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ADVANCE Perspective: Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine

‘It's a Calling to Be a PT'

Published June 8, 2015 1:36 PM by Brian Ferrie

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD -- The APTA Annual Conference & Exposition, which was rebranded last year as "NEXT," just celebrated its 2015 incarnation in this inviting little town on the Potomac River outside Washington, D.C. The conference drew thousands of excited physical therapy professionals and advocates from all over the country, kicking off the night of June 3 with a memorable opening event.

Replicating last year's well-received format, APTA CFO Rob Batarla served as host of a "Tonight Show"-style presentation, in which APTA leaders gave their thoughts on the profession and entertained the crowd in a variety of ways.

The first guest was APTA CEO Michael Bowers, who was asked by Batarla to talk about the organization's goals. "I couldn't be more excited to be working with the members that we have," Bowers responded. "The focus of the APTA is to transform society, which can be a very large task. We have to make sure the profession is ready to do transformational work through education, research and practice."

Bowers was followed on stage by APTA Past President Paul A. Rockar Jr., PT, DPT, MS, and newly elected APTA President Sharon L. Dunn, PT, PhD, OCS, who both drew laughs from the audience by playing a lighthearted trivia game about Rockar's recently completed three-year term in office.

For the final question, "What does Paul Rockar most regret about his presidential tenure?" he earned cheers by saying, "I regret nothing, and I can't wait for Sharon to experience that same feeling."

But the highlight of the night was Keynote Speaker Billie Jean King, the legendary women's tennis player and social rights advocate who charmed the audience with tales of her playing career, and efforts to spread the cause of feminism both on and off the court.

"The thing about tennis, like soccer, is that it's really a global sport, which has given me a great opportunity to make a difference," she said.

King also paid tribute to the impact physical therapy has made on her.

"I've given you a lot of employment in my life," she said with a laugh. "You not only take care of us physically but you help with the emotional part too. It's a calling to be a PT. I don't think it's just a job. You're very special people, so give yourselves a pat on the back."

The night ended with a spectacle few will soon forget, as King took out a tennis racket while "Philadelphia Freedom" began playing through the speakers. Elton John actually wrote this song about King almost 40 years ago and named it after the tennis team she played for at the time. While delighted attendees danced to the popular tune and cheered the charismatic icon before them, King wound a path up and down the aisles, hitting souvenir tennis balls all around.

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