Hello Texas PTs, PTAs, and students,

I have struggled over these last few days with what to say or think about the unrest and crisis our state and country are going through this week. I, like most of you, was sickened and saddened watching footage of the murder of George Floyd, our cities burning, and clashes between police and protesters. My initial reaction was to echo the words of APTA President Sharon Dunn, who I thought was eloquent in her statement (http://www.apta.org/PresidentLetter/2020/5/31/), and I was concerned anything I said might dilute her message. But that isn’t enough. I am very thankful to those who have kindly nudged me to do the right thing and make a statement on behalf of TPTA.

I am a parent of twin 18 year-old boys. It has been difficult but necessary for my wife and I to have nuanced conversations with them about what is happening in our country. It has been challenging but also rewarding to talk about our own life experiences that are colored by our implicit biases. But that is not enough. I must also challenge them to seek out and have more conversations with people who think and look different than us to hear their stories and opinions. This is also personal for me because I have a brother who is a police officer. I fear for his safety and respect and appreciate all that our men and women in uniform do for us, and at the same time recognize the long-standing and deep-seated inequities that infect the culture of our law enforcement community and criminal justice system.

Black (and Brown) Lives Matter. I am saying it, and I mean it. This is not just a hashtag, it should be a statement that we can all make with no addendums, caveats, or hesitation. The sad reality is that we must say that because we live in a society that has not acknowledged that our people of color are equally valued by our institutions and systems. How can anyone view the events of the last week and think our country and state has adequately dealt with the underlying racism that infects our people, customs, systems and laws? It is past time for action, and some of that anger and resentment has boiled over into what we have witnessed this past week.

Words and statements feel inadequate today: we must act. Look how quickly we mobilized into action against the COVID-19 pandemic—a similar opportunity presents itself to us right now. Let us capture the momentum of this crisis and use it for positive change.  Luckily for us in the PT community, we have specific instructions on what to do:

APTA Code of Ethics, Principle #1: Physical therapists shall respect the inherent dignity and rights of all individuals. (Core Values: Compassion, Integrity)

  • 1A. Physical therapists shall act in a respectful manner toward each person regardless of age, gender, race, nationality, religion, ethnicity, social or economic status, sexual orientation, health condition, or disability.
  • 1B. Physical therapists shall recognize their personal biases and shall not discriminate against others in physical therapist practice, consultation, education, research, and administration.

Take a moment to reflect and acknowledge your own implicit biases. For those of us in a position of privilege or power, when you see injustice, speak out, and communicate with your elected representatives today that action must be taken to right the wrongs of our past. Be an advocate for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in your workplaces and communities (see what APTA is doing here: http://www.apta.org/PTinMotion/News/2020/5/8/DEIInitiativesUpdate/). Seek out and talk to someone today who thinks or looks different than you. Our profession must reflect our society, which is a melting pot of cultures and ideas. While here in Texas our PT community is ahead of the national curve on this, there is still significant work to be done. It is time for Texas PTs and PTAs to stand up and lead, and be the change we want to see in our world.  

Thank you, and as always, we are stronger together,

Mike Geelhoed, Texas Physical Therapy Association President