Western University of Health Sciences’ College of Health Sciences sponsored the American Council of Academic Physical Therapy (ACAPT) National Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Commission (NEDIC) Summit 2022.

The goals of the NEDIC Summit, held June 27-29, 2022 in Columbus, Ohio, were to increase the number of racial and ethnic minorities among faculty and leadership in professional education and in the physical therapy workforce and to identify and promulgate policy initiatives, best practices, and resources related to increasing recruitment, enrollment, retention, and graduation of racial and ethnic minority students (Black, Native American or Tribal Groups, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, and LatinX) in physical therapist professional education programs, according to the ACAPT website.

The summit, an invitation-only event, brought together 100 professionals of diverse backgrounds and expertise to craft the foundation for best practices and resources that will transform the educational experiences of underrepresented minority students and faculty in physical therapy.

“The goals of the NEDIC Summit are in alignment with the goals of the College and our DPT programs,” said CHS Dean Dee Schilling, PT, PhD, FNAP. “We supported the summit because we must be active participants to be change agents. WesternU CHS models the behavior, commitment, and leadership we want in our graduates. Together we can make a difference – the summit brought like-minded and committed people together.”

ACAPT’s National Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Commission Summit used a qualitative research approach to gather multi-stakeholder perspectives leveraging evidence-based quality improvement tools and strategies to develop action plans. The culminating work resulted in a quality improvement project charter in the areas of admissions, mentoring, pathway programs, post-professional physical therapy, and recruitment and retention. The task forces will seek additional feedback and develop action plans to disseminate to ACAPT members resources, standards, guidelines, best practices, and policies that can be widely implemented by all physical therapist institutions and their clinical affiliates, according to ACAPT.

As a Transportation & Lodging Sponsor for the summit, CHS created a video highlighting its DEI journey. CHS’s commitment to DEI manifests in many ways, said CHS Associate Dean of Research and Department of Physical Therapy Education Chair Harsha Deoghare, PT, PhD.

“We are creating an environment that is inclusive to individuals of diverse perspectives and identities,” he said. “We are transforming our curriculum to focus on social determinants of health, health disparities, and the role physical therapists can play in coaching healthy lifestyle patterns to diverse communities, as well as the role they can play in public engagement and advocacy. We have spent significant effort in creating endowed scholarships to recruit students from minority underrepresented backgrounds. We are also enhancing an involvement in the local community by providing physical therapy services to marginalized, underserved communities.”

A focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is vital to enrich our ability to attract, retain, and develop an exceptional health care clinicians and practitioners and to encourage each other to draw upon our unique experiences, skills and knowledge in ways that enhance CHS ability to fulfill its mission, said CHS Executive Vice Dean and Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Gail M. Evans Grayson, EdD, MA.

“I want to emphasize the importance of inclusive leadership at Western University of Health Sciences and in the College of Health Sciences. It means sharing information, breaking down silos, encouraging collaboration, and opening yourself up to trying new things. And it always means continually working to build more trust and more mutual reliance on each other,” she said. “It means encouraging and respecting diverse points of view. Creating a climate that supports honest, open dialogue can only enhance our ability to communicate, work in teams and problem solve effectively. It is also equally important to reframe and rewrite the challenges presented in the BIPOC communities. Empower and increase our confidence and work together in writing a different narrative. Stand in your truth and be the agent of change.”