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Message from the Interim Director

In the Midst of Turmoil, Emory DPT Students and Alumni Shine
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When it is finally over, 2020, for most Americans, will be remembered as one of the most difficult years in our lifetimes. A global pandemic that has claimed more a million lives worldwide along with unprecedented racial tension in hundreds of cities across our country have made this a time of intense pain, mourning and introspection. It’s been a year that has most people anxiously looking forward to 2021.

This year’s issue of Emory Physical Therapy captures the essence of this most challenging year within the Emory Division of Physical Therapy family. It shows how during times of fear and uncertainty, our students, faculty and alumni can be counted to provide leadership in a loving, compassionate way. It’s who we are.

Please take some time to read the personal stories of four Emory alumnae who bravely served on the front lines of care in hospitals located in New York City, New Orleans, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta – all areas heavily impacted by COVID-19 this spring. When the pandemic hit the United States in March, these brave physical therapists, knowing the importance of rehabilitative care to a complete recovery, provided critical care at the bedside of COVID-19 patients who were strong enough to move. To do so, some lobbied their supervisors to allow them to be on the frontlines of COVID-19 care.

These brave PTs not only accelerated the recovery of the many COVID-19 patients while putting themselves in harm’s way, they helped change the way their organizations — especially physicians and nurses — view the rehabilitative field.

We are so proud of Emory’s Alyssa Collier, Katelyn Corridon, Emily Rift, Meghan Wollman and many other hospital-based PTs who are representing our field with such compassion and bravery during these extraordinary times.

While our alumni have always represented the Emory DPT program well throughout the world, I’ve never been more proud of our students and faculty than I am now.

Our second feature article chronicles the Emory Division of Physical Therapy’s response to the horrific death of George Floyd and the resulting racial tensions throughout our country.

Led by students Bridget Ochuko and Jonathan Sandberg, the Emory DPT program has hosted several peaceful, masked protests throughout the summer that call for the end of racism and inequality in America. These protests were preceded by a series of emotional, online town hall meetings with each of the three classes that shined a much-needed light on the hurt, frustration and pain that minorities in our own family feel on a daily basis both as residents of this country and students in the Emory DPT program.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” While I can’t speak for the country, I feel confident in saying that the unaffected Emory DPT students and faculty have reached that point of outrage.

Within the DPT program, merely talking about inequality is no longer acceptable. We are taking action. Please read the article on page 6 to learn more about the efforts that our exceptional students, faculty and staff are taking to stamp out racism and ensure that the doors of opportunity swing wide open for minorities interested in pursuing careers in physical therapy.

Also inside this issue, please make sure to read about the remarkable robotics-based research project that the Emory DPT program, in partnership with Georgia Tech, Shriners Hospital for Children and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, is working on that has the potential to improve the lives of tens of thousands of children with walking disabilities. Through all of the turbulence around us, I’m proud of the fact that our division continues to do exceptional work.

And finally, the pandemic delayed their arrival but we were thankful for the opportunity to welcome the Class of 2023 in person as they arrived on campus for labs Aug. 26. This new class consists of 62 students from 19 states, as well as China and Japan, representing 48 universities and 22 undergraduate majors. We also had the privilege of adding two new faculty members and one staff member to our Emory DPT program family.

I hope you enjoy this publication and sincerely thank you for your continued support of the Emory Division of Physical Therapy.

Best wishes,
Marie Johanson, PT, PhD
Professor and Interim Director

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