Rizing Tide Foundation Works to Close Diversity Gap in Physical Therapy

The APTQI Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Steering Committee assists the Board of Directors in creating and supporting initiatives that will empower APTQI’s member companies to promote diversity and equity in the workplace and inclusion in the communities in which they serve. In a new guest blog post, WebPT Co-Founder and Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Heidi Jannenga talks about her new foundation and initiatives to advance DEI in the physical therapy workforce:

As the daughter of immigrants and my 25+ years in the physical therapy industry, I have first-hand experience with the state of diversity in our workforce and to be frank, it’s bleak. The fifth annual 2021 The State of Rehab Therapy Report, published by WebPT, illustrates this with distinct survey findings: Of the 6,700 rehab therapy providers who responded to our survey a mere 2.8% self-identified as black or African-American compared to 12.4% of the U.S. population and only 5.2% identified as Hispanic of Latino compared to 18.7%.   

I personally believe the best way to increase diversity in the industry is to create a generational impact by envisioning a future where everyone has the means, interest, and opportunity to become a PT. The future of our profession depends on students seeing and wanting to join us, and by supporting these students we can create this vibrant future for all of us. 

The Rizing Tide Foundation provides scholarships to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) PT students who are on the path to earning their Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT) or furthering their PT education by pursuing a residency program. Getting into college is not enough, BIPOC students are the most likely to leave a program before completion.  

I created the Rizing Tide Foundation in part, due to finding out that one of the main reasons for BIPOC PT student dropout was financial burden and the lack of specific resources catering to these students’ success. A more racially and ethnically diverse workforce helps everyone, from patients who see themselves in their providers, to vendors and providers as a whole. This ideal environment just doesn’t exist yet. Through my own lived experiences, I have realized the incredibly important role that community and mentors play in the success of both education and in business. 

The winners are chosen by our diverse selection committee of professionals and industry leaders, and the $14,000 scholarships will be awarded based on merit, passion for the industry and leadership qualities. Our goal is to create a community in which the Rizing Tide scholars return to serve as mentors providing support and guidance to the next cohort of future PT industry leaders generated from our program.

It’s going to take time, but we can help change our industry for the better. By standing alongside and celebrating BIPOC PT students, clinic leaders, and educational institutions, we can close the diversity gap together. 

The Rizing Tide Foundation will soon award the first cohort of Crest scholarships to incoming graduate school students who plan to pursue a DPT degree either part- or full-time. The Surge scholarship program, which assists graduating physical therapy students or licensed physical therapists who are entering a residency program, is accepting applications until November 15th. The foundation will offer these scholarship programs annually. For more information on the foundation and how you can help, please visit: www.rizing-tide.com