Each year after attending APTA's Combined Sections Meeting (CSM), I walk away inspired by the camaraderie, knowledge, dedication, and passion that the members and leaders of APTA Oncology possess. This was clearly evident this year during APTA Oncology's strategic planning meeting, business meeting, educational sessions, platform presentations, and poster session. It is always a busy meeting made manageable by the connections with colleagues, leaders, alumni, and friends. In reflecting on the shared conversations and thoughts, a common theme of advocacy emerged.
Literature suggests that a majority of cancer survivors have at least one physical impairment that oftentimes goes unaddressed. Despite the evidence demonstrating the need, patients still do not always get referred to necessary rehabilitative services. This is where our profession must answer the call to advocate for our patients and bridge this gap in access. In addition to improved access to services, we must continue to address and improve in the areas of education, research, and cost to drive our field forward.
As physical therapists and physical therapy assistants, we are no strangers to advocacy. We often advocate for the needs of our patients including access to our care and other rehabilitation services. It comes natural for us as a profession that serves others. APTA Oncology has a long history of advocating for improved accessibility, equality, and affordability of oncologic physical therapy. We see outreach throughout our community on the listserv, through increased research about need, efficacy and care delivery, and our offering of regional education courses. We successfully advocated for recognition of oncologic physical therapy as an area of specialty practice. We have worked to increase oncologic physical therapy's footprint across cancer-related affiliate organizations such as the Commission on Cancer and the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers, and other physical therapy organizations such as the World Confederation for Physical Therapy. Through all of these efforts, we have made great advancements in championing for our patients and highlighting the importance of our profession to improve the quality of life for those with a cancer diagnosis.
Despite progress and success made over time, more needs to be done at the international, national, and local levels. The Academy will continue its commitment to this effort. I'd like to challenge all to consider what we can do as individuals and groups to advance oncologic physical therapy. Teddy Roosevelt said, “Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.” I believe this speaks to the very spirit of each of us and know it will carry us forward. Our past achievements have demonstrated we are a powerful force, and I look forward to our future collective success.
Laura Sheridan, PT, DPT, CLT