Whether a person is big or small, young or old, athletic or not, the performance level of the human body plays a crucial role in the quality of life that a person can achieve. Physical therapists are provided with the opportunity to actually make a positive difference in the quality of people's lives. The field of physical therapy requires the ability to relate well to people, not only in a physician - patient scenario, but also in the constant interaction with other health care professionals.
Many of the methods and techniques used in physical therapy today are rooted in antiquity. However, physical therapy did not become a truly recognized profession until World War I. In order to send medical aid to wounded soldiers, the Division of Special Hospitals and Physical Reconstruction was created by the Surgeon General's office. This division created thousands of job opportunities in the medical field. The United States Government sent over 2,000 of these "Reconstruction Aides" (which would eventually come to be known as physical therapists) across the Atlantic to France, where they cared for and began to work toward the rehabilitation of wounded veterans. Physical Therapy continued to grow in popularity and accreditation until the late 1940's and 1950's, when severe polio epidemics struck the nation. During this time period, the role that physical therapists played in the medical community became instrumental in minimizing the devastating effects of the disease(1).
Physical therapists formed their first professional association in 1921, called the American Women's Physical Therapeutic Association. The original association consisted of 274 members and was led by Mary McMillan. In the late 1930's, the Association became known as the American Physiotherapy Association. Men were then admitted into the association, and membership grew to nearly 1,000. By the end of the 1940's, the association opened its first office in New York City and finally changed its name to the American Physical Therapy Association.