Gina Kolata, Voodoo, and PT in Journalism
It has been just over three years since "Treat Me, but No Tricks Please" appeared in The New York Times. In this scathing piece about inconsistency in physical therapy, Gina Kolata roiled emotions and got a lot of people thinking about whether what we do actually works or not. It was of little help that the president of the orthopedic section of the APTA, James J. Irrgang, PhD, PT, ATC, repeatedly referred to the "voodoo" that physical therapists do for treatment, giving a sense of validity to her article.
Since then, we have graduated more DPT professionals, research has been done and many more patients have benefitted from the interventions applied by our colleagues. But what does the public know of it? Every October we don t-shirts and decorate our departments for Physical Therapy Month. We pat ourselves on the back in self-congratulations of the good work we do. But the only people who will see the message are those who already know it.
Go on to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or any other online or marketplace bookseller and you'll find reams written by medical doctors, nurses, fitness trainers and dieticians, but how many by physical therapists? I did a search for journalists who are physical therapists. I came up with zero results.
We need to engage the public proactively, not wait for the Gina Kolatas of the world to write rubbish so we can respond with impotence. Why do people choose trainers or chiropractors first? Poor journalism and our own lethargy in engagement keep us in question, that's one reason why.