Hello My Name Is… (or, should we become an Academy)

Hello My Name Is...

In the most recent issue of Gerinotes (the Section on Geriatric’s magazine), there is an article “President’s Message: What’s in a Name?” by William Staples. He asks what is the purpose of a name? Should we (the Section on Geriatrics) change the name to “Academy of Geriatric Physical Therapy (“similar to current terminology used in other health professions”)? A name change like this “is to better brand *who* we are.” The section will still be a part (or “a piece”) of the APTA, but the goal is to be “more recognizable.” The author states that when he encounters anyone outside the APTA he has to “explain what a section is and what we represent. The most used term for health related groups that deliver education, promote excellence in practice, and advocate on public policy issues is an academy. Two examples of this would be the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and the American Academy of Family Physicians.” A motion for the change was passed unanimously by the board and will be voted on at the next CSM.

I’ve thought about it, and I might need some convincing from readers and those in leadership. Would it be beneficial to have an organization named something like “Academy of Geriatric Physical Therapy”? Absolutely. The word Academy lends gravitas to an organization interprofessionally (with other organizations) as well as with the general community.

Interprofessionally, I respect the American Geriatrics Society – they promote, educate, and publish good quality things. As a consumer, my wife and I have a toddler, and while I might not agree with all the recommendations that the American Academy of Pediatrics comes out with, there is a respect for them as a whole because they are the “experts” in pediatrics. There is not a similar organization at that level for geriatric PT. The only similar thing in PT is that the AAOMPT developed when a group of manual therapy PT’s met to discuss common interests and issues. But while most members are probably members of the APTA, they are two distinct organizations.

I think where I have the hesitation is that it (the “AAGPT”) would still be a part of the APTA. First, to me the terms Academy, Society, or Association denote the umbrella organization. Second, the name change would not mirror what most other health organizations do. Physicians may be members of the AMA (they have sections within the organization), but can also be members of other associations that represent their specialty (the AAFP has “special constituencies”, the AAPMR has councils and community networks, the AAN has communities, the AGS has special interest groups, and the one that is different than all the others is the AAOS which has societies and associations).

Third, what would or do other sections members think? Some may think their specialty is more skilled, others may think that there is nothing special about geriatrics (that we are all trained to be PT’s), so why should Geriatrics become an Academy. I’m not saying we should live in fear of what others think, and I am definitely NOT saying we don’t have the knowledge and skills for the creation of an academy. But would the name change help or hurt real and/or imagined insecurities or our intra-professional relationships?

My thought is to keep the section name the same, and to start the wheels moving to create an American Academy of Geriatric Physical Therapy. The APTA can promote/ protect/ advance PT as a whole (like the AMA does for MD’s), and the AAGPT could do the same specific to Geriatric PT (like AAOMPT does for manual therapists, or AAPMR does for PM&R docs, or the AAOS does for ortho surgeons).

Maybe I’m being picky, not thinking big, and assuming too much. Regardless, I will continue with my APTA and section memberships regardless of the name, and I’d be willing to join another organization if it were to develop. As Bill Staples notes, a good name is important, I’m just not sure the best way to go about it.

Photo credit: Hello My Name Is…, originally uploaded by Alan O’Rourke

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One response to “Hello My Name Is… (or, should we become an Academy)

  1. An addendum – I just went to the SoG member page for comments regarding the proposal. Some great points, mostly against the measure it seems. If there was ever an AAGPT, it would definitely need to meet “academy” standards to be taken seriously, and to be helpful for the public and the membership.

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