Mercer PT students three-peat student advocacy challenge

Large group of DPT students standing on Georgia State Capitol steps
DPT students at the APTA Georgia PT Day at the Capitol

ATLANTA — For the third year in a row, Mercer University’s Atlanta-based Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program in the College of Health Professions has received top honors in the American Physical Therapy Association’s (APTA) student advocacy challenge contest. Mercer outperformed 32 programs for the win again this year.

The advocacy challenge is an annual APTA initiative aimed at helping physical therapy and physical therapy assistant (PTA) students understand the importance of making the profession’s voice heard in legislative and policymaking circles, at both the state and national levels. The yearlong contest awards points to programs that engage their students in advocacy, including letter-writing, attending a legislator’s town hall meeting, participating in an APTA state chapter’s lobby day and participating in the annual APTA Flash Action Strategy event, among other activities.

Leo Swanger (left) and Dr. Daniel Dale (right) at the APTA conference

Daniel Dale, PT, DPT, clinical assistant professor, assistant director of clinical education, lead faculty advisor for PT advocacy initiatives at Mercer and past president of APTA Georgia, believes that the program’s integrative approach to advocacy was a key factor in the win.

“Mercer’s DPT program continues to promote advocacy as a major tenet of professional development and identity throughout the DPT program,” Dr. Dale said. “Faculty, alumni and students are consistently involved as volunteer leaders at multiple levels of chapter and association leadership, which sets the tone for incoming students as to what to expect in terms of their role in advocacy.”

Mercer students also participated in APTA Georgia’s PT Day at the Capitol, one of the largest chapter advocacy events in the country.

“We are proud of our DPT students’ advocacy work and this impressive recognition from APTA,” said Dr. Lisa Lundquist, dean and professor in the College of Health Professions. “I’m confident that their future advocacy efforts will advance the practice of physical therapy and enhance the health and wellness of patients and communities.”

Mercer’s PT advocacy student representative Leo Swanger, DPT class of 2025, described the win as “incredibly fulfilling” and urged other programs to get involved in this year’s challenge.

“It’s a great time while we are in school and have professors and other PTs around us who can share knowledge about what is going on in clinical practice that we may be able to improve,” he said.