Universities Foster Charitable Mindsets

National Honor Society recognizes PT students committed to serving their community


The Physical Therapy Pro Bono National Honor Society (PTPBNHS) was developed by the Institute for Physical Therapy Education at Widener University in 2013 to recognize and honor students who do outstanding pro bono work in their communities. There were eight founding member institutions of the PTPBNHS: Husson University, Lebanon Valley College, Nazareth College, Quinnipiac University, Rutgers University, University of Kentucky, Wayne State University and Widener University. There are now 16 member institutions, and the PTPBNHS is actively recruiting other schools whose students have a commitment to pro bono service within their profession.

Institutional members determine requirements for a student to be nominated based on the needs of the community in which the students serve. Some graduate programs incorporate pro bono service into a specific class within the curriculum while others do so via international service learning experiences or even through a student-run pro bono clinic model. Regardless of the type of service, the PTPBNHS is committed to recognizing the experiences unique to these students and the commitment they have shown to their chosen profession. Membership benefits include a certificate of recognition, a cord to be worn upon graduation and recognition on the society website. More than 100 students were inducted into the PTPBNHS last year to recognize their pro bono efforts.

WalkingPointing_195787_01_300x“The motivation for founding this organization was to recognize students who give so much of their time to using their skills and knowledge to help individuals in need and to encourage others to incorporate service into their lives as students, which will hopefully become a part of their professional lives,” said Sam Pierce, associate professor of Physical Therapy at Widener University and PTPBNHS faculty advisor. “Representatives from our honor society member institutions can best describe how being involved in service has impacted their lives or the lives of their students and what being a PTPBNHS member means to them.”

Member Testimonials:

“I am incredibly proud of my peers involved in pro bono service because they have willingly sought out additional responsibility while completing the rigorous academics of graduate school. I believe the heart for service that our student members have deserves to be formally recognized. PTPBNHS members gain experience that sets them apart from the average graduate, which will benefit them throughout their career. One of the highlights of this past year was our ability as a society to sponsor a student from a university in the initial planning stages of its own student-run pro bono clinic to attend the 2016 Physical Therapy Pro Bono Clinic Networking Conference. I think it is wonderful that we are able to give back to our future colleagues as well as our communities.”

Maggie Karmeris, Widener University Class of 2017 and NHS officer

I am fortunate that Widener’s physical therapy program offers my peers and me the opportunity to be a part of a pro bono clinic that gives back to our community. This opportunity has positively impacted our level of experience and our relationship with the community. I have found the PTPBNHS to be an amazing tool that not only recognizes individuals across the nation for their volunteer work, but also solidifies the efforts of many into one organization. The national honor society stems from the Physical Therapy Pro Bono Network and has plans in the near future to offer scholarships to its members. It has been inspiring to see potential for this organization to expand globally, and it is a privilege to be a part of the school where it began.”

Brianna Englert, Widener University Class of 2018 and NHS officer

“The pro-bono clinic at Youngstown State opened its doors last fall as Penguin PT. Settled in the middle of Youngstown (a city with a poverty rate of over 40 percent), Penguin PT allows us to serve a community in desperate need of health resources while providing students with an excellent learning opportunity. Perhaps the most valuable lessons learned at Penguin PT don’t involve the actual hands-on aspect of physical therapy. Having the opportunity to serve these vulnerable populations really exposes our students to the entire biopsychosocial model of health care. Being exposed to the numerous barriers that these patients face and trying to find ways to bridge them is an invaluable learning experience. Perhaps the greatest advantage that we have found as members of the Physical Therapy Pro Bono National Honor Society is the community of resources that it offers. The opportunity to attend the 2016 Eastern Regional [Pro Bono Networking] Conference at Widener University allowed us to learn from the experiences of others and share our ideas with pro bono clinics from around the country. The ability to come together and exchange ideas about how to better serve our communities provided for a great learning experience and served as an inspiration as Penguin PT begins to take flight.”

Drew Snyder, Youngstown State University Class of 2017

“Our students at Briar Cliff University have been increasingly aware and dedicated to providing physical therapy based services to the community. Our students have also been more cognizant of their academic performance as they are striving to graduate with the honors distinction. Students have increased the number of hours they are volunteering in the pro bono clinic to improve their clinical skills and also to provide the service to our community as a volunteer.”

Heidi Nelson, Briar Cliff University, Director of Clinical Education

“I believe taking a moment to recognize those who have truly put forth time and energy into making our clinic succeed and those who strive to provide the best care to our patients every week. I love what the honor society stands for, and I am happy to have a formal opportunity to honor those students who truly pour their hearts into our pro bono clinic and community service outlets.”

Shannon Rubenstein, Elon University, Student Coordinator and executive board member:

To learn more about the Physical Therapy Pro Bono National Honor Society, visit its website: ptprobononhs.org.