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Federal Advocacy Forum

2017 Federal Advocacy Forum Scholarship Winners

Estee Berg, SPT

Participating in Federal advocacy can be intimidating and frustrating. It takes time, you aren’t paid for it, and can be a slow process. It can be difficult to convince a Representative to co-sign or support everything we are asking. But federal advocacy is more than that. Taking time to meet with your Representatives gives them a chance to experience the professionalism of a physical therapist and see how serious we are about our patients’ care. Representatives can also learn we are educated at the doctorate level just by introducing ourselves as a DPT or student of a doctor of physical therapy program. The introduction may spark conversation into our schooling. Educating our representative to trust our knowledge can develop their idea of physical therapists as health care providers and influence their opinion with future decisions.

Federal advocacy also benefits you personally as a student. One of the perks of going as a student is that everyone is excited to help you explore the process. You are seen as the driving force for the future of physical therapy. There are countless opportunities to network with both experienced PTs and other students from across the country. In addition, you are taught tools to share with classmates, professors, and CIs about how to increase state and federal advocacy. I’ll forever benefit from the exciting conversations between colleagues, simply sharing stories and opinions about current PT practice.


It’s important to remember the main purpose of PT federal advocacy is to improve the quality of care and life of our current and future patients. Who better to advocate for PT patients than PTs? We can’t assume someone will do it for us, or else our concerns will get pushed to the side and forgotten. It is our duty as future health care providers to advocate for our patients.

This experience has benefited me interprofessionally, increased my understanding of the government’s involvement in health care, and motivated me to be a lifelong federal and state advocate for my patients. I’m more than happy to discuss my time in D.C. with any student curious about or looking into participating in next years PT Federal Advocacy Forum. I strongly recommend the opportunity to all students.


Briana Felton, SPT

The Federal Advocacy Forum was a life changing three days in Washington D.C filled with  learning, sharing stories, and advocating for the field of physical therapy and for our patients.  I had the opportunity to participate in five congressional meetings, and I was able to help lead the meeting with my own congressional district.  I came away from this Forum with several important new insights that I hope to share with my peers and to remember in my future practice. 

First, I developed a greater appreciation for all that the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) does for physical therapists (PTs).  Not only do membership dues provide PTs access to journals and research, but it also enables APTA staff to lobby Congress year round for issues that affect PTs and our patients.  APTA is in the forefront making sure PT professionals are up to date on what is happening in D.C. and that our voices are heard.  

The Federal Advocacy Forum has helped me become more aware of how legislation affects physical therapists and our patients.  I learned about a number of laws and bills that affect the way PTs practice and that affect patients’ access to treatment.  The more I know about barriers to patient care, the more I can help my patients overcome these barriers in the future.  If we, as providers, are not advocating for our patients to help them get better access or better care for a better price, then we are not fully caring for them. Learning about these laws and hearing stories about how they affect patients will help me to better empathize with and care for my patients in the future.  

For me, the most impactful part of the Federal Advocacy Forum in Washington D.C. was the realization that we the people have the power and responsibility to make change in our country.  President of the APTA, Sharon Dunn, said in her address to the 200+ physical therapist in attendance that “We are not ruled by the majority, we are ruled by the majority who participate.”  It is our duty as physical therapists to use our voices to participate in the legislative process to improve access and care for our patients.  Even one person can make a difference, but the first step is to get involved and participate.

Finally, there are so many ways to get involved.  From writing letters and making calls to Congresspersons, to donating to PT-PAC (APTA’s grassroots organization), to attending state and federal legislative days and developing relationships with Congresspersons.  There is something every individual can do to participate in advocating for physical therapy and patients.  Physical therapy students can attend a National Advocacy Dinner and learn more about how to get involved, participate in the Student Advocacy Challenge, join the PTeam, and take part in Flash Action Strategies.  Small actions can make a big difference, and attending the Federal Advocacy Forum has inspired me to make a difference in my own way.


Domenic Fraboni, SPT

Going into the 2017 Federal Advocacy Forum, I knew that I was in for an incredible experience. I feel that I was lucky going up because my mother was always very involved in local and state politics. She showed me the importance of being involved in our legislative process and how we as constituents can have a huge influence on our legislators. I feel so fortunate and thankful that I was able to pursue my advocacy goals out in Washington DC this year at the Federal Advocacy Forum. My experience showed me a few things: There are many incredible physical therapists in our profession that are willing to offer mentorship and advice to us as students. Through the legislative process, there are countless ways we can affect our profession and our patient’s quality of care. Also, the professional development opportunities during this event are abundant.

One of the quickest realizations on my FAF journey was that we can have a huge impact on our patients’ experiences through involvement in the political process. Nearly all of the legislation that we lobbied for on The Hill related directly back to improving the health care experience for our patients. The items of focus this year were ensuring that those patients of ours that had the most vulnerable health situations would not be subjected to an arbitrary therapy cap that has been in place since established in 1997. Furthermore, we aimed at urging the legislators to support adding physical therapists to a loan forgiveness plan for working in rural areas. This would allow us to increase the access of care in rural areas as well as provide loan assistance for recent DPT graduates who have heavy student loan burden. All the discussions that we had regarding legislation dealt with increasing the experience for patients and physical therapists within the health care system.

