David Teager introduces the Queen to delegates at the WCPT Congress in London in 1991.
David Teager introduces the Queen to delegates at the WCPT Congress in London in 1991.

How WCPT Congresses have moved physical therapy forward

Since the first WCPT Congress held in London in 1953, there have been 15 world physical therapy congresses held by WCPT all over the globe. Their impact on the profession has been profound, according to some of the profession’s most senior figures.

“WCPT congresses have evolved over time, and have always allowed physical therapists to participate, share knowledge and appreciate the contribution of their global colleagues,” says Doreen Moore-Wheelwright from Australia, who was WCPT President from 1970 to 1974. “The congress is stimulating, educational and enjoyable and gives participants a sense of pride in their profession.”

David Teager, former Head of the North London School of Physiotherapy in the UK and WCPT President from 1995 to 1999 was a second year student physiotherapist at the time of the first congress in London. “It appeared to take place largely under the patronage of the medical profession – perhaps a necessary step in the emergence of a legitimate and independent health care profession,” he observes.

Things were very different 38 years later, when WCPT held its congress in 1991 in London for the second time. Around 3,000 people attended. “How things had moved on!” says David Teager. “The congress was marked by the range of nationalities attending, and a growing awareness of the relevance of physical therapy in global health care.”

The forthcoming congress in Amsterdam will far exceed that number of delegates, and is likely to prove influential in setting a professional agenda for individual physical therapists and their organisations over the next decade, according to current WCPT President Marilyn Moffat. “More than ever, the profession is gaining global awareness, and at congresses they have a real opportunity to stand shoulder to shoulder,” she says.

Ann Moore, who is Chair of the International Scientific Programme organising this year’s congress programme, says the content of past congresses has had a lasting impact on her. 

“I have personally been influenced by my increased knowledge of different practices in different parts of the world, and the impact that culture has on these practices,” says Moore, who is Professor of Physiotherapy at Brighton University. “Over the last two decades, I have been drawn into the issue of research capacity building by conversations and discussions that have taken place during congress sessions where individual physical therapists have often stated that they feel unsupported to carry out research that they would like to do.”

“I know of individuals who have met potential research collaborators who they never knew existed before congress.  These potential collaborations in many cases have come to fruition and have produced new doctoral students as a result.”

“One of the most motivational aspects of the WCPT Congress is the large number of cutting-edge research and professional development projects that are presented. We have the opportunity to view hundreds of posters and speak to their authors first hand. Looking deeply at these poster presentations gives us wider knowledge of the findings and outcomes of the projects and increases the potential for similar initiatives to occur in other parts of the world.”

If you want to be part of building the profession’s history at a WCPT Congress, you can register here www.wcpt.org/congress