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MEET A MEMBER: Phyllis Levine, PT, DPT IPTF Pro Bono Committee Chair

Tuesday, May 7, 2019   (1 Comments)
Posted by: Matthew Nicholas
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MEET A MEMBER: Phyllis Levine, PT, DPT
IPTF Pro Bono Committee Chair

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

-Phyllis Levine, PT, DPT
IPTF Pro Bono Committee Chair
Member since 1989

Earlier this year, the Illinois Physical Therapy Foundation (IPTF) established a Pro Bono Committee for the purpose of developing and implementing a model program designed to facilitate the provision of pro bono PT services in existing clinics throughout Illinois.

Chair of the committee is IPTA member Phyllis Levine, PT, DPT. We asked Phyllis, what inspired you to become a PT?

Levine: I became interested in physical therapy as a high school student when I saw a TV commercial showing a therapist working with a child. Although I had no personal experience in the field, in 1966 I enrolled at St. Louis University with a major declared in physical therapy. I worked without interruption for 47 years and always felt blessed and privileged to have “happened“ into a career I have absolutely loved.

What motivated you to start this pro bono initiative?

Levine: Giving back to the community has always been important to me. Doing so within a career I enjoyed seemed the best of all worlds. Therefore, I had planned to do pro bono work as a PT once I had available time in retirement. For me that occurred with the sale of my private practice in September 2017. I live within the collar counties of Chicago and assumed that there would be many available places to provide my desired pro bono work. I was very mistaken. After an exhaustive search, I discovered only two sites in this geographical area that exist to provide pro bono work inclusive of physical therapy in an outpatient setting.

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) provides us with our Code of Ethics. Principle #8, section 8A states; “Physical therapists shall provide pro bono physical therapy or support organizations that meet the health needs of people who are economically disadvantaged, uninsured or underinsured.”

In Illinois, there are about 14,500 licensed PTs who pledge to abide by this code. Clearly that is not occurring. I shamefully admit that in my 47 years of clinical work I seldom abided by this code. Writing off bad debt, which is done frequently as a business owner, is certainly not the same. I regret that I am seeing the scope of this problem at such a late point in my career but am hopeful that we can change the situation for current and future physical therapy professionals. After approaching IPTA about these issues, I was asked to form a committee to explore possible statewide solutions to the lack of ready access to opportunities to serve in pro bono physical therapy.

Our committee of six PTs who share this passion was formed in September, 2018 and exists under the Illinois Physical Therapy Foundation. The committee members in addition to myself are Demetra John, PT, PhD, Gail Huber, PT, PhD, Teri Elliot Burke, PT, DPT, MHS, Ashley Kanelos, PT, DPT, and Hollis Light, PT. Our main goal has been to establish a statewide program which will ask every outpatient physical therapy clinic in IL to voluntarily take one to two pro bono patients a month. To date we have defined the procedures and have steps outlined for implementation. We are seeking funding from a variety of sources to cover start up needs. The implementation will be phased throughout the state. We hope to have a first pilot county ready to begin in fall of 2019.

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

Levine: The delivery of physical therapy is a privilege and a business. As professionals, PTs have a unique skill set. We are privileged to be allowed to practice our trade and interact on a very personal level with our clients. We are in position to offer our talents, gifts, and services to improve the world client by client. We are typically paid well for our service. The business side of our actions requires financial responsibility to produce income sufficient to cover cost. Although we have an ethical responsibility to provide pro bono work this should not be done to a level of resultant business failure. As one’s business, or personal income, increases, we should increase our return and commitment back to the community. Pro bono care must be delivered in compliance with legal and ethical mandates.

I regret that pro bono work was not a part of my career until now. It is the goal of our committee to simplify this process for current and future physical therapy generations. I am hopeful that in the future, PTs and PTAs will consider pro bono care as an integral part of their professional life.  

The committee is developing resources and policies to assist with this process. The Pro Bono Committee is currently looking for clinics in the DuPage County to pilot a program offering Pro Bono care to 1-2 patients/month. If you are interested in learning more, contact the Pro Bono Committee at


Julie L. Schwertfeger PT DPT MBA says...
Posted Monday, July 29, 2019
This is exciting work and I am glad to have the expertise and passion of Dr. Levine and the committee moving this forward! - Julie

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