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A Day of Connections and Empowerment: A Student's Journey at APTA Capitol Hill Day


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This year, Marko Physical Therapy selected Kayleen Alvarado-Rodriguez as our sponsored student to attend APTA's Capitol Hill Day. Kayleen is a 3rd year Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) student at Ithaca College and the immediate past APTA New York Student Special Interest Group Advocacy Chair. Read Kayleen's reflection on her experience below.


 

By Kayleen Alvarado-Rodriguez, SPT --Ithaca College

Capitol Hill Day was an extremely grounding experience. As I get closer to earning my title as a DPT, my head has been buried deep into the academic and clinical atmospheres. Participating in Capitol Hill Day extended me the opportunity to step away and enter reality in a way that was proactive and meaningful. It allowed me to combine academic, professional, and personal experiences into one, to highlight why change is necessary relative to our profession. As a first-time Capitol Hill Day attendee, I learned how strong our voices can be if speaking to the minds of those that need to hear us the most. It was eye-opening, I mean like, my eyes were real ‘wide - because I felt like somehow, I got closer to the truth. What is the truth? Well, the truth is, is that we can be so much quicker to create the change we want to see if we join in and work as an informed collective. During this event, all 50 states were represented in Washington D.C., all with the same goal of making a better, and more fair experience for physical therapists/physical therapist assistants and the individuals we serve. It was personally so fulfilling to be in a room with so many passionate human beings, all carrying their own stories and experiences to share. It made me imagine how much MORE powerful we can be if there was an increased number of PT students and professionals joining us on the Hill to voice why our advocacy efforts can be and likewise are, so significant and impactful.


My first meeting of the day was with Senator Gillibrand’s legislative assistant. Here, I had the opportunity to witness long-time PT advocators sit at the table and talk business while tying in lived experiences and research statistics in the educating of senators and lawmakers on current issues impacting our profession and patients. After observing a few meetings and being mentored by Dr. Marko, she encouraged me to take on a section of our agenda during our second to last scheduled meeting; the PT Workforce and Patient Access Act (H.R. 4829).


Lesson 1: it’s pivotal that we know and highlight the facts while making it personal. As a student, highlight your outstanding amount of student debt and how attractive it can be to work in an area that offers loan repayment after 2 years of employment. As a family member, highlight how your aunt, who doesn’t own a car, has to drive 40 miles just to get seen by a physical therapist. As a clinician, highlight how this would allow you to intervene early which helps maximize your patient's function and contribution to society. Lesson 2: be confident, try your best to make it flow. Lesson 3: ask: “Have you or anyone you know ever received physical therapy before? Are you aware of the things we can help with?” Take leverage and educate them on our purpose and grand impact.


At the end of the day, we are human and when we find ways to relate and make it personal, we become ignited with passion and purpose. Capitol Hill Day facilities not only that, but it also allows to you to learn from and engage with a community of PTs whose passions and interests align with yours. I left D.C. feeling inspired to continue growing as a life-long advocator and to keep participating in national events such as this one. I now aspire to be one of those “long-time PT advocators” sitting and talking business at that senator's table, inspiring and mentoring future generations to come. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity and for Dr. Marko for making it all happen. I cannot wait to get back on the hill in April of 2024!





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