Physical Therapy students at American International College received some first hand advice about advocating for their profession recently, as James Leahy, the Executive Director of the Connecticut Physical Therapy Association, visited campus.

Leahy's firm, Leahy Management Group, runs APTA chapters in RI, MA, VT, NH and ME. He has been a lobbyist in the state legislature in Connecticut for 20 years and has testified before the U.S. Congress on several occasions. He is a frequent presenter at APTA's state Government Affairs Forum and routinely lectures at PT programs throughout New England on this topic.

Leahy said there are plenty of ways to get the word about PT and become an effective advocate for your profession. "You can tweet, use Facebook, or write a column for your local paper," he said. "Your name will be associated with these communications and you will become an opinion leader."

Over the past 10 years, Leahy said they have had tremendous success with this strategy. "We get stories all the time, including one about about a Memorial Day parade in Connecticut. All of the politicians were in the front, when suddenly three veer off to shake the hand of a physical therapist because he made such an impression with them, and they want to make sure they said hi. That's a win." he said.

Leahy told student in order to influence legislators you have to frame issues the right way: not why the issue is important to you, but rather why it is important to them. "We can make the case that the policies we are advocating for, are not only good for you, but are actually good for them, as well."

"The more of us that engage in advocacy the right way, the more likely our legislators will make the right decisions," he said.