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Program: Plan to Foster Minority Representation and Participation in Physical Therapy, Alexandria, VA
Contact(s): Johnette L. Meadows, Director-Department of Minority/International Affairs: (703) 706-3143
Purpose: To encourage physical therapists to increase their knowledge of and sensitivity to cultural diversity, and to increase minority participation in the physical therapy profession

Background Program Operations Outcomes


In 1983, members of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) were concerned that there was a disparity in the number of racial/ethnic minority groups in physical therapy. They also pointed out that their colleagues did not fully understand the importance of cultural diversity. In response to their concerns, the Advisory Panel on Minority Affairs for APTA developed the Plan to Foster Minority Representation and Participation in Physical Therapy.

Program Operations

The Plan to Foster Minority Representation and Participation has several components. APTA sponsors workshops on cultural diversity that are presented by APTA members and staff at national and local chapter meetings around the country. Workshop topics have included: cultural awareness and racial sensitivity training, the development of curricula on cultural diversity for use by physical therapists, minority health issues and how understanding different cultures will affect the delivery of health care services, and the importance of recruitment and retention of persons from different racial/ethnic minority groups into physical therapy education programs. The association uses a video, "Cultural Diversity in Physical Therapy," to assist members in cultural awareness training, and the association developed Spanish-language brochures as part of its recruitment material. To reach out to young people, there is a mentoring program for potential physical therapy students. There is also an award-winning recruitment video for minority youth, "On the Move," materials for members to use when they make presentations to young people at all school levels, and a Minority Scholarship Fund that has made awards totaling more than $100,000 to outstanding minority physical therapy students. The association issues several awards to reward members for participating in different initiatives to increase diversity and cultural sensitivity. It has also partnered with community groups such as the National Urban League and the National Council of LaRaza to reach out to black and Latino communities on physical therapy and good health care.

Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments

As a result of the association's initiatives, there have been significant results: Minority membership has increased from 2% to more than 10% since 1990, the number of minority students in physical therapy education programs has increased from 6% to more than 12%, and more minority members are now serving in leadership positions and on committees (11.5%) than at any other time. The association's diversity initiatives have been recognized by the American Society of Association Executives and the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health.

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