DMU physical therapy students practice as “mock” delegates

D.P.T. student Michael Murphy makes a point during the APTA Mock House of Delegates.

“The 2017 Des Moines University Mock House of Delegates will come to order,” announced House Speaker Pamela Duffy, P.T., Ph.D., M.Ed., OCS, RP, FAPTA, on a recent Wednesday in a DMU lecture hall.

It’s a call Dr. Duffy, assistant professor of public health, has issued to the University’s physical therapy students for more than 20 years. The activity simulates the House of Delegates meeting of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), which occurs annually in June. The House of Delegates is APTA’s policymaking body, with delegates from each state chapter.

Within the House, delegates discuss and take action on issues affecting their profession by proposing motions that are considered and voted on using parliamentary procedure. During DMU’s mock house, students present, discuss and vote on actual motions slated for the year’s House of Delegates agenda. They get a taste of formal debate procedures and hone their strategic thinking and speaking skills as they examine the implications of emerging legislative, payment policy and advocacy themes for practice in their future profession.

“This experience provided me an insight on how the APTA House of Delegates makes decisions on issues that impact students and therapists,” says Elaine Rodriguez, a member of the DMU D.P.T. Class of 2018. “Participating in experiences like these has taught me the importance of becoming an advocate within the profession. I’m glad our program consistently addresses how to continue participating within the APTA as future physical therapists.”

The Mock House of Delegates was facilitated by Dr. Duffy and Tracy Porter, D.P.T., assistant director of clinical education for the department of physical therapy. Both Drs. Duffy and Porter have experience serving in the Iowa Physical Therapy Association (IPTA). Dr. Duffy is a past president and former Iowa delegate to the APTA House. Dr. Porter served as association secretary and was recently voted vice president of the IPTA. Drs. Duffy and Porter coached students on everything from House rules and etiquette to proper ways to present, debate, propose amendments to and vote on motions. They emphasized the importance of truly understanding the proposed motions and showed students how to question any they don’t.

Brooke Wittry presents a motion.

The students’ active participation lets them see that serving as an advocate for their profession is not only important, but it’s also doable.

“I thought the mock HOD was very beneficial. Before this semester, words like ‘legislation’ and ‘delegate’ and ‘parliamentary procedure’ intimidated me. After having the chance to learn and practice at the mock HOD, I feel like I am comfortable integrating myself into any government process that affects our profession,” says Daniel Larson, D.P.T.’18.

“I thought the mock HOD was a fun way to gain more exposure to what it really is like to be a delegate,” adds Mackenzie Banwart, D.P.T.’18. “We talk about it in class, but there is a difference between simply hearing about it and actively participating in it. Before mock HOD, I would have never given consideration to being a delegate because I knew so little about parliamentary procedure, but after this class I feel much more confident in my abilities to participate as a P.T. on the legislative level.”

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