Dr. Jette spoke to a packed ballroom at the Tampa Convention Center. Newly appointed APTA President Paul Rockar, Jr. introduced Dr. Jette and the lecture by reminding the audience that the McMillan lecture acknowledges a member of the APTA who has made significant contributions to the profession. Dr. Jette certainly fits that bill. Currently, he serves as director of the Health and Disability Research Institute and professor in the department of health policy and management, both at Boston University.

While preparing for his lecture, Dr. Jette, like so many of his predecessors, read the past McMillan lectures. He found that time and again, past honorees cited the 1975 lecture as seminal. In that talk, Helen Hislop proposed that physical therapy was in an identity crisis and that physical therapists had failed to demonstrate their value to total health care.  Dr. Jette challenged the audience today to determine if physical therapists have overcome Hislop's accusations.

He argued that for the most part, they have. He claimed that the profession today is not the same one he entered in 1973, and those changes have been for the better. He called physical therapy a "service unequaled in comprehensiveness and breadth to any other health care group." Dr. Jette cautioned that the profession needs to move past 20th century goals.

In that vein, he made a bold claim regarding Vision 2020. "I am uninspired by a narrow and inward-focused vision for our profession." In the past,  the physical therapy profession went through two periods of identity: self-focused and patient-focused. The current call is for societal identity. Dr. Jette cautioned, "It [Vision 2020] doesn't adequately speak to our new period of society identity."

Dr. Jette argued that going forward, physical therapists need to focus more on standardized measures, quality improvement and inter-professional care and education. All of those goals differ from the inward, autonomous focus of Vision 2020. In the changing world of health care, systems where diverse populations of professionals work together to coordinate skills for their patients are successful. Physical therapists need to figure out how they fit into those systems. Dr. Jette urged the audience to support new research priorities that align with the new systems-focused vision.

 "My vision is for a physical therapy profession that faces the growing challenges America faces." He called upon his fellow PTs to rethink Vision 2020 and to create a new vision where they are leaders in system skills, health promotion and treatment interventions.

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