Graduating Socially-Responsible Physical Therapists
Background and Purpose: • One of the goals of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Program is to graduate physical therapists who understand population health concepts such as the challenge of balancing cost, quality and access in health care and the impact of social determinants of health; and who are prepared to assume socially-responsible roles of citizenship and advocacy through activities such as pro bono work. • To attain this goal, the DPT Program implements the following strategies: • maintains a heavy focus on the non-academic factors of applicants during admission reviews. • requires a course that focuses on the American health care system, population health, and leadership. • mandates participation in pro bono clinics. • offers opportunities to participate in service and leadership while matriculating through the DPT Program. • The purpose of this study was to determine whether there are relationships between: • academic and/or non-academic admission scores and students who pursue advocacy leadership roles while in the DPT Program. • DPT Program curricular and co-curricular interventions and graduate engagement in socially-responsible activities. Case Description: • To determine the extent to which academic and non-academic admission scores reflect a subset of student leaders involved in advocacy, I reviewed the cumulative GPAs and non-academic admission scores of 71 students over five years who had become leaders of the DPT Program's Student Service Organization (DPTSO), MEDiC (interprofessional pro bono clinics) Council, Detention Center Board, Pro Bono Clinic Board, Advancing Diversity and Excellence in Physical Therapy (ADEPT) Council, and Inter-professional Health Council. • To determine the degree to which alumni meet the overarching Program goal, I reviewed five years of surveys that are returned by graduates upon employment, and five years of graduate and employer surveys that are completed two years post-graduation. Outcomes: • Student leader cumulative GPAs ranged from 3.0 (minimum for acceptance) to 4.0 but all had high non-academic scores upon admission (4s on a scale of 1-4). • Early graduate data reflected that: • the majority of graduates felt that the DPT Program prepared them “extremely well” to "serve communities through participation in activities that address issues of cost, quality and access to health care." • an average of 20% of graduates from each class were working in an underserved area and credited this choice to the education they received and the service in which they were engaged while in the DPT Program. • an average of 40% of each group of graduates claimed they were involved in advocacy. • an average of 30% of each group stated they were engaged in pro bono services. • Results of the graduate and employer surveys two years later indicated that: • all graduates rated their “ability to address issues of cost, quality and access to health care" and "ability to take on socially-responsible roles of citizenship and advocacy through community and human service organizations, such as engaging in pro bono work” as "very good" or "excellent." • A third of graduates were involved in pro bono services. • All employers rated “employee’s ability to address issues of cost, quality and access to health care” and “employee’s ability to provide leadership in matters affecting physical therapy delivery at local, state or national levels” as “excellent.” Discussion: • There was a positive association between non-academic admission scores and involvement in student advocacy leadership; this relationship did not exist for GPAs. • The majority of UW-Madison DPT Program graduates met the Program goal of graduating “physical therapists who understand the cost, quality and access challenges in health care, and who are prepared to assume socially-responsible roles of citizenship and advocacy through activities such as pro bono work.” • The results of this study lend themselves to further exploration of more direct causal relationships between admission criteria, and curricular and co-curricular interventions, in producing socially-responsible physical therapists.