What Does Advocacy Mean to You; Sean McComiskey, SPT

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, advocacy is defined as the act or process of supporting a cause or proposal. Advocacy can take many forms such fighting for civil rights by way of public demonstrations, marches, and contacting elected representatives or a more subtle form where you educate those around you about the important issues. Both forms of advocacy are integral to promoting awareness about physical therapy.


On Sunday, May 21, PT and PTA students, faculty, and leaders from Washington, D.C., and Maryland came together at the APTA Headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, to share dinner and discuss advocacy. It was part of the APTA’s 2017 National Advocacy Dinner series and was hosted by Nora Arnold and Paige Anderson, PT students from the George Washington School of Medicine, in coordination with Mandy Frohlich, APTA Vice President for Strategic Communications and Alliances.

The event kicked off with a presentation by Paige Anderson discussing exactly what advocacy is and the many forms it can take. For anyone new to the world of government affairs, this presentation provided a basic understanding and why we all need to do our part to help. From there, Ms. Frohlich lead a forum discussion with Michael Hurlbut, APTA’s Senior Specialist for Congressional Affairs. Mr. Hurlbut has been a member of the APTA’s Congressional Affairs team for 8 years. He provided real-world insight into how the APTA operates on Capitol Hill and the issues which the APTA is working to address in Congress. Currently, the APTA is focused on three pieces of legislation; repealing the Medicare Therapy Cap, getting physical therapists included in the Workforce and Patient Access Act, which would provide loan repayment for therapists working in rural and underserved areas, and passing the Sports Medicine Licensure Clarity Act which would improve the portability of physical therapists’ licenses for therapists who practice across state lines as they travel with professional and collegiate teams. For more information about the APTA’s Federal Advocacy Efforts or to learn how to get involved, visit the APTA’s Federal Issues page.


For the final portion of the evening, the students broke into groups to mingle and discuss the issues and how we as busy PT and PTA students can get involved in the effort. Initially everyone was a little shy, but once the ice was broken the discussions started rolling, leading to some really interesting points brought up by everyone involved. You could feel the excitement from everyone in the room!

So what is the takeaway? There are different ways for us all to help. If you are interested in getting involved in a larger way, you can participate in the APTA Federal Advocacy Forum, contact your state and congressional representatives, or visit the APTA’s Advocacy page to learn more. On a more grassroots level, be an advocate for PT with everyone you meet. Talk about the benefits of PT to your family and friends, spread awareness about the many skills PTs bring to the world of health care, and do not be afraid to make sure your voice is heard. Also, make sure to download the PTaction app on your smartphone and sign up to join PTeam, APTA’s grassroots network of volunteers interested in public policy and advocacy.

In my life before physical therapy, I worked for the Maryland Governor’s Office and specialized in constituent outreach. I was on the receiving end of the work of many passionate advocates fighting for a wide range of issues. I understand very intimately how the process works and have seen, firsthand, how phone calls, emails, and letters, in decisive coordination, can lead to actual changes in policy.


So with that, I am excited to announce that I will be taking over as Maryland Core Ambassador, effective June 1st, following in the footsteps of Binh Nguyen. A big thank you to Binh for all his hard work and leadership! Over the next year, I will be coordinating my efforts with the Maryland SSIG and the APTA of Maryland to get more of Maryland’s PT and PTA students involved in the APTA and increase awareness about the issues affecting us as students and future physical therapy practitioners. Do not hesitate to reach out to me at with any questions or concerns you may have, and especially if you are interested in becoming an advocate for physical therapy. For information about how to attend or host an APTA National Advocacy Dinner near you, click here.