Around the world in 60 days

By Emma Stokes, WCPT President

My first two months as WCPT President have taken me to events in Geneva, Japan, Canada and the US, and it has been wonderful to experience diverse groups of clinicians and researchers from around the globe coming together in different and productive ways.

It began with a meeting of the World Health Professions Alliance presidents and chief executive officers in May. Shortly afterwards, in early June, Brenda Myers and I represented WCPT at the Japanese Physical Therapy Association conference in Tokyo, which attracted 8,000 physical therapists – more than the total membership of some WCPT member organisations!
 
The Japanese Physical Therapy Association was founded 50 years ago and celebrated that anniversary in wonderful style. The association’s membership has grown from 1,032 in 1973 to 65,000 in 2015, making it WCPT’s largest member organisation and the single largest financial contributor. 
 
The impressive programme included a session where attendees could better get to know some of the member organisations in the region, and I learned a huge amount from the vibrant presentation about South Korea, Indonesia, Macau, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand. There is great diversity and yet the challenges and opportunities are similar. I had the privilege of meeting with the President and Vice Presidents of JPTA to discuss future relationships and engagement. 
 
The President of the JPTA, Kazuto Handa, signed a memorandum of understanding with the President of the Australian Physiotherapy Association, Marcus Dripps, and this marks an exciting opportunity for collaboration and shared learning between the two organisations. Gillian Webb, the Chair of WCPT’s Asia Western Pacific Region, was also present. So with one visit, it was possible to learn about and discuss issues with nine member organisations and one region. 
 
En route to the Canadian Physiotherapy Association (CPA) meeting, I had meetings with the Chief Executive Officer of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy in the UK, Karen Middleton, and the Chair of WCPT’s European Region, Sarah Bazin. APA hosted a wonderful 24-hour tweet chat in support of Men’s Health Week in Australia, using the #globalPT hashtag. Tweet chats are hosted by a number of our member organisations and also by @physiotalk and are a very exciting way of engaging with a diverse group of physical therapists on key clinical and professional topics.
 
The Canadian congress was held in Halifax in Nova Scotia, and again there was a wonderful programme. The CPA was a founder WCPT member and has 11,000 members. Its board invited me to attend, and, as with the other member organisations, it was a great pleasure to discuss the General Meeting and congress in Singapore, continue conversations started, and develop a shared vision for WCPT as we begin a new strategic planning cycle. 
 
It was wonderful to be able to present Mike Landry with his WCPT International Service Award in person as he was unable to attend WCPT Congress in Singapore having been deployed to Nepal in the aftermath of the earthquake. I also had an opportunity to meet Michael Bowers, Chief Executive Officer of the American Physical Therapy Association.
 
I then attended the Global Health Summer Institute in Physical Therapy at Duke University funded by the Norwegian government and drawing physical therapy students from Canada, Norway, China, Colombia, Hong Kong, Finland, Sweden and the USA.
 
I am writing this as the first meeting of the new WCPT Executive Board draws to a close. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to get to know each other’s personalities and skills, and you can hear of my reflections on my video blog (see below).
 
It feels like I have crossed the globe and back in the past 60 days, but this is the start of an important and continuing process of consultation with member organisations. I would like to thank the CPA and JPTA for hosting me on these trips and also the support of the Global Health Summer Institute for Physical Therapy. 
 
Getting to meet with the ten member organisations, two regional chairs and the next generation of physical therapist leaders from four regions has added to my knowledge of how we work together as WCPT continues to move physical therapy forward.