Letter to the editor from DPT students in regards to recent PT flyers

Dear Simmons community,

We are writing on behalf of the group of 12 Doctor of Physical Therapy students whose posters were displayed around campus the week of March. We would like to take this opportunity to apologize and to provide our perspective about the issues that were brought forth by students. The posters were hung around the Simmons campus in an attempt to meet the objectives of a class assignment. Our intent was to share what we’ve learned as DPT students with the Simmons community and we believed that our poster campaign was a clever and effective way to spread our messages.

Our education has taught us the significance of prevention as a key strategy in reducing pain and injury risk, therefore improving quality of life. These were the points we tried to make with our posters—helpful hints that spread awareness and empower the masses with prevention strategies that can be implemented with relative ease.

We failed to predict certain ways in which the posters may be received. In this case, the impact was, unfortunately, vastly different from our intent. This whole project was intended to provide us with a learning experience, and it most certainly has. We are, after all, students. We spend these years practicing our skills in an academic setting for a reason—to learn, to grow, to improve.

Complaints about the posters included that we were ableist and disregarded the feelings of individuals who face certain challenges while living with physical disabilities. We would like to extend our most sincere apologies to all who were hurt by the posters in this regard. As future physical therapists we are, in fact, devoting our lives to treating advocating for individuals with physical impairments and disabilities. We strive to foster a culture of inclusion and accommodation. We want nothing more than to be knowledgeable and thoughtful practitioners who encourage our patients to thrive independently, regardless of their physical limitations. We want to ensure everyone that we are committed to these principles and will give more careful consideration towards our use of language moving forward.

Additionally, there were complaints that our posters were “shaming others into fitness,” and that they served as potential triggers for those dealing with or recovering from the disordered eating spectrum or body image struggles. These concerns are not a matter that we take lightly. Our intention was never to shame anyone into doing anything or feeling a certain way. We are by no means implying that there is a “right” way to exercise. We think that everyone should be active in whichever way they are capable.

We have spent hours pouring over evidence-based literature that demonstrates results that regular physical activity is one of the best ways to improve overall health and to prevent illness or injury. We believe that empowering the community with knowledge of what your body needs to function optimally is a message well worth sharing. Using calorie expenditure as an outcome measure was a poor choice—we understand why, and we apologize. The Simmons campus should be a place where everyone feels comfortable and accepted. We recognize the importance of creating an environment that does this, and we are deeply sorry that we have failed to do so.

We would also like to apologize for any errors we made in the approval process. We believed in earnest that we had ascertained all the information we needed that allowed us to hang these posters in the locations that we chose.

Thank you for taking the time to hear from us. An important piece of our dedication to lifelong learning is that we welcome the opportunity for feedback and that we use new information to evolve. By challenging our own assumptions and staying objective, together we can resolve conflict.

Providing one another with criticism that is professional and constructive is an integral component of the learning process. We are grateful that this community is one where we are all able to have a voice. We hope you accept our apologies. We have learned many lessons we will carry with us into the future. Thank you to all for playing a role in creating a community where we can all embrace and learn from one another.

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