Bryn Hager, left, and Gillian McLean

Wingate University’s fingerprints will be all over the North Carolina Physical Therapy Association’s student conclave in Durham this month. Bulldogs proposed and are helping plan and organize the event.

Wingate Department of Physical Therapy students Gillian McLean, Bryn Hager and Jennifer Baity have created an event they hope will have a lasting impact on future PTs across the state.

“I hope the students get out of their comfort zones and network with other students from around the state, possibly making long-term friendships and relationships that will help them to become the best physical therapists and physical therapist assistants they can be,” says McLean. She will graduate from Wingate’s program in December.

A national American Physical Therapy Association event in the fall of 2016 sparked McLean’s “intense passion” for her profession. She now hopes to spark that in others. She attended Arizona’s Student Conclave last spring and was being mentored by its organizers when she proposed to NCPTA leadership that the organization host its own conclave.

After getting the event approved and the date set for March 24, she was elected to a national APTA position. She handed off many of the planning duties to Hager and Baity, who had been selected as the NCPTA Student Special Interest Group chair and director of student involvement. “Thankfully, Bryn and Jennifer accepted the responsibility of completing the planning of the event,” McLean says. “They have done an incredible job.”

Hager says she and Baity were excited to collaborate on something that could benefit students from all programs and points in their PT education across the state.

Jennifer Baity

Jennifer Baity

Baity says the goals for the event are threefold: to enable students to learn from top-notch clinicians and professors; to build a sense of community for the statewide physical-therapy family; and to create a networking environment in which students can meet and talk to clinicians, company representatives and recent graduates.

“As students, these resources are ever so advantageous as we navigate the waters of our new profession,” Baity says.

Hager hopes the conclave will help students find value in their APTA membership.

“There’s been a significant drop historically in membership rates between time as a student and professional,” she says. “So we are trying to use this as a means to demonstrate ways to get involved and better understand what the group is about and why belonging is imperative to the future of our profession.”

Additionally, organizers of the daylong event on the campus of Duke University Medical Center purposely planned sessions that cover topics that might not get in-depth treatment in the classroom. For instance, they will offer a lecture from a therapist who has a child with autism.

“She will be discussing that dynamic, as well as experiencing PT as a family member,” Hager says. “We also have another talking about advocacy efforts and explaining how students can get involved.”

“Most of all, we want students to see they’re not alone in this process and help them find a support system for those days when motivation is fleeting and school gets overwhelming,” Hager adds. She says the entire Student Special Interest Group, which includes representatives from PT schools across the state, has been involved in the planning.

Nonetheless, conclave attendees will get a significant dose of programming from Wingate affiliates. Among the speakers are professors Rebecca Bliss and Tyler Shultz and Will Stokes, a 2016 Wingate DPT grad.

McLean says it was Stokes who encouraged her to get involved with physical therapy at the state level.

“He was the N.C. Core Ambassador when I started my journey in PT school,” says McLean. Like Stokes, she completed her undergraduate degree in biology at Wingate. “Our faculty are also highly involved here in N.C., as well as nationally. I feel that we are creating a culture of involvement at Wingate, a place where being a student physical therapist means more than studying to get good grades, but also doing personal development through involvement opportunities to become well-rounded clinicians.”

The NCPTA Student Conclave will be March 24 from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It will be held at the Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans Center for Health Education in Durham. In addition to lectures by clinicians and professors, the event will feature a debate betweem specialists and generalists. It will be followed by PT Pub Night at Ponysaurus Brewing with PT Pintcast host Jimmy McKay. McKay will spend the day before on Wingate’s campus, highlighting the Wingate DPT program to his listeners.

March 1, 2018