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MEET A MEMBER (s): Sandra Levi, PT, PhD & Demetra John, PT, PhD

Wednesday, October 4, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Matthew Nicholas
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MEET A MEMBER(s): Sandra Levi, PT, PhD & Demetra John, PT, PhD

The IPTA is proud of our fascinating and influential members who are working hard towards advancing the physical therapy profession.

PT Day of Service connects thousands of physical therapy professionals worldwide, with the shared fortitude to better the world.

But one Saturday in October isn’t enough. Thousands of Americans lack access to affordable healthcare. With the recent uptick in natural disasters occurring in the US, there is increasing need for healthcare providers to help the impoverished and underserved impacted by these tragedies.

IPTA members, Sandra Levi, PT, PhD & Demetra John, PT, PhD understand that it doesn’t only take one Saturday in October. In 1995, the two started a pro bono PT clinic on the west side of Chicago.

In getting to know our members a little better, we asked “What was your inspiration for opening a pro bono clinic?"

Levi: The inspiration for a pro bono service came to me naturally. I desired to utilize my physical therapy skills to serve persons without access to rehabilitation services. Figuring out how to start challenged me. Some of my physician friends volunteered with agencies serving disadvantaged persons. These agencies did not, however, provide rehabilitation services. Many hospitals and private practices had mechanisms for providing charity care. Nevertheless, it was the institutions and practice owners who were doing the giving. Their employed PTs received compensation while providing the services. The PT profession had not yet incorporated an obligation to provide pro bono services in its Code of Ethics. I  thought about pro bono services for a long time.  One day at lunch I shared my ideas with my colleague, Demetra John, PT, PhD. She said, "Why don't you just do it?" Demetra not only gave the encouragement that I needed to get started, she shared the leadership during the development of my ideas.

John: Seeing that there was a real need to provide PT services to the uninsured, at some point we came up with the idea of starting our own "clinic". We started out doing so at a facility called Mile Square on the west side. We had a number of fellow volunteers who would volunteer for half a day on Saturdays. For a variety of reasons, we eventually partnered with a facility near Humboldt Park called CommunityHealth, who serves uninsured by providing a wide array of medical services - mostly provided by healthcare volunteer clinicians, MD's, nurses, etc.

Why do you both feel that pro bono work is important?

Levi: Those who receive should give. The profession of physical therapy rewards its members with satisfying work, and opportunities to learn and grow. We PTs and PTAs have the capacity to make the world a better place.  Even if we cannot meet all of the rehabilitation needs for those who could benefit, each of us can improve the well being of some persons who lack the financial means to purchase our services.

John: Despite the ACA, there remains a large number of uninsured in Chicago, and we have a long waiting list for the PT services.

Both Levi and John can agree that their expectations have been exceeded. Their volunteer clinic staffed by experienced therapists continues to operate more than 20 years since it all began.

"The profession of physical therapy has embraced the concept that physical therapists are obligated to provide pro bono services according to their capacity to do so,” states Levi.

If you had the attention of all the Members, what message would you like to convey?

Levi: I find the words of Margaret Mead to be most meaningful.

"Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world; it is the only thing that ever has."

John: There is a huge need for your volunteer services and skills out in the community right here in Chicago. I'd be thrilled to discuss anyone's, ideas if they are looking for a way to start. Also, we could use more volunteers at CommunityHealth!


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