by Sara Lindauer, SPT

Attending my first Federal Advocacy Forum (FAF) was a mind-opening experience. I arrived in Washington, D.C., without even realizing that I had a preconceived idea that the Senators and Congresspeople were Goliath and those of us representing physical therapists were more like David, ready to fight for our profession. How quickly my perspective changed!

My first take-away from D.C. was newfound empathy for our legislatures. At the forum we learned a few simple ways to build a relationship with our Senator and Congressperson. In listening to the speaker, I realized that our elected officials are rather ordinary people who care about their constituents’ concerns and want to make a difference in the world. We have a lot more in common than I originally realized!

My second big take-away was that advocacy needs to become bigger than just what is important for the PT profession and its patients. Congressman Cárdenas of California addressed the Forum on Tuesday and said that we, as the profession who arose out of war, must advocate for Veterans, and we, as the profession that treats victims of gun violence, must advocate for gun safety. These words were impactful to me and I am proud to be a part of a profession that is beginning to advocate for change that truly impacts the world we and our patients live in. 

I met a number of APTA advocacy Superstars attending the forum; however, I also learned that the advocacy champions do not need to attend FAF, though they often do. Smaller community and local victories are equally important, if not sometimes more significant. Many advocates get involved in community improvement projects such as parks and recreation committees. By participating in local projects, community members have the opportunity to learn more about the expertise of PTs.

My fourth take-away was that to advocate is to love your patients. Advocacy requires passion and deep care; if you lack concern and passion, you will give up before anything gets done. With how long societal change can take, we must continue to consistently deliver our message to our elected representatives. The people I know through the OPTA who advocate do so because they care about their patients and access to the services our profession offers. 

Members of Oregon’s Chapter that attended FAF: Sara Lindauer, Mackenzie Van Loo, Jeremiah Moore, Chris Murphy