Another thing that I will be taking away from this experience is the vast amount of professional development. As a student, it can kind of be intimidating interacting with legislators. It can also be intimidating to interact with some of the physical therapists attending FAF that are very successful and involved in advocacy and our professional organization themselves. Being at the Federal Advocacy Forum puts all of us students in a very non-threatening environment in which we can grow in our communication and confidence and also learn a ton about the advocacy process. Aside from learning how to advocate effectively during our meetings at the Capitol, there were also great breakout sessions that gave great pearls about getting involved back in our home states. I know that I will be much more aware of my professional advocacy throughout the entire year and not only during the large, communal physical therapy conferences.

One of the greatest opportunities for development that I found was in the meetings with our representatives. Although the meeting with my congressman was cancelled, we instead met with his legislative assistant. Being able to lead this meeting was very beneficial. During this meeting, I was forced to be the expert on the items that we discussed. It was necessary to be very well versed on the items, present myself confidently and professionally, be as concise as possible, and field any questions that I was able to. Luckily, I wasn’t the only one in the meeting, so there were others to back me up when I forgot important points or didn’t have the answer to a question. I was also able to plant the seeds for the beginning of a relationship with Representative Emmer and his legislative assistant that I hope to continue back in Minnesota.

Aside from the benefits to our profession from proposed legislation and the professional development, there is an entire community out at FAF that I found more than willing to help me in my physical therapy journey. It is so incredible to be in a room of PT’s an DPT students that are all equally as fired up and passionate about our profession as I am. During my entire time out in D.C., there were physical therapists continually reaching out to me to chat and ask how my educational journey was going. Being someone interested in private practice, I found multiple private practice physical therapists that were more than willing to give me advice, answer my questions, give feedback on my post-graduation plan, and even offer to sponsor my to join the private practice section of the APTA. The receptiveness to students that our PT family has, especially those seeking opportunities to get involved, has blown me away. This trip would not have been the same had it not been for the stewardship that I was shown through other leaders in our profession.

In total, I hardly spent 48-hours in our country’s capitol city. In these short two days, I feel that I experienced more than two months of experience that will help me become a more informed, thoughtful, and well-rounded physical therapist. There were great opportunities to advocate for our patients through legislation, connect with amazing physical therapists that are willing to help us become successful in our careers, form relationships with legislators from our home states, and grow both personally and professionally. I know that I will be attending FAF far into the future and would recommend, encourage, and even urge others to attend as well. Only when we are all working together can we affect the greatest change.


Brianna Lauer, SPT

Attending the Federal Advocacy Forum this year has been a highlight of my entire PT school career. I am so glad I took the leap in applying for this wonderful experience which experience allowed me to see what advocating for our patients really means. We learn in school to advocate for them to the doctors, or for what services they need, but being able to see advocacy on a federal level was an amazing experience. I hear complaints all the time about how our patient care abilities are limited, or how we’re not being utilized to the fullest of our degrees, and this last weekend when I was in Washington DC, I was able to see the front lines of fighting for our rights as physical therapists and also for our patient’s needs.

The forum started with a fantastic welcome event where I got to meet everyone who was at the conference and shared a drink with the leaders in our profession. Everywhere I turned was someone I admired for either their work as a therapist or their advocacy in our profession. The next day we started in with a full day of amazing speakers and informational sessions. We even got to hear from Minnesota’s own Congressman Erik Paulsen about how important advocacy is in the profession.

The breakout sessions were also a great way to learn more about advocacy and talk with smaller groups about how you’ve seen advocacy work being done in your area. They even had one specifically for students which was very beneficial. I got to hear about how different schools operate and I came up with many new great ideas to bring back to my classmates about how we could be more involved. These sessions were fantastic and also prepared me for exactly what I was going to talk about during the Day on the Hill.

The actual day that we marched to Capitol Hill, I was feeling invigorated and impassioned about our profession. I was surrounded by so many dedicated PT’s who all want the best for their patients, and it was a phenomenal energy in the room. The day we spent talking to legislation was such an amazing day, and I feel like I actually made a difference for our profession. I was able to talk about what physical therapy was to people that might not be as educated on our practices, and bring them personal stories about our patients who are suffering because of healthcare laws that these legislators could help fix. I got to see the true impact of just telling them personal stories and explaining how the legislations are impacting us.

The best way I can describe the benefits of getting involved come from the APTA President herself, Sharon Dunn. I met her while at the Federal Advocacy Forum, and she had this to say about students getting involved: “When you’re in PT school, it’s easy to be involved, and new opportunities are given to you all the time. It’s like a bubble. When you get out into the world and start working, your bubble pops. Let APTA be your bubble to keep you involved.”


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