Health care is in a critical period in the United States. There is somewhat of a paradigm shift taking place within the health care system gravitating towards wellness, fitness and a biopsychosocial model of care. Fortunately for us doctorate of physical therapy (DPT) students, physical therapy appears to be at the forefront of this shift and for good reason.

Physical therapists (PTs) now have the opportunity to provide direct access to patients, to address wellness, and to address fitness through the education of proper movement. Movement and exercise have been proven again and again to be beneficial for a myriad of health risk factors and thus giving us an evidence-based foundation to incorporate movement into society’s daily life. Why this sudden change now, and why does our generation (the millennials) seem primed to make such a dramatic impact on health care?

I can only infer through speculation and a gut feeling. The amount of information and knowledge of fitness and exercise at anyone’s fingertips is massive. The information available now is not only accessible courtesy of the internet, but the unworldly amount of research performed on health, exercise, and movement provides substance for people to learn from. We understand so much about the dynamics of the human body now that everyone can Google an impairment or symptom and within minutes have an idea of what the causation could be. This availability of information is not only utilized by our generation, but of those before us as well. The idea that generations ahead of us are not tech savvy is ludicrous, everyone and their mother (literally) has Facebook. Not knowing how to use the internet is a notion of the past. If availability and accessibility are not the issues then what is? Interpretation.

We millennials then find ourselves in a unique position to be the curators of this knowledge to society. We become coaches, educators, psychologists of all things that are movement-related and package it into the title of a physical therapist.  Many may question whether or not our generation is capable of handling this responsibility. We have been referred to as entitled, lazy, engrossed in our technology and incapable of having genuine face to face interactions — amongst many other accusations. With each perceived negative trait comes its positive counterpart: with entitlement and laziness comes resourcefulness, with technological engrossment comes technological savviness, and with a lack of face to face interactions comes connectivity on a global level. However, the question of whether or not we can handle this new found responsibility as curators of knowledge in physical therapy is a resounding: YES.

Our willingness to take on this responsibility is palpable. It is felt by our mentors, by our professors, and by active physical therapists engaging us not for our clinical experience but rather for our clinical reasoning.

We are entrepreneurial and autonomous in nature. We will not be contained by a company that does not allow for growth or by a school that does not allow us to be pro-active in our education and essentially, our future. What we want is to be able to brand ourselves, to create our own image within a company — if that is not possible, we will start our own. We have a voice. We will make a difference. We will be involved in our community. We have the foresight that the future of health care will be fought upstream, not down. Fitness and movement education provided early will cut costs exponentially that otherwise will continue to filter downstream.

This is the way that our generation will #MakePTHappen.

Lastly, this is not us versus them mentality. That type of thinking is naïve and counterproductive to our true goal of transforming society by optimizing movement to improve the human experience. We crave discussion and mentorship. We may be a group of #DPTstudents, but we are also part of the larger entity that is the physical therapy profession.

Ryan Smith ATC, SPTRyan Smith ATC, SPT

I am a second year DPT student at Ohio State University with an undergraduate degree in Athletic Training from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.  I am planning on applying for a sports residency position upon graduation and opening up my own private practice shortly thereafter.  I enjoy staying active in any way possible, my downtime involves excessive amounts of reading and writing, and I prefer apples over coffee for my morning pick-me-up!