Walking the Talk: Student-Run Pro Bono Services Fostering Leadership and Advocacy Skills in the Next Generation of Physical Therapists


The purpose of this educational session is to explore ways that student-run pro bono services foster the development of both leadership and client advocacy skills in physical therapy students who participate in the pro bono services.

Methods and/or Description of Project

The prevalence of pro bono physical therapy services offered by students under the supervision of licensed physical therapists is growing with both medical clinics and freestanding physical therapy clinics; as well as within local and international settings.1-2 The literature shows that these initiatives enhance the professional development of students as well as meet an otherwise unmet community need.3-5 Three accredited physical therapy programs with functioning student-run pro bono services for across the country will share an overview of their pro bono projects. Faculty advisors to these projects will highlight the impact that the experience has had on participating students’ development of leadership skills and client advocacy skills. The uniqueness of each institution and their pro bono service models will provide a diversity of applications that will speak to the session participants in diverse and potentially meaningful ways. The presentation will also include a question and answer session to allow for discussion and input from the audience to further the conversation.


Each represented institution has a unique way of measuring and reporting outcomes related to their model of pro bono service administration and delivery. Each represented instition will present their outcomes with respect to the development of leadership and client advocacy skills in their participating student leaders as well as in participating student physical therapists delivering the pro bono services. Outcome measures include both quantiative and qualitative data.

Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme: Through the Looking Glass: Transforming Physical Therapy Education

This topic has direct relevance to the conference theme specific to “Walking the Talk: Leadership and Advocacy Skills” as this high impact practice directly calls upon students to exercise both leadership for the project and advocacy for the clients they serve.


1. Darnell JS. Free Clinics in the United States: a nationwide survey. Arch Intern Med. 2010;170(11):946-953.
2. Smith S, Thomas R, Cruz M, Griggs R, Moscato B, Ferrara A. Presence and characteristics of student-run free clinics in medical schools. JAMA. 2014;312(22):2407-2411.
3. Black JD, Palombaro KM, Dole RL. Student experiences in creating and launching a student-led physical therapy pro bono clinic: a qualitative investigation. Physical Therapy Journal. 2013;93(5):637-648.
4. Flinn S, Kloos A, Teaford M, Clark K, Szucs K. Helping Hands for Healthy Living: A Collaborative Service Learning Project with Occupational and Physical Therapy Students. Occupational Therapy in Health Care. Vol 23(2); 2009.Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.
5. Porretta D, Black J, Palombaro K, Erdman E. Influence that service in a pro bono clinic has on a first-full-time physical therapy clinical education experience. The Internet Journal of Allied Health Sciences and Practice. 2017 Jan 26;15(1), Article 11.

Course Objectives

By the end of the session, participants will be able to:
1. Identify ways in which delivery of pro bono physical therapy services can promote client advocacy skills within an authentic and meaningful context.
2. Identify ways in which student leadership of pro bono physical therapy services enhances the leadership development of physical therapist students.
3. Appreciate the impact of the pro bono physical therapy service experience on the physical therapists student clinical performance in the affective domain
4. Recognize the value that involvement in pro bono physical therapy services can have on the physical therapists development of professionalism in alignment with APTA Core Values.

Instructional Methods

This will be a panel presentation with allotted time for question and answer and discussion.

Tentative Outline/Schedule

10 minutes: Introduction covering the prevalence and characteristics of physical therapy pro bono services in US accredited physical therapy programs
60 minutes: Presentation of evidence of the development of leadership & advocacy skills across three different institutional models of student-run pro bono service delivery (20 minutes each)
30 minutes: Question & Answer / Discussion Session

BACK to Abstract Results

  • Control #: 2745767
  • Type: Educational Session
  • Event/Year: ELC2017
  • Authors: Robin Dole, Ellen Erdman, Schiller Martha, Anne Kloos, Marka Salsberry, Dr. Jill Black
  • Keywords:

BACK to Abstract Results