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Students/Faculty News Kevin Storr May 17, 2023

Written by Rylan Gray

Noah Dehart, a third-year student in the UAB Doctor of Physical Therapy program was selected by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) for the Charles Harker Internship. Dehart becomes the first student from UAB to be selected.

Founded in 1921, the APTA has 100,000 members including physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, and students of physical therapy.

“It’s an honor to be selected for anything like this, especially when you’re the only person selected in the nation,” says Dehart. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to do what I love, from connecting with others, being involved in the process of advocacy and politics, and learning more about my field. It’s an opportunity to make much more of a difference than I am right now.”

“We are so proud of Noah for being selected for this internship where he will further develop his leadership skills,” says DPT Program Director and Assistant Dean of Faculty Affairs Jennifer Christy, PT, Ph.D. “Since joining the UAB DPT program, Noah has been passionate about advocating for his future patients and the profession of physical therapy. He is a natural leader who will do great things in the future!”

Dehart credits UAB Bergman/Pinkston Endowed Professor Donald Lein, Jr. PT, PhD for the insight and connection to APTA. In addition to being an associate professor and director of Continuing Education and Community Outreach for the Department of Physical Therapy, Lein serves as president of the Alabama chapter of the APTA and was very instrumental with getting students involved with the many different aspects of physical therapy at UAB.

For example, Lein helped his students build a petition requesting true direct access for the state of Alabama, removing the physician referral mandated by state law to access physical therapist services for evaluation treatment. With true direct access, all patients will have the opportunity to get the physical therapy care they need when they need it.

After learning about the APTA internship in a group message with his fellow classmates, Dehart looked to Lein for guidance and was provided with the knowledge to proceed in the process.

“I think that it is great honor for one of our students will be able to work at our national association headquarters and interact and collaborate with many of our national leaders,” says Lein. “I believe that Noah will represent our Department and APTA Alabama well and will only gain more experience as a future leader in our profession.”

When asked “why physical therapy,” Dehart spoke about how that answer has changed over his tenure at UAB.

“In the beginning, it was because I wanted to help athletes. I played sports in high school, so I figured why not use my experience as an athlete to help athletes. However, during my time at UAB, I was introduced to the many health disparities in rural communities across the nation and especially those in Alabama. I’m from a rural area myself, but the more I was exposed to PT, the more I realized how important physical therapists are and how big of a role they play in the healthcare system.”

During his internship, Dehart will be meeting with congressional staff in key legislative priorities. He’ll also attend political events with APTA Government Affairs staff, participate in internal APTA meetings, assist Government Affairs staff in research, and participate in APTA-hosted scheduled advocacy events.  

“During my internship, I hope to hone my connection skills,” says Dehart. “I think it’s one of my gifts and another reason I went into physical therapy – I want to master connection and be able to connect better with my patients as well as senators and other political figures because I want to be able to properly convey the needs of my patients and fellow clinicians to the people that have the power to create positive change in our field.”

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