The objective of Emory’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Sustainability Club is to establish the Emory Doctor of Physical Therapy program as a national model for sustainability in physical therapy education. The term sustainability should not be confined to the environment, but rather integrated into individual, community, and societal practices. An objective of the Sustainability Club is to establish a culture that promotes individual well-being while providing students with the necessary tools to model this sustainability framework in their future workplace and community. Recognizing the need for a culture of sustainability within our physical therapy program, we encouraged our peers to become actively involved in implementing this important curricular change. Collaborating with faculty and local community members, we offer fitness activities, round table discussions, mindfulness sessions, and cooking lessons aimed to build community cohesion while promoting physical and mental well-being. These grassroot programs have proven successful among both students and faculty. As a result, the administration has integrated components of our initiatives into the curricula to provide first-year Doctor of Physical Therapy students with sustainable habits and perspectives beyond physical therapy. The goal is to build critical thinking skills and foster understanding of the complex interaction between social, economic, and environmental impact on health and healthcare.
In addition to the goal of promoting sustainability within the Emory Doctor of Physical Therapy program, we also aim to implement this framework on a national level by 2022. Utilizing the program implemented at Emory, we will provide a blueprint for students and faculty at other physical therapy programs who also wish to positively change the culture of our current profession. To realize this goal, we will develop objective tracking metrics, analyze the effectiveness of our initiatives, and validate the new metrics with existing outcome measures. Our goal is to share our findings at the American Physical Therapy Association’s Combined Sections Meeting in 2021. Doctor of Physical Therapy students and programs need to be the ultimate drivers of this process if we hope to establish a culture of well-being in our clinicians and patients.